If you want to know the secret of Steve Jobs, recall his advice to inventor Dean Kamen upon seeing the original version of the Segway scooter: "I think it sucks," he said. "Its shape is not innovative, it's not elegant, it doesn't feel anthropomorphic . . . There are design firms out there that could come up with things we've never thought of, things that would make you s*** in your pants."
At the end of the day, hardware is just a bunch of cold transistors and software code is just a bunch of bits to control them. But clever code can change the world and make us productive in ways we never imagined. Yet even that's not enough. As Hewlett-Packard and Nokia painfully know, everyone eventually has access to the same transistors, the same memory and displays and processors. All you can hope for is maybe a 12-18 month lead. Steve Jobs's magic was to marry clever code with a fanatical devotion to aesthetics, rare in the tech world. It worked, in spades. Now we pay huge premiums for Apple products made up of commonly available components.
That's right, we shell out $600 for $200 worth of sand. And here's the neat parlor trick. We actually feel good about it! In techland, there's no rest for the weary, better processors and storage and networks are daily creations. Mr. Jobs looked over the horizon and figured out not only what's next, but how to shape it into devices that all at once stirred a cognitive soup of psychology, behavior science, philosophy and for many, a spiritual awakening—an iPhone as a cortexial extension of ourselves. Weird, but true.
How did he pull this off? By figuring out whathe wanted and controlling the whole process until he got it. Very few buttons, like Mr. Jobs's clothing. But more importantly, don't just touch your computer, feel it. Let the graphics and icons simplify life's complexities. Let your fingers flow over the glass instead of peck at it. Speak to it. Use your body and motion to sway your computer until it moves you. Until you are one. OK, I got a little carried away, but admit it, it's hard to unplug.