By Kevin Kelleher
The views expressed are his own.
Here is the memory that came up when I heard Steve Jobs was dead, the image that’s probably stuck in my mind, the cover to the mental photo album that will inevitably be retrieved whenever someone talks about him.
It’s January 2010. He’s sitting in a chair, black leather, comfy, Le Corbusier. He’s got this lonely Eero Saarinen table next to him – a mutant white tulip that failed to bloom properly – but he’s ignoring it. He’s got his dumb, eternal mock turtleneck and blue jeans flooded a few inches above his running shoes, and his his left ankle is dangling in an ungainly fashion over his right knee.
He’s talking to you. But he’s not looking at you. His gaze – normally directed to some abstract space in the auditorium that he senses but that you can’t see – is given to the gadget in his lap. The gadget’s screen is projected into a larger screen on the back of stage, maybe 11 times as tall as Steve Jobs. Look at him: He’s like someone petting a beloved cat in his lap, only his pet is the iPad, and all his coddling is to show us what he thinks the future of computing is.
And the 18 or so months that have passed since the iPad launched have proven him right. The iPad still controls 80% of the North American tablet market, and is steadily eating away at the PC market – of which Apple has long been a fringe company commanding at best a 5% market share.
Yes, fringe. But one of Steve Jobs’ legacies is exploring the power of the fringe. In any given year of the past decade, Dell and HP may have sold more PC units running Microsoft Windows than Apple did, but neither company has sold them at the profit margin of Macbooks. The bottom-line financials are the same with iPhones vs. Android phones, and iPads vs. other tablets (including the Kindle Fire, which Amazon is selling at a loss).