My American business hero died today…Steve Jobs

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Steve Jobs the innovative co-founder of Apple who transformed personal use of technology as well as entire industries with products such as the iPod, iPad, iPhone, Macintosh computer and the iTunes music store, died today.

The iconic American CEO, whose impact many have compared to auto magnate Henry Ford and Walt Disney— whom Jobs openly admired — abruptly stepped down from his position as CEO of Apple in August because of health concerns. He had been suffering from pancreatic cancer.

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, a former Apple board member, called Jobs the best CEO of the past 50 years — perhaps 100 years. I would agree…he has become almost a cult hero among all of us in the tech community.

A seminal business and technology leader, Jobs’ success flowed from a relentless focus on making products that were easy and intuitive for the average consumer to use. His products were characterized by groundbreaking design and style that, along with their technological usefulness, made them objects of intense desire by consumers around the world.

He was known as a demanding, mercurial boss and an almost mystical figure in technology circles as well as American popular culture. Author and business consultant Jim Collins once called Jobs the “Beethoven of business.” He was one of the figures who made Silicon Valley the capital of technological innovation and related venture capital fortunes.
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He revolutionized the computing business with Mac, he revolutionized the music business with iTunes and he turned the telephony business on its ear with the iPhone. He reinvented several businesses too, Pixar gave animation a whole new life. A fact that I just learned today as a retailer, Apple Stores are the most profitable per square foot retail spaces in the world.

And finally as a marketer…my former ad agency network produced the advertising for Apple and without a doubt created some of the most outstanding commercials in the industry for the Apple Brand. Who does remember the famous 1984 Super Bowl commercial or the iconic “think Different” campaign.
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Jobs’ work at Apple and other projects made him a fortune estimated by Forbes magazine in 2011 at $8.3 billion. He was No.110 on Forbes’ list of billionaires worldwide and No.34 in the United States, as of the magazine’s March 2011 estimates.

It will surely be missed and everyone has to wonder who will lead Apple not just in the Boardroom but in the “kitchen” where the ideas are created.

Steve Jobs – CEO of the Decade

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How’s this for a gripping corporate story line: Youthful founder gets booted from his company in the 1980s, returns in the 1990s, and in the following decade survives two brushes with death, one securities-law scandal, an also-ran product lineup, and his own often unpleasant demeanor to become the dominant personality in four distinct industries, a billionaire many times over, and CEO of the most valuable company in Silicon Valley.

Sound too far-fetched to be true? Perhaps. Yet it happens to be the real-life story of Steve Jobs and his outsize impact on everything he touches.

The past decade in business belongs to Jobs. What makes that simple statement even more remarkable is that barely a year ago it seemed likely that any review of his accomplishments would be valedictory. But by deeds and accounts, Jobs is back.

Consumers who have never picked up an annual report or even a business magazine gush about his design taste, his elegant retail stores, and his outside-the-box approach to advertising. (“Think different,” indeed.)
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It’s often noted that he’s a showman, a born salesman, a magician who creates a famed reality-distortion field, a tyrannical perfectionist. It’s totally accurate, of course, and the descriptions contribute to his legend.

Yet for all his hanging out with copywriters and industrial designers and musicians — and despite his anti-corporate attire — make no mistake: Jobs is all about business. He may not pay attention to customer research, but he works slavishly to make products customers will buy.

He’s a visionary, but he’s grounded in reality too, closely monitoring Apple’s various operational and market metrics. He isn’t motivated by money, says friend Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle. Rather, Jobs is understandably driven by a visceral ardor for Apple, his first love (to which he returned after being spurned — proof that you can go home again) and the vehicle through which he can be both an arbiter of cool and a force for changing the world.

The financial results have been nothing short of astounding — for Apple and for Jobs. The company was worth about $5 billion in 2000, just before Jobs unleashed Apple’s groundbreaking “digital lifestyle” strategy, understood at the time by few critics. Today, at about $170 billion, Apple is slightly more valuable than Google.

Mac Versus PC Ad War.

Six months ago I began to notice that Microsoft was finally taking a crack at Apple (after two years) in the “I’m a PC, I’m a Mac” war waging on TV. I did hear some comments from Apple users regarding how “stupid” PC users were, which is to be expected. I suppose it either shows fierce brand loyalty or that Apple owners need to take some time off.

The agencies for which I have worked used both PC and Mac…a testament to the strengths of each platform. I do applaud Apple for putting the smackdown on Microsoft regarding customer service. If you’ve ever had the misfortune of trying to get anything out of Microsoft that is not available on their web site, good luck. There are a billion steps to go through, and no easy way to do it. In fact, even if you do get through, the answer is usually not the one that fixes the problem. Such is the empire of Darth Gates.

Microsoft didn’t make much of an effort to fight against Apple’s Get a Mac campaign when it launched 2006. Finally in 2008, Microsoft announced a $300 million ad campaign to fire back.

The company’s first few bullets shot at Apple appeared ineffective, beginning with some quirky commercials starring Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates, followed by a friendly campaign called “I’m a PC.” Microsoft’s latest Laptop Hunter commercials are the fiercest yet, delivering sarcastic lines such as “I guess I’m not cool enough to be a Mac user” that appear to be echoing in the chambers of consumers’ brains.

Not sure yet if they are working but this may be their best attempt…aside from the “I’m not cool enough” comment which I would take offense with if I was in the 18 to 24 demographic. Let’s see if it puts a dent in Mac’s image.

The Big Mac index

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The Economist’s Big Mac index is based on the theory of purchasing-power parity (PPP), according to which exchange rates should adjust to equalise the price of a basket of goods and services around the world. Our basket is a burger: a McDonald’s Big Mac.

In Big Mac PPP terms, selected currencies were over or undervalued at the end of January. Broadly, the pattern is such as it was last spring.

The most overvalued currency is the Icelandic krona: the exchange rate that would equalise the price of an Icelandic Big Mac with an American one is 158 kronur to the dollar; the actual rate is 68.4, making the krona 131% too dear. The most undervalued currency is the Chinese yuan, at 56% below its PPP rate; several other Asian currencies also appear to be 40-50% undervalued.
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It is one way to look at the economy I suppose. I respect the Economist but I am sure the Big Mac Index is only one part of the picture The Mac is relatively cheap in Japan however just to step foot in a taxi is US$7 and a movie is US$18! Not sure how McDs keeps the prices so low but I know they are determined to make the prices affordable here even if it means offering under valued meals.