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BLOG: In search of another Steve Jobs

Robert X. Cringely | Oct. 4, 2012
Almost a year ago, Steve Jobs left this earth. Will we ever see another like him? Cringely takes a look at the usual suspects

This Friday marks a full year since Steve Jobs left us, and the tributes and memorials are starting to ramp up. They are nicely timed to coincide with rumors about the next life-changing Apple device, the iPad Mini. (Perhaps, being smaller, it will change our lives only 80 percent as much.)

Over at the LifeLibertyTech blog, Marcel Brown has uploaded a newly digitized version of a speech Jobs gave in 1983 (pre-Macintosh) to a design conference in Aspen. In it, Jobs presages things like the iPad, the iTunes Store, and the wireless communications revolution.

At Slashgear, Chris Burns resurrects a year-old video tribute to Jobs from his top design brain, Jonathan Ive, talking about the "really dopey, truly dreadful" ideas that Jobs would sometimes generate, as well as the bold, quiet, utterly profound ones.

CNN asks the always pointed question: Who will be the next Steve Jobs? Will it be Amazon's Jeff Bezos? (To my eye, he looks more and more with each passing day like Austin Powers nemesis Dr. Evil.) Mark Zuckerberg? (We recently learned he can actually put on a jacket and tie without breaking into a rash, so maybe there's hope yet.) Or the new Chief Yahoo, Marissa Mayer? (Now newly back on the job after delivering a yet-to-be-named 8-pound, 14-ounce baby boy; say what you will about Marissa, at least she ships on time.)

Those are the usual suspects proposed by CNN, along with Apple's Tim Cook and Jonathan Ive; Tesla and SpaceX's Elon Musk; and Seth Priebatsch.

Seth Priewhosis? He's the 22-year-old CEO of mobile payments company LevelUp, as well as the author of an iPhone app called SCVNGR (or "scavenger") that's designed to help gameify our educational system [video]. Yeah, I hadn't heard of him until 15 minutes ago, either. He looks like the kid you'd hire to rebuild your website who would then ask you if it was OK to take your daughter to the movies.

I think all of these folks are very smart; I have special respect for Musk, who of them all is the only one to try and break out of the computer/software/services mold and really change the world (and, possibly, outer space). But I don't think any of them will prove to be as influential or as revered as the late Apple CEO.

Bezos is probably closest to Jobs in his combination of tech savvy and consumer awareness, as well as his demanding attitude. He understands the need for simplicity nearly as well as Jobs did. But I don't see him as visionary. The Kindle is nice, but it was hardly the first great e-book reader or a great tablet. The Amazon store is an amazing example of high-end logistics at work, but I wouldn't call it revolutionary. It is ultimately just a store.


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