Steve Jobs' decision to resign as CEO of Apple Inc. last night is the biggest story on the business page today. Jobs is one of the rare corporate CEOs who became a household name. Newspaper readers understand that, no matter the company culture, Apple without Jobs will be a different company. Apple may not be the No. 1 player in personal computers, but the company's impact in that market -- and in smartphones, tablet computers and portable media players -- has been significant. And that's not limited to operating systems, software and features. Apple also put an emphasis on design -- the materials, the colors, the shapes -- that has been revolutionary. That's one way that Jobs has had a major impact on the plastics industry. Plastics News correspondent Roger Renstrom touched on Apple and plastics design in a sidebar story to a special report on electronics earlier this year. Jonathan Glancey of The Guardian newspaper also wrote about Jobs' influence on design, in a feature today headlined "Steve Jobs: iDesigned your life." Here's part of Glancey's column that highlights the plastics-related design breakthroughs at Apple:
One of Jobs's greatest contributions to design was the promotion of Jonathan Ive, the brilliant young British designer, to senior vice president of industrial design at Apple Inc in 1998. Jobs had been away from Apple for some years - creating Pixar and thus Toy Story in the interim - yet when he came back, he teamed up with Ive to create a range of hugely appealing products. The first was the colourful iMac of 1998, a bold attempt to break away from the dull world of beige and grey plastic computer cases. With its oddball marriage of boiled sweet colours and transparent plastics, the iMac was certainly eye-catching, and it also sold - two million in the first 12 months. But Jobs and Ive really got into their stride in 2001 with the iPod MP3 player, a small, minimalist design that evoked the work of the legendary German designer Dieter Rams, who had done so much since the 1950s to make Braun products, from record players to electric shavers, sell in prodigious quantities worldwide. The iPhone (2007) and iPad three years later have seen the Jobs-Ive design partnership come to fruition. These lightweight yet well-made, jewel-like objects, with their crystal-clear screens, finally imbued the design of computers and digital gizmos with a seductive quality. Once seen and touched, sales were made.Another way that Jobs has had an impact on plastics is related to material choices -- specifically those that have been the result of pressure from environmentalists. For years, Greenpeace has pressured Apple to avoid PVC and brominated flame retardants. Long before the word "sustainability" become a buzzword, Apple's plastics material choices have been under a microscope. Greenpeace determined that a significant number of Apple buyers cared about these issues. Apple, indeed, has paid attention, and it has adjusted its material portfolio as a result of the campaign. Now that Jobs is retiring, will we see changes from Apple that will impact its plastics part and material suppliers? Or will the company be cautious about straying too far from Jobs' strategies?