Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD Year In Fashion issue 12/12/2011


Steve Jobs changed the way we live by transforming things we took for granted: listening to music, working, reading and shopping.

Jobs, the late founder of Apple, didn’t so much invent products — he reinvented them. Early laptops were called luggables because they weighed 29 pounds. Jobs’ aluminum-clad 13-inch MacBook Air was streamlined and refined. If laptops were too big to carry around, Jobs created the iPad tablet, which weighed less than its competitors and didn’t rely on a stylus. He put music in sleek little boxes and placed the Internet in the palm of our hands, in a phone that looked like no other, the iPhone, with its sexy black touch screen that made images “pop.” Jobs influenced retail and publishing through innovation, developing products and apps that continue to alter the playing field for e-commerce sites and brick-and-mortar stores. And “There’s an app for that” has become a regular part of the cultural lexicon.

This story first appeared in the December 12, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Apple products are the last word in technology design. Jobs infused Apple’s products, made from metal, circuits, glass and plastic, with sex appeal and made sure their operation is intuitive, not intimidating.

This holiday season, Jobs’ influence on retail seems especially profound with mobile use on the rise. Until recently, iPhones simply helped shoppers find store locations. Use of the devices exploded during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, when consumers took to their iPhones and iPads for product information, inventory checks and purchasing. Retailers such as Nordstrom and Sears gave the devices to sales associates to speed checkout.

Jobs said he always thought of himself as a humanities person as a kid, but he liked electronics. Then he read something by Edwin Land of Polaroid, one of his heroes, about the importance of people who can stand at the intersection of the humanities and sciences “and I decided that’s what I wanted to do.” At Apple, Jobs succeeded in striking a balance between engineering and creativity in products and stores.

“Steve cared about product like no one else,” said Millard “Mickey” Drexler, chairman and chief executive officer of J. Crew, who is on the Apple board. “He was always focused on innovating, editing and simplifying. He was unwavering in his vision.”

Jobs and his team were on a perennial quest to improve service. To mark the 10th anniversary of its stores, Apple in May launched the Apple Store 2.0, with Smart Signs, iPad 2s embedded in Lucite and call buttons for store specialists.

Jobs and Apple were at the forefront of the desktop publishing revolution in 1984 with the launch of the Macintosh. Nearly 30 years later, editors and publishers are calling the iPad the industry’s savior. Eight-figure businesses in selling subscriptions via the iPad and similar devices are said to be not far off.

Newspapers, Web sites and magazines race to get apps up and running — and in the approval process, give unprecedented control of these apps to Apple.

“[Jobs] opened a door to a new era of communication with our readers, a new paradigm for conceiving, creating and marketing our content,” said Bob Sauerberg, president of Condé Nast. “As tablet technology scales and the marketplace matures, the effects of his work will only become more profound.”

Graydon Carter, editor in chief of Vanity Fair, said, “I’m so completely taken by the iPad that I’m in the midst of writing and illustrating a children’s book on it for my youngest daughter.”

“One of the great legacies of Steve Jobs is that he taught people to pay for quality content,” said David Carey, president of Hearst magazines, referring to iTunes and myriad apps. “That was such an important advancement.”

It’s all a new kind of delivery and distribution system, one that Jobs, once again, envisioned ahead of its time.

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