I happen to be a very big fan of Steve Jobs. The man was a hero to a great many people precisely because he was an “everyman” who could see things that many people couldn’t see. Jobs was never a great engineer. He didn’t do the heavy coding on any of Apple’s products (that was the other Steve – Wozniak). However, Steve Jobs did do one thing amazingly well. He was able to see the way people thought and to make things that people wanted to buy.
The First Apple II Computers
One of my favorite stories about Jobs involves the first computer convention he and Wozniak attended as co-owners of Apple Computer, Inc. They had exactly three units of their new computers ready, all of which had been hand assembled with cases made by hand. Jobs set them up in a display and made it look as if they were already in production. He sold hundreds of units and built up Apple into the company it would later become.
He Never Did Anything Original
Now, here’s something people may not realize though – Jobs never created a truly unique product in all the time he was with Apple, Inc. its true – the Apple II was not the first personal computer. It was simply a better looking computer than the ones that already existed. The iPod, which was Jobs’ bet the farm success story when he came back to Apple was not the first MP3 player. Nor was the iPhone the first phone with apps and Internet access. The iPad was not the first tablet computer (heck, I owned several tablet computers years before the iPad was created) and the Macintosh was not the first graphical computer. Heck, Jobs didn’t even invent the mouse.
What Jobs Did
Instead, what Steve Jobs did and the reason he is idolized by so many is that he took existing ideas and made them into something sexy that people wanted. He took the clunky idea of an MP3 player and made it easy to use with the side-wheel. Then he took the idea of a phone, which already had the ability to download apps and connect to the web and made it easier to use and more intuitive.
The bottom line is that Steve Jobs created products which were cool and which were based on existing ideas. He didn’t create a brand new category – he merely made the products he created into something which would define the category. Do that for your own products and you can easily dominate, even if you are not the first one to make it out of the gate with whatever it is that you have for sale.