California has declared today Steve Jobs Day. In this post I will discuss how I am concerned that we no longer have a great industrialist to lead us out of the Great Recession. Where is our Henry Ford?
But first, this seems like an appropriate time to reflect on what a great industrialist Steve Jobs was. He helped create the personal computer market with the Apple II (and I have fond memories of my Apple IIc and IIgs). He led the creation of the first mouse based graphical computer system. He helped make Pixar the great studio it is today. He helped revolutionize music with the iPod. Reinvented the phone with the iPhone (and gave what was one of the best presentations I have ever seen....the iPhone launch speech still gives me chills.....it completely changed smartphones). He helped create a new product category with the iPad, a device I use all of the time in my practice (I realize that there were Windows tablets, but those were very different devices.....really just PCs with a little bit of touch interface). I am just beginning to get the hang of iCloud, but I am certain that it is a giant leap forward in the post-pc age. It will take many years, perhaps even a century, to fully appreciate how important these changes will be.
Now about Henry Ford. No one can deny how much the automobile changed the American landscape, and how the automobile changed how America was perceived around the world (the Germans and others even used "Fordism" to describe American mass production). Henry Ford was an essential part of this great industrialization. He was also an essential part of the war effort, despite being both a pacifist as well as quite elderly. This great industrialization led America to victory in World War II. The Germans simply could not keep up with American production. Moreover, this industrialization led America out of the Great Depression.
Before Steve Jobs and his amazing "second act" (taking over control of Apple for the second time, and leading to be the most valuable company on Earth), it seemed like the coolest tech products came from other countries, such as Sony in Japan. Now, people around the world line up for these iconic products designed in Cupertino California. Although I am convinced that Apple will be fine for awhile, who else in American industry will be able to so invigorate American ingenuity? In other words, who will be our Henry Ford now, and help industrialize America, and lead us out of the Great Recession?
I plan to post soon regarding a fellow Colby alum, Mike Daisey, and how he is completely wrong about Apple, and why you should never trust someone who hasn't run a company to comment on capitalism.