Steve Jobs changed music. And Steve Jobs saved music. And he did these things at many levels. Both in his own personal love of music and creativity, and in his meticulous moulding of Apple software and hardware, Steve Jobs changed forever the way users interface with music. And that could be his most impressive legacy for generations to come.
There are thousands of companies, bands, solo artists, marketeers, journalists and creatives who gain their income, small or large, due to the impact of Steve Jobs and his Apple products. Yes, there are many other brilliant minds at Apple who have played a part, yet most tributes, memoirs and anecdotes speak of the passion to get things right, inherited from the Jobs culture. Here are key ways Jobs and Apple game-changed music for users.
Without getting into semantics of chicken-and-egg, let's start with the iPod. The Mac had been a brilliant computer for any music enthusiast, able to capture and playback at full digital quality. And the Sony Walkman was the previous best-of-breed mobile music device. But the first iPod and the subsequent range of iPods delivered full digital quality music for any situation - walking, running, cycling, driving, mountain-climbing!
The range of sizes, features and prices could put, for the first time, exceptional quality music into the ears of anyone, anywhere. The combination of practical and robust products, crafted with a design aesthetic, have been winners for users for years, and great earners for Apple and rightly so.
World Wide Web
Even when not at Apple, Steve Jobs had a profound effect on computing and software. Jobs' NeXT computer was used by Tim Berbers-Lee to "create" the World Wide web as we know it today. Berbers-Lee explains:
I wrote the program using a NeXT computer. This had the advantage that there were some great tools available - it was a great computing environment in general. In fact, I could do in a couple of months what would take more like a year on other platforms, because on the NeXT, a lot of it was done for me already. There was an application builder to make all the menus as quickly as you could dream them up. There were all the software parts to make a wysiwyg (what you see is what you get - in other words direct manipulation of text on screen as on the printed - or browsed page) word processor.
Notice, again, the recurring theme: the best available platform, created under the direction of Steve Jobs.
The combination of exceptional audio devices (Macs and iPods) and enormous improvements in access and speeds to the internet allowed iTunes to become another market-leader for Jobs and Apple. Here, at last, was a digital music service that benefited the users. The users! You can ignore all the bleating and lies from music label bosses and music retailers. Volumes of sales are at an all time high in 2011. The music industry can thank Steve Jobs for that.
Not only does iTunes provide constant, high-quality digital audio, and in an easy to find, access and download way, it has been extended to become a central repository for TV, video and the extraordinary iTunes U (which just achieved 600 million downloads of professional learning materials). No other service comes close for quality content.
iMac and MacBook series
Here we see form and function, productivity and design, cost and benefit, and any other criteria being fused, again, to the benefit of the user. There might be faster cars than the Ferrari, and there are some models that some people decry, but a Ferrari is known the world over for the combination of horsepower and design excellence. The same is true of the Apple products: they are beautiful to look at and beautiful to 'drive'. And, under the bonnet, they capture, store and output gorgeous music in all its variety.
There are plenty of music-related software programs and utilities available for Apple products, but the inclusion of GarageBand "out of the box" set the scene for an explosion of creatives to express themselves, from hobbyist amateurs right through to full-time professional musicians, arrangers, producers and sound engineers. Steve Jobs and Apple set the standard high and everyone has benefited from that leadership and inspiration.
The iPod and MacBook were best-of-breed for all to follow in their sectors, and Jobs saw and delivered into another huge gap in user satisfaction with the introduction of the iPhone - a smartphone that dominates hearts and sales charts the world over.
The tech blogs are full of comparisons and stats that say Apple products are not the best. Real people, the users, disagree. They love their Mac products and their loyalty is second to none. The iPhone is purely the most visible example in the world of brand loyalty based on quality of product. Any country, any city, any airport and yes, any music event, and the iPhone will be highly visible, either itself or the trademark white earphones. And there are plenty of us who think of the iPhone as a clever iPod with phone capabilities!
The App Store, like iTunes, provides quality products in a user-friendly environment. Not only is the App Store an extension of the iTunes process, it provides, again, a central and easy-access resource for the user. All those involved in music, from listeners to creatives to providers, can integrate so much of their music and personal life with the assistance of Apple devices and software provision. And many apps now provide seamless integration from desktop to laptop to iPod to iPhone, either via Apple servers or other web processes.
And so the story continues, although the seeds of the iPad were heralded by Apple 25 years ago in a prophetic "imagine if" video, and Steve Jobs has also explained that his original interest for a tablet was sidelined by the development of the iPhone.
The tech "experts were quick to complain about the iPad but, again, the users ignored them and bought, in the millions, the next Steve Jobs-inspired Apple product the moment it became available worldwide.
The iPad is a quite revolutionary device for musicians, music-making and music listening. Steve Jobs demanded the size, apparently, even though other sizes were explored and tested. He has been proved right, again, of course. The iPad is a perfect, new, liberating, clever and desirable product, with market-leading applications for DJs and musicians readily available.
Just as the App Store extended the content options for the iTunes Store, the newly announced iTunes Match can become your access-anywhere, listen-on-any-device music library. From casual listener to avid audiophile, the new service can quickly, easily and seamlessly integrate all your scattered music libraries from various devices.
For example, I have three iPods (approximately segregated into metal, rock, dance/trance), three Macs (with a wide range of styles, plus many podcasts), two iPhones (more music) and an iPad (more music and podcasts). My digital music library will be an interesting challenge for the features of Match.
All of the above devices and software are going to be assisted by the new Apple service, iCloud. Let's be clear: all of the above devices and software! I'm sure the tech naysayers will find fault with iCloud, but the rest of us, users and appreciators, will love it.
Yes, iCloud will be great for music. But like so many Steve Jobs-inspired Apple products, iCloud will be great for people, and families, and staying in touch with those you love and like. And if that happens to occur by using a wonderfully designed and constructed Apple device, which may include sharing music content, more power to us all!
One more thing ...
Let's not forget the most successful movie studio in the world - Pixar. From its inception to it's market leading stats and profitability, Pixar has created astonishing films/movies/shorts that delight whole generations. The guiding light - Steve Jobs. R.I.P.