The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.




Megan Doyle | Friday, October 7, 2011

Junior Chris Hunt was scanning his Facebook newsfeed on his Mac when he first read the news about the death of former Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

“You can’t really talk about the 21st century without talking about Steve Jobs,” Hunt said. “He basically built the framework for how we communicate.”

Jobs died Wednesday after a long battle with a rare form of pancreatic cancer. Though Jobs never completed college, Hunt said the businessman is an example to students at Notre Dame because of his determination and persistence.

“Even though he didn’t finish college, he loved learning,” Hunt said. “He was determined and always tried to keep learning and expanding himself.”

James O’Rourke, professional specialist for the Mendoza College of Business, said Jobs was not only a skilled business executive, but also “an extraordinary leader and visionary.”

“Steve Jobs changed the way we communicate and made all of us better at what we do,” O’Rourke said. “That’s an extraordinary legacy.”

Jobs build a unique culture at Apple during his time at the head of the company, O’Rourke said.

“While others saw risk and danger in technology investment, Steve saw opportunity,” he said. “He also saw around corners.  He had the uncanny ability to tell what was coming next because he had a hand in creating it.  He built loyalty, enthusiasm and exceptional quality into his brand.  There is, quite literally, no one else like him in the world today.”

The development of the Apple brand revolutionized the market and made the company a household name, he said.

“Depending on which survey you read, it’s either the largest or one of the largest companies in the world in terms of market capitalization,” O’Rourke said. “That came about as a result of exceptionally bright, insightful, loyal employees who’ve turned the Apple brand into something of a consumer cult.

As the company looks to the future, O’Rourke said Jobs’ shoes will be big ones to fill.

“The trick now for [Jobs’ successor] Tim Cook is to support and nurture the culture and encourage all of those who were attracted to Mr. Jobs to sustain their momentum,” he said. “He won’t have the same genius insight into technology that Jobs had, but he has enormous resources and some of the best minds on earth working for him.  He won’t have the same personal charisma and communicative abilities, but who would?”

Sophomore Catherine Simonson said she uses her iPod every day.

“I think [Jobs] kind of defined our generation,” Simonson said. “Even in terms of email, it is just assumed that you will get your email on your phone now … I was watching a video about him where he was talking about the iPhone. He said, ‘This is your life in your pocket.'”

Apple has been at the center of technological developments over the past several decades

“He played a major role in solidifying [the way we communicate] in that aspect,” she said.

Cory Angst, assistant professor of management, called the former Apple CEO a “mastermind.”

“I think the thing that sets him [and Apple] apart … from other innovative companies is that he has always taken the approach that you can’t ask customers what they want because they don’t actually know what to ask for,” he said.

The big question now for Apple is whether the company will continue to produce cutting-edge products without Jobs, Angst said.

“There are few people that would say that the success of a multi-billion dollar company like Apple could hinge on only one person, even a charismatic leader like Jobs,” Angst said. “I suspect that what Jobs has left is a highly innovative culture that now pervades all ranks of employees at Apple, and I fully expect them to innovate for decades to come.”

American Studies professor Robert Schmuhl said Jobs also shaped the world of modern media.

“With Jobs at the helm, Apple has been in the vanguard of media development,” Schmuhl said. “The communications world is different because of him. Music is distributed differently. Entertainment is more accessible. And news now arrives via iPhone or iPad at any moment.”

Schmuhl said the future of Apple is now uncertain.

“Can Apple continue to lead the way without him?” Schmuhl said. “That’s a question worth considering now.”