Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Thank You to Steve Jobs

The news is full of people opining about Steve Jobs' resignation as the CEO of Apple. Of them, I think Russ Roberts has one of the best:
The headlines say he remade industries. The articles talk about how he gave consumers what they wanted. But he famously didn’t give consumers what they wanted. He imagined what they might enjoy wanting and then he gave it to them. Yes, he remade industries. But he did more than that. He changed the way we interact with information and music, the way we consume information and music, and the way we create it. It is hard to think of anyone who changed the fabric of so many lives in such a positive way. I say that as I write these words on a MacBook Pro, listening to Irish music via iTunes, my iPhone in my pocket. And of course his influence extends beyond the Apple products created under his leadership. Those products influenced the products of Apple’s competitors.

His success illustrates the sterility of the mainstream approach in economics to corporate strategy and the theory of the firm. The theory of the firm in neoclassical theory focuses on how much the firm should produce and optimal capacity. Game theory looks at strategic issues arising under various payoffs. Neither approach captures the nature of innovation, the trial and error risk-taking of the visionary entrepreneur or the power of creative destruction to enrich our lives. These ideas are at the heart of the Austrian approach to the firm, an approach that has made even less headway in mainstream academic circles than Austrian business cycle theory. I don’t know much about it other than its flavor. I’m going to read some more.

I hope Steve Jobs can overcome this latest health setback. In the meanwhile, thank you, Steve.
Jobs' brilliance was indeed imagining what consumers might want and giving it to them. In my lifetime, I can't think of anyone else who comes close in their ability to do this. Jobs will most certainly and deservedly go down as a legend among CEO's.

While I'm less of a fan of the patent wars Apple often engages in to squash their competition, there's no question they have been a lead innovator and hold a remarkable array of patents.

Perhaps the best tribute to Steve Jobs I can give is the fact that I not only have an iPad and iPhone sitting on the table as I type this in a coffee shop in DC, but also that in the past week I sold the best computer I've ever owned to buy an even better one.

Thanks for all the great products and the great markets you helped create, Steve. You helped transform the world. I wish you well with your health. You will be missed.

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