Where were you when Steve Jobs died?

Where were you when Steve Jobs died, and how did you hear the news?

I was snacking on pot stickers with my family at my sister-in-law’s apartment last night when I noticed my Facebook status feed exploding with reports about the death of Steve Jobs — news reported by citizen journalists like you and me. For me, the flood of information began with a simple “RIP Steve Jobs” from my iCrossing colleague Kristen Deye (which I read on my Apple iPhone), followed quickly by an overwhelming number of hastily written tributes and some occasional “iSads” status updates from many other Facebook friends.

Within seconds, my friend John Hensler and I were texting each other personal reactions on our iPhones. Ironically, hours earlier, John and I had collaborated on a blog post about why we were not upgrading to the iPhone 4S — and ours was just one post amid a flurry of commentary that is inevitable when Apple, the world’s most powerful news maker, has something to share.

As an afterthought, I checked CNN’s coverage of his death, but I was more interested in the raw, real-time outpouring of emotion from everyday people — friends like Andrea Harrison, who wrote on her Facebook wall, “We lost a visionary tonight”; Roger Wong, who blogged about how Steve Jobs changed his life, Lisa M. Blacker, who (like many others) posted a YouTube video of a Stanford commencement address delivered by Steve Jobs in 2005; or Sam Decker, who shared on Facebook a photo of the desk Sam used on his first job out of college — a desk littered with Apple equipment.

As my friend Augie Ray wrote on his Facebook wall, “It’s really kind of touching to see virtually every tweet and post be about Steve Jobs. True influence isn’t measured in Twitter followers.”

Later that evening, iCrossing CEO Don Scales sent a heart-felt email to all employees discussing his reaction to Steve Jobs’s passing away, and he also tweeted, “What an amazing person. Steve Jobs. No one is worthy. No one.” I read Don’s communiqué (as well as a blog post by Seth Godin) on my work-supplied Apple MacBook Pro while my daughter sat next to me writing a short story on her MacBook and listened to music on her iPod Shuffle.

We can’t all be visionaries like Steve Jobs was. But we can create great experiences for other people as he did. The company that Steve Jobs turned into one of the greatest brands in history is embedded in my home and work life (as it probably is for you or someone you know) because Apple puts people first. I want to remember Steve Jobs by putting people first.

Meantime, it will be interesting to see how the brand that was embodied by Steve Jobs evolves without him.

So where were you when Steve Jobs died?

Note: you can share your own thoughts about Steve Jobs by emailing rememberingsteve@apple.com.

How a $50 iPod Shuffle cost me $1,000

The Apple product experience does not always live up to the Apple brand name. Case in point: recently my daughter purchased an iPod Shuffle after carefully saving $50 in her piggy bank. Her excitement was palpable as we made our purchase at a nearby Apple Store. As I drove us home to activate the product, she made a lengthy list of all Lady Gaga songs she wanted to start playing.

Excitement turned to frustration when we tried to activate the device via the required synchronization with iTunes on our family MacBook. Here’s what happened:

1. iTunes told us we needed to update to a more recent version of iTunes to activate the iPod Shuffle.

2. When we tried to update iTunes, we discovered that we needed a newer MacBook operating system (for a price, of course, far exceeding the cost of the iPod Shuffle).

3. Getting a newer operating system would require buying a memory upgrade for our computer — also for a price exceeding the value of the iPod Shuffle. The folks at our Apple Store told us we’d either need to buy and install our own memory upgrade or wait a month if we wanted Apple to do it for us. (Apple was out of stock of its own memory upgrade).

The new operating system and memory upgrade would set us back considerably. The prospect of installing our own memory or waiting a month for Apple to do it felt as feasible as either losing our car for a month or fixing our own engine.

We consulted a few trusted Mac experts who told us we were better off buying a new MacBook for $1,000 than trying to upgrade our memory and operating system. The latter approach would risk incurring performance problems with our current MacBook and make it harder for us to keep pace with enhancements to the Apple operating system.

So we have a new MacBook, and guess what? Now I need to look for a new printer because the newest generation of Macs is not compatible with my HP LaserJet model.

Ironically my ancient Philips disc player delivers a superior product experience. To play it, I simply insert a disc and press “play.” No wonky synchronization with a computer required. And the sound quality of the disc is superior to the muddy MP3 file format that you must endure to hear digital music on an iPod. Neither must I worry about new digital formats rendering music files obsolete, which is a major problem facing the music industry.

Recently Dan Frommer identified three Apple vulnerabilities in an insightful CNN analysis. One point resonated with me:

Apple has been bragging about how the iPad 2 is a “post-PC” device, but you still need to plug it into a computer to activate and sync it. The easiest way to get photos off your iPhone is to email them to yourself. You still can’t sync your iTunes music over Wi-Fi or 3G. This is a shame.

Apple needs to think about the cloud the way Google does — as the future of mobile services. You shouldn’t be tied to a USB cord to access files. You shouldn’t need a PC to use a “post-PC” iPad. You shouldn’t have to email a map link from your computer to your iPhone.

Yeah, you might say I agree with Dan. Apple has a well deserved reputation for being ahead of the curve and creating needs we did not know existed. When it comes to supporting our mobile lifestyles, it’s time for Apple to start delivering on its brand promise.