Like everyone else, we were shocked here at eBay when we heard the news of Steve Jobs’ death yesterday at age 56. From conversations in the hallway to instant messages that flew from computer to computer, phone to phone, and even on our internal distribution list for product managers, the air was filled with remembrances and sadness. We wanted to take a minute away from eBay stories and remember Steve Jobs, or, better yet, let some of our leaders and other eBayers talk about how they felt about the man. We encourage you to let us know how you feel about Steve Jobs and his legacy in the comments below.
When you think about Steve Jobs, you probably associate him with the sleek line of Macintosh computers, or the iPod, iPhone, and the iPad. But, long before this, he was the quintessential inventor, working out of his garage in Palo Alto and building something he called a personal computer for the “rest of us.” He spurred the idea that with the proper invention, vision, motivation, and drive, anything was possible. And then he went out and proved it, with the Apple II and initial sales of $200,000 to the creation of the Apple billion-dollar computer empire, and beyond. Future generations of entrepreneurs, when they joked about how they worked out of their garages, invoked those early day of Steve Jobs.
Around the web you will find tributes and remembrances to the man. On Wired, we see a long list of entrepreneurs, from Bill Gates to Jerry Yang, discussing the influence Steve had on the way they see the world. Here at eBay, we talked with, past, present, and future leaders to see what they thought:
Pierre Omidyar wrote about Steve’s legacy in his post “Steve Jobs Legacy: Think Different.” The part that especially stands out is when he says:
With Steve’s passing, we’ve lost someone who had a historic impact not only on how we use technology, but on how we think about it. Losing him at such a young age makes me wonder what other breakthroughs and leaps of faith he would have made in the coming decades.
For me, Steve’s legacy won’t be limited to these breakthrough products, however. More important than the products themselves, he changed the way we think — and how we think about something is often the hardest thing to change. This makes Steve’s successes all that much more remarkable.
Steve challenged the world to “think different,” and he didn’t limit that to his company’s products. In a very real sense, thinking differently has the effect of expanding our world and our reach — our view of what we can accomplish.
Steve expanded our world with technology, but he also showed us that thinking differently is indeed how we can change the world. And for that, I am truly thankful for his passion, his example and his inspiration.
John Donahoe, eBay’s current CEO, remember Jobs like this:
“Steve understood the power of technology to enrich our lives in simple, elegant ways. His impact on consumers all over the world is apparent wherever one goes. Without a doubt we have lost the greatest innovator of our time.”
Former CEO Meg Whitman, had this to say about Steve Jobs:
“Steve Jobs was an iconic entrepreneur and businessman whose impact on technology was felt beyond Silicon Valley. He will be remembered for the innovation he brought to market and the inspiration he brought to the world.”
One thing that stands out in all the remembrances we have read is how Steve Jobs created products that weren’t an end in-and-of themselves, but a means to discovery and new creation. In a Playboy interview with Steve from 1985, the author relates a story of meeting Steve at a celebrity-filled birthday party for a boy in New York City, where artists Andy Warhol and Keith Haring were introduced to the new Macintosh computer. They were thrilled by the computer, as they drew circles with the newly-introduced mouse. As the party came to a close and the guests were gone, “Jobs stayed to tutor the boy on the fine points of using the Mac.” When asked why, Jobs related that “Older people sit down and ask, “What is it?” but the boy asks, “What can I do with it?”
The same can be said with other Apple creations, especially the iPad, where millions of parents have given up control of their devices to the inquiring minds of their kids. And who knows what kind of innovation that will spur in the future, as long as kids are encouraged to dream, and that is not only OK but that they should be encouraged to “Think Different.”
Which brings us to the close of our remembrances of Steve Jobs. He had a truly unique way of looking at life (and death) which presumably influenced not only who he was, but what he was willing to try. We think there is no better way to end our tribute to the man but with these words from his commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005:
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
More about Steve Jobs on these related links:
- Playboy Interview with Steve Jobs
- LA Times: Steve Jobs dies at 56; Apple’s co-founder transformed computers and culture
- CNN.com – The day Steve Jobs called Walter Isaacson
- Chicago Sun Times – RIP Steve Jobs — a man who truly changed the world
- KQED Radio – Remembering Steve Jobs
- Techmeme links to Steve Jobs stories
- eBay Ink blog remembrance
[Editor’s note: these links were culled from a single call out to the product management team at eBay this morning. It is a testament to how influential Steve Jobs is that my email box was immediately stuffed with links to stories about the man, and that each link was unique and interesting. Just like Steve Jobs.]