The worldwide buzz for the past week hasn’t just been about Steve Jobs, folks. It’s also been about the last product left in his wake.
The iPhone 4S has become something of a phenomenon. This isn’t the first time Apple has released a new phone that’s been not much more than an internal reworking of the current model, but it’s the first time they’ve taken 18 months to do it. And consumers have lashed out at this, feeling entitled to something more. One gets the feeling, from the global dismay at the lack of visual differences, that a minor cosmetic change might have satisfied the thirst of consumers who now expect every new product that hits the market to be a complete revolution compared to its predecessor.
So what’s changed? Why do consumers suddenly feel as if companies owe them something entirely new every time they go to market with a new model of their product?
Perhaps it has something to do with the man himself. Steve Jobs, for whom glowing tributes and simple eulogies have been flowing for the past seven days, has inadvertently fostered a culture of expectation; people now expect every product produced by a consumer-based company like Apple to do something entirely new, and to look entirely different while it does it.
Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005 provides some insight into the theories that he fostered that have caused this change in mindset of your basic consumer. His concept of “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish” has extended to mean something a little further than that — “Stay Hungry for what’s new, Stay Foolish for believing that’s always going to be the case”. Other quotes that suggest you should always expect something more from those who supply you with new technology include, “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice” and “Don’t settle”.
So is it right to expect something more from companies every time they offer us a new product? Perhaps. That drive continues to push the boundaries of innovation, particularly in the tech arena, and companies are forced to stay one step ahead of each other as they bring out something bigger (or smaller, in the case of some product categories), faster and prettier with every release. But at the same time, one can’t help but think that this obsession with “the next big thing” is eventually going to create an unhealthy aura of dissatisfaction in our fast-paced culture, because this element of our lives isn’t progressing as fast as we want it to.