Some of those stories were based on the flimsiest of news hooks-some new feature, some new color, some new rumor-and the reporter involved insisted that his story was at least as important as that new 64-bit chip from Intel or AMD that was so fast it appeared to be breaking the laws of physics. Sometimes that reporter got his way.
Why did this happen? Apple fed the media's need for readers (and later page views). Apple needed the media to stay in the public's mind. A new color on the iPod Nano kept Apple in the news. A story or, better yet, a glowing review about Apple's new server gave Apple the mindshare it needed to be taken seriously in the enterprise as well as at home. And the server review would be glowing, regardless of how well it actually performed in the data center. The reviewers loved the fact that the PR lady at Apple had blessed them with actual hardware that they didn't want to do anything to jeopardize their chances of getting more Apple gear to review.
Throughout the latter years of Apple, Jobs provided the Kool-Aid that many reporters eagerly drank. Everything was innovative; everything was visionary.
Of course, not all of us drank the Kool Aid. There were some of us who saw Jobs and Apple closer to what they really were. We saw Apple as a company that made well-designed, well-thought-out products, and Jobs as a visionary who sometimes took several tries to get it right.
There is no question that Jobs had a brain trust that was as innovative as any in the computer business. Some of his leaps of imagination really did revolutionize their respective industries, and sometimes they effectively created industries where none had previously existed, as happened with the iPod and iPad.
But despite great design, and despite insanely great product placement deals in the movies and in television, Apple wasn't successful in everything. Apple servers eventually vanished from the market. After all, they weren't consumer electronics, and it's hard to be a great design when it only runs in the dark.
The Macintosh was a similar story, although many people from the start loved its innovative design and its graphical interface. But for years the Mac lived so far under the shadow of Intel and Windows that it had single-digit market share. It's doing better now, but I suspect that's because it finally caved into the Intel architecture and the need to run Windows.
So was Steve Jobs really the innovator and visionary everyone says he was? Of course he was. No matter how you look at it, although he obviously had a lot of help, he did cause those insanely great products to come about.
However, no visionary can stand alone. Someone has to help share that vision, and in this instance, it was us. The media. Without the media, no one would have noticed Apple or Jobs. But without Steve Jobs, we in the media wouldn't have had one of the great continuing technology stories of the personal computer era to write about.