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What the RFID Industry Can Learn From Steve Jobs

Apple's success has been in making products that are easy to use.
By Mark Roberti
Oct 10, 2011Like millions of people worldwide, I was saddened to hear of the passing of Apple's co-founder and CEO, Steve Jobs. I'm not someone who runs out and buys the latest and greatest Apple products, but I have been a loyal Mac user ever since I worked at a publication that installed Quadra 650s for all writers in 1991, and I currently have an iPhone (the second or third version).

News outlets around the world have been broadcasting or writing tributes to Jobs, so I won't rehash all of his accomplishments here. Instead, I'll focus on what the radio frequency identification industry can learn from him.

Much of what I heard on the news last week hailed Jobs as a visionary who transformed technology product categories, and even entire industries—music, for example. While Apple's products have been enormously successful, and have forced changes in some industries (the music business was in the throes of change before the advent of the iPod and iTunes), I've never seen Jobs as a visionary. That is not to diminish his enormous contributions—but after launching the first personal computer with Steve Wozniak in 1976, he never achieved another first. There were MP3 players, smart phones and tablets before Apple jumped into those markets.

Rather, I view Jobs as someone who loved his customers (and we loved him back) enough to want to make products easy—even fun—to use. I owned a Blackberry for several years, and could never figure out how to use any aspect of it other than the phone and e-mail functions. After switching to an iPhone, I could now surf the Web, synch my contacts, download music and much more, without ever consulting a manual or getting frustrated.

As Apple's CEO, Jobs had a singular—and somewhat prosaic—focus: improving the interface. Think about it. When MP3 players were cumbersome to use—people struggled to load songs into them, manage playlists and so forth—Apple developed the iPod with a simple click-wheel and screen interface, as well as iTunes to download songs into the iPod. As competitors began copying Apple's click-wheel (anyone remember the Zune?), Apple improved the interface with the iPod Touch, which had a simple touchscreen.

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