Technology & Liberal Arts
Steve Jobs often attributes that the popularity of Apple products comes from merging technology with the humanities.
During the introduction of the first iPad, Jobs notes that "the reason that Apple is able to create products like iPad is because we always try to be at the intersection of technology and liberal arts, to be able to get the best of both, to make extremely advanced products in a technology point of view but also have them be intuitive, easy to use, fun to use so they really fit the users. The users don’t have to come to them, they come to the users. It’s the combination of these two things that has let us make the kind of creative products like the iPad. "
He repeated this theme during the unveiling of the second iPad as he proclaimed a new post-PC era. “It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough. It is a marriage of technology with the liberal arts and humanities. The competitors we see it as a new PC market. That’s not the right approach. Tablet is a computer that needs to be easier to use than a PC and should be more intuitive.”
As emerging competitors in the tablet space have attempted to one-up Apple with better “specs,” Apple simply ignores their moves, instead talking about products like GarageBand in the iPad2 launch to enable users to produce studio-quality music without effort. Each product launch features an exciting consumer software element like iMovie for iPhone 3GS, FaceTime, or Siri that reaffirms the human element in software. Apple products are beautiful, fun, personal, and magical. It just works.
I am reminded of a post “Apple is professional, the web is amateur,” praising Apple’s craftsmanship and show of love in its software; after reading the post, I played with the iLife suite and was completely stunned with the quality of websites that could be created with iWeb. (In contrast, Microsoft FrontPage was the surest way to produce an amateurish webpage as if none of the developers designed webpages. My encounter with Dreamweaver in 2000 was a “wake up” moment in the mediocrity of some of Microsoft applications.) As opposed to Android and Microsoft commercials that push vague, unauthentic, corporate branding messages, Apple’s products speak for themselves front-and-center in commercials with their impeccable beauty and magical qualities, whether it’s the richness of applications (especially those augmenting reality using phone-based sensors or tapping into web services like OpenTable), understanding of natural speech, or video-based calls.
This stance of melding humanities into technology harkens back to the Steve Job’s launch of the “Think Different” campaign, which shifted Apple’s marketing focus from technology to values, which is a passion.
The Apple brand has clearly suffered from neglect in this area in the last few years and we need to bring it back. The way to do that is not to talk about speeds and feeds; not to talk about MIPS and megahertz; not to talk about why we’re better than Windows…
Our customers want to know who is Apple and what is it that we stand for, where do we fit in this world. What we are about isn’t making boxes to get people to get their jobs done, although we do that well, we do that better than almost anybody in some cases. But Apple is about something more than that. Apple at the core, it’s core value, is that we believe that people with passion can change the world for the better.
In the recent CBS interview , Jobs is taped saying that Microsoft never had the humanities and liberal arts in its DNA, that they are a pure technology company. He also believes Google is turning the same way.