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Steve Jobs: where were you when you heard?

The untimely death of Steve Jobs was announced while half our team were in New York at the M-Commerce 2.0 brainstorm. It seemed strangely fitting that those of us there learned the news via an iPad2 belonging to one of our speaker’s wives. Later, we took this picture of the ticker tape in Times Square using an iPhone 4.

times square steve jobs oct 2011 crop.jpg

None of us knew Steve Jobs personally yet he has had a profound impact on our world, and we’re grateful for the colour and interest that this remarkable man added to our personal and professional lives. He is the first of the tech superstars to die, and perhaps the emotions surrounding his loss will confer even more strength to Apple’s already extraordinary brand. We hope that at least his family and close friends will find some comfort in the public appreciation of his achievements and character.

In the rest of this article we feature some of the excellent tributes in the media from his professional friends and foes alike. We’ve also just published our initial thoughts on the announcement of the iPhone 4s, and will be publishing our in-depth analysis of Apple’s business model and strategy shortly.

Perhaps the ultimate tribute came from Google which carried his dates, and a simple link back to Apple.com on the home page.

For us, another great tribute is all the additional backhaul fibre pulled out to mobile operators’ cell sites since 2007. When the iPhone launched, we were still wondering what would ever fill up the GPRS networks and use that horribly expensive spectrum. As it turned out, all the public needed was a device that was beautiful as well as technically impressive. And suddenly mobile apps overtake music as the biggest category of online goods.

Sergey Brin mourns via Google +. Mark Zuckerberg sends thanks. Barack Obama and arch-rival Bill Gates remember him. Apple insiders remember.

There’s a particularly significant remembrance of Jobs by his schoolfriend and partner in founding Apple, Steve Wozniak.

Wozniak introduced Jobs to phone phreaking, hacking the in-band signalling that controlled the phone networks before the shift to digital switching in the 1980s. Allegedly they once rang up Henry Kissinger, posing as Vatican diplomats to the State Department switchboard. Supposedly, it was Jobs who first suggested to Wozniak that they might be able to sell the blue boxes - essentially, a developer kit that produced the various signalling tones on command - they were making for actual money.

The Register combines a tabloid sensibility with the ability to produce really superb long-form writing on occasion and Jobs’ death inspires them to narrate a hacker’s childhood. The second part, covering Jobs’ return to Apple, is here. Another take on his exit from Apple, more here.

Wired recalls a list of Jobs’ 10 greatest achievements, while The Guardian does something similar. The Apple Mac, the musician’s computer. Nobody can build a shrine with quite the attention to detail geeks can. More, from AllThingsD. Steve Jobs, the salesman. Scott Fulton at ReadWriteWeb remembers. RWW reminds us that the original iPhone’s killer app was the Web, and Tim Berners-Lee developed the first Web server on one of Jobs’ NeXT machines. ATD’s commenters. My first Mac computer. BoingBoing redesigns as an old Mac OS desktop. Doc Searls remembers. Horace remembers.

Ars Technica remembers, and provides a list of the products Steve Jobs cancelled. A taste of the ruthless side. Ars appreciates the Apple II, the machine where it all began.

Remember when men said they read Playboy for the articles? They interviewed Steve Jobs in 1985, and looking back it’s a classic. Among much else, this quote stands out:

The developments will be in making the products more and more portable, networking them, getting out laser printers, getting out shared data bases, getting out more communications ability, maybe the merging of the telephone and the personal computer.

Mind you, he also said he expected AT&T to be a major competitor in a few years’ time as the brilliant research from Bell Labs began to be commercialised. It didn’t quite work out like that, but AT&T (although a very different AT&T) would be the launch customer for the, ah, merging of the telephone and the personal computer.

Unlike many other attempts at this, especially the ones launched by telephone companies, Steve Jobs’ effort didn’t stint on the personal computer side of the bargain. After all, if there was any one feature that marked out Jobs’ career, it was a fanatical, obsessive focus on the products. As the man himself said in July 1996, having just rejoined Apple, when asked what he thought was wrong with the company:

These products suck!

Felix Salmon points out that they were also very pricey indeed, and that part of Apple’s achievement since then was squeezing down its prices.

Here’s a French view from Le Monde.

Despite the ongoing legal squabble between Apple and Samsung, Samsung CEO Geesung Choi also had this to say:

“Chairman Steve Jobs introduced numerous revolutionary changes to the information technology industry and was a great entrepreneur. His innovative spirit and remarkable accomplishments will forever be remembered by people around the world.”

They also claim to have pushed back the launch of a new phone out of respect (although they didn’t slow down the litigation).

Here’s an apprciation of his successor, Tim Cook.

Finally, as if we needed proof that the world was not designed by Apple the people who protest the US’s war dead at their funerals because they might be gay have promised to picket Steve Jobs’ funeral, on their Twitter feed. Somewhat ironically, the message was posted from an iPhone.

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