This syndicated post originally appeared at No Jitter - Recent posts by Zeus Kerravala.

I, like millions of other people, live their lives differently because of Apple, and Steve Jobs was the man with the vision that enabled it.

When it comes to Apple, I’ve never been one of “those guys”. You know those guys, the hard-core Apple guys that defend everything Apple does. They wait outside the Apple store when the new iPhone comes out and they tell you everything wrong with Microsoft. Everyone knows one or more of these guys but they were a select few–developers, security guys, and the geeks among geeks. I’m pretty geeky but I avoided Apple stuff for a long time because I didn’t want to be one of “those guys”.

Truth be told, I was one of “those guys” way back in the day. In high school, I learned how to program on an Apple II+ and it made me believe that if you had two floppy drives and 64K of memory there was no problem you couldn’t solve. Later on in college I did most of my machine language programming on one of the original Macs. But then, I joined Corporate America, became a Windows guy and never looked back and I started avoiding Apple products because of “those guys”.

However, times have changed and Apple has changed my life and almost everyone that I know. I’ve gone from being a Blackberry/Windows guy to being someone that has an iPad, MacBook Air and iPhone. My 10 year old has an iPhone, my wife has an iPhone and all six of our kids have iTouches. My local school system has mandated that all kindergartners have iPads–not tablets, but the iPad.

So how did this happen? Why do we care so much about Apple today? I believe it’s because Jobs understood the value of the integrated experience. Consumers pay a huge premium for Apple stuff because it’s easy to use. Is the iPod really any better an MP3 player than a Zune? I don’t think so but the process of getting music, syncing it with the iPod, creating playlists, etc is so much easier than the Zune or any other MP3 player, and that can be said for almost all Apple products.

This actually was Apple’s differentiator all the way back to the original Macintosh days. The Apple Writer printer connected to the Macintosh over an AppleTalk LAN. But Apple never made it big in the mid 80s; they floundered as that geek company. So why today and not then? I think back in the early Mac days society really wasn’t ready for home computers. We had computers at work and we used them for work things but no on really needed to do computer stuff at home. If you had Internet access you were limited to things like Elm for mail, newsgroups instead of the Web and Unix chat instead of Instant Messenger (am I showing my age or what?). Unless you were a graphic artist or someone that did a lot of word processing, you really didn’t need a computer, certainly not a premium-price one with expensive peripherals no matter how great the experience.

Jobs’ second tenure at Apple was timed perfectly with the birth of the digital age, where the integrated experience matters. Take the iPod for example. Its strength is how simple it is to find a song, download it and then have it synced to the music player. Sure there are other, cheaper MP3 players but the amount of work it takes to go download the song using some third party app and then use something like Windows Media player to sync it is too complicated for most people. That philosophy was driven through all of Apple’s products and the thing that kicked off Apple being the company we know today.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.

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