No matter your standpoint, marketing software isn’t easy. No matter how great your product is (and there is no such thing as perfect software) there will always be a good chunk of its target audience hating it for various reasons- too colourful, too revolutionary, too basic, too complex and so on and so forth. Most marketeers aim to appeal to as wide a market as possible. We compromise. Jobs does what he thinks to be right. We design the interface to be a little bit closer to the previous generation of the product so that we don’t alienate existing users. In contrast, Jobs is a revolutionary who doesn’t care whether he has any supporters, he just marches on. We attentively listen to consumer feedback, politely nodding and making hundreds of notes- people like it cool but not hip, colourful but not flamboyant, dynamic but controlled and so on and so forth. It reminds me of the times I was doing marketing for a large public organisation in London. Every new aspect of operational activity was decided upon in the most democratic way possible- in consensus. Thus, one would pitch an idea and a bunch of people from various departments- guards and researchers to PR managers and accountants would voice an opinion that would have to be taken into consideration. It sounds laughable, absurdly inefficient, even ridiculous- but, somewhat exaggerated, this is also pretty much what most technology companies do on a daily basis. We rely on consumers to guide us, we live to satisfy their needs.
The trouble is, most of us (and I talk of humanity in general here) just really like having an opinion. Having an opinion is often perceived as a symbol of intellectual potency- those who don’t have one, are frowned upon as ignorant if not intellectually challenged. Most of us are clueless about what we want. Our expectations are based on existing knowledge- we know that cars have four wheels and that it makes them stable, reliable and, essentially, safe. “Trustworthy mobile phones are rectangular and have buttons”, “personal computers must have a tower and a monitor” and “Word processors need a menu with 300 pictograms because when I send out my Christmas cards, I do not want to look for a clipart shortcut.” Following the crowd results in going in circles and inevitably leads to degradation.
Steve Jobs has two remarkable qualities- vision and resolution. He is also a great salesman and possesses the power to get stuff done, but these are secondary. Let me get one thing straight: I am not a fan. I never liked Apple and I think the company that was once a liberal challenger to evil Microsoft establishment has grown way beyond the even the most paranoid depictions of Bill Gates’ enterprise. However, I applaud this immensely gifted man; the living protagonist of Ayn Rand’s novels. As noted previously, in technology marketing we usually compromise, we think of people who are not going to like the product. Jobs thinks of the new world bound by revolutionary technology and follows his ideas with the determination of an icebreaker. He knows exactly what he wants, makes it, explains why it is the way forward and the public loves it. Apple is going to stay afloat for a while, but it will take a lot of effort to find another man fit to design the Wynand Building.