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Steve Jobs shows the Rancho Factor

india Updated: Jan 31, 2010 22:40 IST
N Madhavan

Last week, I finally managed to watch the much-acclaimed ‘3 Idiots,’ in which Aamir Khan excels as “Rancho,” the geeky technology student who has a knack of approaching his work in a simple, practical way to build himself into a patent artiste.

Just two days after that, Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad, a tablet computer enabled with telecom connectivity that aims at being a media device on which you can read books, watch videos and listen to music.

Suddenly, it occurred to me that Rancho was, in fact, fashioned after the chief executive of Apple Computers. Here’s why.

Like Rancho in the movie, Jobs was an adopted child with a working class background. Like Rancho, Jobs attended classes at random, learning from everywhere. Like Rancho, Jobs makes things work in a practical, useful way. Like Rancho, he pursues his own passion, rather than following the crowd.

In fact, I am personally certain that Jobs was the inspiration for Rancho, though I am yet to check this with the writers of ‘3 Idiots’. Steve Jobs made a famous convocation address at the Stanford University, which is popularly called the “Stay hungry, stay foolish” speech. Key aspects of the speech are visible in the ‘3 Idiots’ dialogues and storyline.

All that apart, it struck me as an ironic thing that a Chinese company said at the weekend that it had already unveiled six months ago a machine that is like the iPad.

Also, tablet computers have been around for a decade now. And Qualcomm has been pushing the idea of a 3G-connectivity enabled laptop called the “smartbook” –on which I have written in my column before.

For anyone following the Internet and convergence, many of the features of the iPad are a known thing, and in fact, there is very little of core invention in the Apple device.

So what makes Steve Jobs special?

The Apple founder is special because he manages to connect the timing of his product with mass aspirations and comes up with a device that has the style, the feel and the price that matches just enough to combine the “cool” element with prospects of a high-volume production. Also, he innovates to improve what others have done.

Jobs has simply combined Qualcomm’s “smartbook” idea, the decade-old “tablet” and Amazon’s e-reader Kindle (he acknowledged he was standing on its shoulder).

In my humble opinion, what Steve Jobs really brings to the table is not technology, but pragmatism, timing, style, utility and design. I now collectively call these the Rancho Factor.