I have always semi-idolized Steve Jobs. The wild success of Apple, and some of his more trenchant statements indicated to me that he explicitly understood the principles that made Apple great.
For example, he was constantly referring to products as magical and beautiful. I believed that he knew that this meant attraction and minimalism. Magical meant that the design elicited interaction. The look and feel made people desire contact. Anyone who has ever caressed an iPhone 4 knows this feeling. Beauty is focus in design. No gew gaws or addenda. The perfect product is what it is and nothing more.
I also always assumed that Jobs knew that what made Apple successful was not the ideas, but Apple itself. It was the machine that generates the ideas that is valuable. This is why Apple rarely sued. It was also why they kept things so secret, because they knew that as soon as their ideas were out, people would start to copy them.
Sadly, it appears that Jobs was not explicitly aware of the latter, which makes me question my assumption about his knowledge of the former.
Gizmodo is reporting about a part of the Jobs biography where he fumed about the "stealing" of ideas for Android and wanted to see the OS destroyed. This wildly contradicts his earlier, wiser statements about "great artists" stealing. In fact, he directly said "I want you to stop using our ideas in Android," to Google CEO Eric Schmidt. He focused on the ideas instead of the implementation of those ideas.
For example, long after the iPhone came out, Nokia, LG, Microsoft, and Sony had not conjured up a legitimate response. Even if Apple had provided a blow-by-blow description of the iPhone as they designed it, they still would have been alone on the market for over a year. A year! If anything illustrates the importance of the implementation and not the idea, it's that.