Steve Jobs and The Human Aspect

20111008-145427.jpg There's a podcast I listened to while running today, in tribute to Steve Jobs. It was rather moving. About a dozen people waxing poetic about how much of an influence Steve has had on their life. One of the speakers, and a favorite writer of mine spoke about the human aspect of everything that Apple does. And it really hit home for me what I've been desperately trying to articulate to friends and family. I'm trying to, myself, find the best way to explain why I love Apple products so much. This often confuses people. People smirk and snicker sometimes, and I got plenty of sarcastic people telling me "sorry about your loss" as if there's no reason to feel emotion of his passing. But I've come to love Apple products so much and, like I said, I've had a difficult time of explaining why. I think finally, with his passing, a lot of reflection, and listening to this podcast, I think it has all finally clicked for me.

The human aspect

Anybody can put a piece of hardware and software together for a bullet point test (those ridiculous lists that try to compare one product or another to an Apple product) and "win". Specs do not, never have and never will, tell the whole story. Steve Jobs, and as a byproduct Apple Computer, care most about how a person is going to use his product. That's why you have apps like Photo booth. I was at an Apple Store a couple of weeks ago waiting to get my iPhone repaired. While I waited I decided it would be a good opportunity to observe people in the store. I love watching people, not in a creepy way, but in a way to learn about them. As I watched people most every single person in the store was in some way smiling, interacting, or even laughing while they used Apple's products. One group in particular was about four or five teenage girls. They all ran up to one of the iMacs, one girl pawed at the trackpad for a second, and just a few seconds later they were all laughing their heads off and making ridiculous faces at the iMac. Obviously they were playing with Photo Booth. I sat their and smiled and kept watching out of the corner of my eye, so as not to make them uncomfortable. But they wouldn't have even noticed anyway. They wouldn't even have noticed if Tom Cruise himself was watching them. They were so engrossed in this experience and having so much fun with this computer, they forgot completely that it was a piece of technology that they were using. They didn't care about how much ram it had or how fast the cores ran, or whether or not it had an LED backlit display. No, they were enjoying themselves, having a human experience, laughing hysterically and loving every moment of this. They were saving pictures and uploading them to their friends and family to share in this experience and to laugh together. The human aspect.

I think Steve would have been very pleased with what I saw that day. He knew what mattered. He knew that you can't just make a photo app (I'm looking at you Office Picture Manager ugh) he had to make a great photo app. One that people loved using and were excited to take pictures just to be able to use this app. But not so that they could sit their and build an indexible library, but so that a mother and father can click on their daughter's face and see all of their pictures of their daughter and see it in a beautiful timeline to enjoy and cry and cherish the memories. It was so a husband and wife could sit together and put their favorite pictures from their anniversary vacation together and build a printed book that they could put on their coffee table to read and enjoy and fall back into the thoughts and memories of what a good time they had together. The human aspect.

Steve was adamant when developing the first iPhone that it ran at 60 frames per second. Do you ever see that on a spec sheet? Of course not. It's too abstract to measure. So why was it so important to Steve. It's because of the human aspect. He knew that he wanted to create something that people love to use. And if a person touched their phone and it jerked and stuttered when all the person wanted to do was get to their camera app so they could take a picture of their son as he was rounding home plate from his first t-ball game, they would curse the phone and repeat the oft heard phrase among Windows users "I hate computers." The typical human experience.

Steve saw what technology could be. He only cared about speeds and feeds as much as it mattered to the human experience of using his product. You'll see this reflected in a lot of the decisions Apple makes that the tech pundits don't understand. A tech pundit will tell you that the iPhone is inferior to Android phone XYZ because it doesn't have 4G. If you told that to an Apple employee it would go in one ear and out the other. That's because Steve has instilled in his employees and is company that the human aspect is more important. An Apple employee would tell you that people could care less that their phone has 4G when it dies after 3 hours of use. The human aspect.

The next time you shop for a piece of technology, or any product really, pay attention to the human aspect. At the end of the day you'll be very happy you did.