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“Oh wow!” The loss of Steve Jobs was the media story of 2011

27 December 2011 · by Steve Nilan

Innovation didn’t die with Steve Jobs. But the digital revolution has lost its leader.

Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.” Steve Jobs’ last words were a fitting exclamation point on a remarkable life. His final utterance might also be an appropriate reaction to Time magazine’s decision to name “The Protester” as the 2011 Person of the Year. It’s a provocative choice that fired up conversations from the water cooler to the talk-show airwaves. 

My money was on Steve Jobs. Apparently I wasn’t alone. He was on the short list in Time’s Reader Poll. I imagine that Time’s editors must have factored in that Jobs died just two months ago. The eulogies and accolades are still too fresh in our minds. Let’s suspend cynicism and believe that the protester won on merit, without the consideration that another Steve Jobs cover might not sell as many copies. 

Jobs’ legacy is how he applied elegant technology and a strong will to reshape the world of digital media. From music (iTunes) to movies (Pixar and iMovies) to news (iPad) to software (apps) to personal communications (iPhone), Jobs has impacted global industries and the lives of millions. Some might argure his impact was not all positive. Beyond Jobs-led technology breakthroughs and elevated user experiences, he pioneered digital media business models. iTunes is the coolest US99-cent store on the planet. Despite onerous terms for publishers, the App Store has forever changed our digital consumption patterns. 

Time magazine’s snub does not dilute his legacy. Walter Isaacson’s biography “Steve Jobs,” was just named Amazon’s top-selling book for 2011. For what it’s worth, Barbara Walters just named him “Most Fascinating Person of the Year.” Barbara’s choice is worth at least one “Oh wow” on the impact meter.

For me, the loss of Steve Jobs was the story of 2011. Time chose the protester for defensible reasons. The worldwide trend in actively challenging the status quo has already lead to regime changes in two Arab countries and is altering history in real time. It’s worth noting that the protester’s weapon of choice is the smartphone. iPhone videos, text messages, and tweets are proving more powerful than bullets. Steve Jobs’ innovations are now ubiquitous and will have a lasting impact on our world. 

Did innovation die with Jobs in October 2011? Probably not. But the digital revolution that he fomented has lost its leader and his future vision. We are left to wonder what we are missing and what inspired Steve to say, “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.”


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