Jobs: The Ultimate Solution Provider


Hardware-software integration was key to his success


Apple CEO Steve Jobs is being mourned as a technology visionary who forever reshaped the information technology landscape with game-changing products such as the iPod, the iPad and the iPhone.

But Jobs was not an inventor in the same mold as Thomas Edison, the ‘Wizard of Menlo Park,” who invented the lightbulb, the phonograph and the motion picture camera. Jobs’ greatest gift was his ability to take somewhat standard hardware and software building blocks and integrate them into intuitive, easy-to-use “insanely great” products. Jobs, in fact, was the ultimate solution provider.

This view of Jobs as the ultimate solution provider is something every vendor technology executive and vendor channel executive on the planet should think about as they craft products and programs for their partners. More often than not, solution providers are looked upon by these executives as a necessary evil rather than the hardware-software integrators responsible for creating a user experience that either delights or disturbs users.

Jobs was fanatical in making sure that the products Apple brought to market delivered an unmatched user experience. The secret to his success lay more in what he left out of those game-changing products than what he put into them. Think about it. MP3 players were commonplace when Jobs delivered the iPod to the market. Mobile phones were big business when the iPhone hit the street. And tabletlike devices were common for specialized mobile workers such as FedEx employees. Jobs’ genius was taking these product categories and effectively redefining them by delivering an unprecedented user experience -- one that defied conventional technology expectations.

SteveWozniak, who co-founded Apple and worked side by side with Jobs on the Apple I and Apple II, has said that Jobs hated the “crappy” products that were standard fare in the technology industry. Woz is right. Jobs wanted to make sure that the products Apple delivered were head and shoulders above everything else on the market. Jobs refused to be satisfied with the technology status quo that has made pulling together a corporate solution akin to building a Rube Goldberg contraption.

One key lesson for solution providers is that Jobs never -- and I do mean never -- sold any product as a low-price leader. Jobs delivered the best user experience in each of the product categories Apple competed in, and he expected and got handsome profit margins, margins that have put Apple in a heated, day-to-day battle with Exxon for the title of the most valuable company in the world.

What every solution provider should aspire to is delivering the same user experience Jobs did in every solution they build. And what every vendor executive should aspire to is making sure they provide the right products, programs and support for partners so that delivering an “insanely great” user experience is just a little bit easier.

BACKTALK: What are the ‘ultimate’ lessons you have learned from Steve Jobs? Contact Steve Burke at steve.burke@ubm.com.