Understanding Apple's Greatness

As a senior software engineer wondering how the hell does Apple make such great products, if you do anything, listen to the last five minutes of Steve Jobs’ keynote introducing the iPad 2. It opened my eyes and made me a believer. Here’s what he had to say:

“It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough. That it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing. And nowhere is that more true than in these post-PC devices. These devices need to be more intuitive than a PC where the software and the hardware and the applications need to intertwine in a more seamless way than they do on a PC. And we think we’re on the right track with this. We think we have the right architecture not just in silicon but in the organization to build these kinds of products”.

It’s the passion with which he said it, and the proof in the products that Apple continues to deliver, that have won over an army of fanboys, that proves he indeed does have the right formula. Technology built for humans, what an incredibly simple yet unappreciated idea by so many in our industry. Sure we have the odd usability expert sprinkled through our organizations, but to have an organization and culture and passion built around these ideas? What magic we could make.

The good news is that I don’t think Apple has a patent on these ideas. If they do, I quit now. But I don’t think so. Is it possible for a techie to understand what needs to be done? I have my doubts. Techies are an odd sort. We’ve all seen it. The uber-geek who writes a killer algorithm to make products sing. But he needs help. He needs that special someone to show him how to take that algorithm and produce something regular people will fall in love with. The path is there, and we see it in everything that Apple makes, it works. But don’t let them have a monopoly on it.