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The Difference Between Think and Think Different

IBM has used the motto “Think” based on Thomas J. Watson’s (IBM founder), statement “Thought has been the father of every advance since time began.”

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in the mid-90s, Apple used a different motto: “Think Different,” a challenge to view Apple as another choice, and almost opposite path.

I have not been on that path for most of its timeline. I have always been a “PC” user in the IBM/Microsoft camp with an indifference towards Apple. I first played with an Apple II in the late 1970s, and then a my my brother-in-law’s Macintosh in 1984, but never really spent any time with another Apple product until 2010 when I bought a MacBook Pro. Even from a distance over all of those years, I heartily acknowledge that Steve Jobs’ view of technology affected the systems I used in a very profound way. With that in mind, let me review a few of the innovations he provided from which a “PC guy” like myself benefited.

The Apple and Apple II: In the 1970s only corporations and super-geeks had access to computers, with virtually all computing power being owned by corporations, beyond the reach of the individual. The wooden Apple II provided a small, powerful device with a keyboard and monitor, on which the user could type and see an immediate response on the screen. Suddenly gone were lights, switches, paper tape or punch cards. In its place was a a small, accessible, responsive device that was approachable by the masses. Jobs later spoke of the Apple II saying “My dream for the Apple II was to sell the first real packed computer.”

The Graphical User Interface, or GUI: The Macintosh made an easy-to-use, mouse driven interface available to the world, ultimately driving Microsoft’s Windows product line to be much of what it is today used almost universally.

The iPhone:

ipad-imageThe touch based interface was a giant leap forward in how a small mobile device could be used, and drove the interface of Android and others. Perhaps even more defining, “apps” and the App Store launched a new way to think about how information is accessed, and how software is marketed and sold.

The iPad:

My real reason to finally start using Apple products in 2010 was the introduction of the iPad. This product has created an entire industry, and spawned the term “Post PC era.” In many respects it reinvents what the Apple II first created in 1977.

iTunes Store:

Jobs got an industry stuck in plastic CDs to allow a legitimate business to sell tunes by the song. Now we all enjoy electronic delivery of many products.

There is more. The iMac showed that PCs do not have to be beige boxes, the MacBook Air unleashed light and powerful laptops, and the Apple stores, one of the most profitable retail enterprises per square foot in the world, just to name a few.

My use of Apple products has only been in the last 20 months. But Jobs changed things all along for me. I may have been on an alternative path, but Steve’s vision affected it. My respect to Steve for all he did, and I type this on a Macbook Pro using Pages as an homage. And now reports have surfaced that he left plans for new products to cover the next 4 years; I am excited to see what that will bring!