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A tribute to one of the greatest innovators of our times

With deep sadness I learned this morning that Steve Jobs has passed away. What led me to write this blog post is that in my opinion the media reports on his death (at least the ones in Germany) are jumping far too short in assessing his contributions.

Sure, Steve Jobs built The House of Apple. But it is too short-sighted to talk about iPhones and iPads when it comes to measuring his contribution.

I never had the privilege to work with him and to experience the “reality distortion field” in his presence that some co-workers mention. Also I wasn’t put by Steve on an emotional roller-coaster ride, running from the highest appreciation to being despised in a short time, as some say – I cannot comment on these.

But what I clearly see is that Steve Jobs was a modern Gutenberg. Like the historic Gutenberg in the 15thcentury, Steve and his creative genius opened up a new world of media “for the rest of us”, as he stated in his presentation of the MacIntosh in 1984.

Without Steve Jobs, there wouldn’t have been a Personal Computer industry – Chances are high that the PC would have been a playing field for computer nerds or that the PC would have turned out as a rather dumb terminal for IBM mainframe computers. Without the PC industry there would have not been an Internet revolution and therefore no “information at your fingertips” (to quote Bill Gates’s vision), no democracy movements co-ordinated via Web 2.0 and no global social networks. And without the Internet revolution there would have been no mobile Internet, changing the way we work and live – at least in the developed world.

Some say that Steve Jobs was a Marketing genius. His presentation of the initial iPhone in 2007 is certainly a masterpiece in how to introduce breakthrough innovations to the world. His Marketing genius surely shines up in some of the most dramatic recent business model innovations, such as changing the way we all listen to music and changing the software industry. But I think he was more than that: He also was a creative genius, one who could sense deeply covered needs for leveraging the power of “intelligent” machines and to interact with the world outside – and to materialize these visions into products that are benchmarks for user experience.

Steve Jobs was also a wise man. His insights into the essence of creativity and innovation will stand the test of times. in his famous commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005, he told three stories: One of live, one of loss and one of death. He saw death as the big motivator, as the true agent for every one of us to “make a dent in the universe” in the short time we are given on this planet.

He concluded his Stanford speech with citing the last page of the last issue of the then (1975) famous “Whole Earth Catalog”. It showed an empty country road in the morning sun, leading to the horizon. And then there were four words: “Stay hungry, stay foolish”. I guess this is what Steve Jobs might have told all of us in his last hours. Stay hungry, stay foolish – Be bold enough to think differently, be courageous enough to try to change the world (at least a little bit) and use your talent to achieve what you can achieve.