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Steve Jobs' Legacy: Good Enough Is Not Enough

Stocks in this article: AAPL

The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Fans around the world are mourning the death of Steve Jobs, who succumbed to cancer at the age of 56 after a lengthy battle. Much has already been said and written about Jobs' career path, from founding Apple (AAPL) to redefining a little digital imaging company into the entertainment powerhouse that is now Pixar. Jobs is being hailed as a genius, a visionary, and the man who revolutionized the way the world writes, communicates, listens to music, and shares information. One commentator likened him to Thomas Edison, a pioneer whose innovative thinking shaped our lives in the 20th century just as Jobs' legacy will shape them in the 21st.

Much has also been said and written about the genius of Jobs' approach to product development. Apple products are famous for being beautifully designed, easy to understand and fun to use. Most IT companies can produce products of reasonable quality -- Apple goes one better, marrying excellent performance and aesthetic elegance in every lovely product it produces.

Admittedly, Apple's approach has its detractors. There are those who think that functionality alone is more than sufficient, especially if it comes at a sufficiently reduced price. Those folks may believe that Apple's attention to aesthetics is nothing more than thinly-veiled intellectual snobbery, an excuse to demand more money for its products than they are really worth.

But those folks are missing the point. Apple and Pixar share a common philosophy that, presumably, is Jobs' lasting legacy. Jobs' insistence that functionality be married to artistry can best be understood as an uncompromising commitment to quality. A quick review of Pixar films makes the point. Almost every film buff has a favorite Pixar movie, be it Up, Ratatouille, Wall-E, The Incredibles or the studio's first blockbuster , Toy Story. Some of the movies are arguably a little better than others, depending on one's personal taste, but Pixar has never made a truly bad film. Every Pixar movie is carefully planned and beautifully executed by some of the most talented people in the entertainment industry, and Pixar fans love them.

The same might be said of Apple's products, from the Mac to the iPad. They may be more expensive than the competition, but they're always of top quality, beautifully designed and a joy to use. That attention to excellence breeds fanatical loyalty in Apple consumers. Consumers may pay less for other companies' phones, computers and MP3 players, but you rarely hear them gush about their tech toys. Apple fans love their Apple products and rarely settle for less.

Few people in business have both the creative vision and the practical opportunity to influence the world as Steve Jobs has. However, everyone in business could learn from Jobs' example that quality matters, and "good enough" frequently isn't. Steve Jobs was famous for expecting the very best from his companies, and they gave it to him. Businesses that want to emulate his successes would be wise to adopt his philosophy. Put quality first, and success will follow.

This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.

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