A key figure in the US civil rights movement died on October 24th…her name was Rosa Parks. I confess to be only vaguely aware of her name in the past, but I knew she was involved in the famous bus segregation incident. Apple showed that they really do ‘think different’ by turning their home page into a memorial. The image is one that they used before in their ‘Think Different’ campaign.
Apple’s Home Page Honors Rosa Parks
This simple tribute had two effects on me: first, it caused me to do a bit of Googling to learn more about her, and second it made me reflect on the very real ways that Apple differs from other large companies. This made me curious if any high profile sites may have similar tributes, so I started jumping to the home pages of all the ‘big’ web sites I could think of. Not too surprisingly, except for the news sites, there was no mention to be found anywhere of Rosa’s passing.
What does this mean? Does it mean anything? Well for me it continues to demonstrate that Apple, more than any other company I know of, has a heart. And more importantly, it lets its heart participate in the operation of the company. Sure, they are a publicly held company and are concerned with all the usual stuff: sales, profit, shareholder value, etc. But that’s not all there is to it. If you get anything out of reading this book, I hope it will be some understanding that Apple is defined by its people and the things they create; not by ROI and EBITDA.
This is not the first time Apple’s has turned their home page into a tribute. Back on November 2001, something similar happened much ‘closer to home’.
It was early on November 30th, and I was sitting at my desk in 1 Infinite Loop reading the news. I was stunned when I saw a headline saying the George Harrison had died. As with many others of my generation, his music had been an important part of my life for many years. It really hit me hard. I sat there in a dark contemplative mood for quite awhile, feeling quite alone in my grief. But then I realized I wasn’t alone; many of my colleagues at Apple were Harrison fans, and I was sure they’d also feel the need express some of their feelings at this moment. This gave me an idea…one that took considerable courage on my part: I would suggest to Steve that Apple put some sort of tribute on the home page. Up to this point, all my dealings with Steve had been strictly business, and I was afraid he’d think I was some kind of sentimental looney. But my feelings pushed me forward…I sent Steve this note:
Then I waited nervously.
Several hours passed with no response, so I concluded that he wasn’t interested and sort of put it out of my mind. But that wasn’t the end of it. Later that evening, I’m back at my desk and get a call from Tom M (the Final Cut Pro product manager) who tells me he had just come from a meeting with the web group and they were all working overtime tonight because of me. ‘What? What do you mean?’ I asked. Turns out that Steve did not think it was a stupid idea, as I feared, but instead had put the web team to work on coming up with something suitable.
So, late that night, after a couple rounds back and forth with Steve to choose the best photos, the Apple home page became this:
There were three different photos of George Harrison shown in rotation.
It was one of my proudest moments at Apple; not just because I made the suggestion that prompted this memorial, but because I was honored to be part of a company that lets its heart guide its actions.