Don't worry, the piece argued. The future isn't in computers. It's in computing. "Defining how computers are used, not how they are manufactured, will create real value – and thus market power, employment, and wealth – in the decades ahead," the authors wrote. "A computer company is the primary source of computing for its customers."
The future, in other words, is a verb, not a noun.
That insight, it seems to me, is at the heart of Apple today.
The computer is a thing, but what people want is not a thing, but to do things.
Armed with that strategic insight, Jobs has turned Apple into the most admired company in the world, according to Fortune magazine, for four years running. He has made it the world's favorite entertainment hub, listening hub, reading hub, watching hub, you-name-it hub.
At the core of Apple's strategy is the insight that apps are the future – because apps are verbs turned into code.
Sure, it's important to have the hardware to give those apps a home. And in true Jobs fashion, the hardware should be incredible, the devices perfect! They should come from a design sensibility that recognizes that design itself is a verb – an experience. Look and feel, touch and sound, the user experience is baked into the DNA of Apple – and that experience is treated obsessively in the way Apple does business.
Or that's how it seems to me, looking back across 20 years of business and economic history from that one encounter on the Stanford campus. More recently, Apple has topped the news for three unrelated but fascinating reasons.
First, Apple, which despite its 45,000 employees still seems to many observers to be some kind of upstart operation, briefly topped ExxonMobil as the most valuable company in the world – an achievement almost shocking enough to make the famous "1984" Super Bowl ad look more like a prophecy than a commercial.