This afternoon Apple released the sad news that co-founder and chairman Steve Jobs had finally succumbed to his fight with cancer. With that the world lost a man whose vision led Apple from the depths of irrelevancy to the forefront of day-to-day mind-share.
Steve Jobs founded Apple Computer in the late 1970's. The company has had its ups and downs over the years and Jobs was ousted from his leadership position only to be hired back on in the 1990's when Apple was bordering on irrelevancy. Starting with the iPod and iMac in the early 2000's Jobs and his leadership team helped make Apple one of the most recognized and relevant brands in the world.
Reinvented home computing
The early Apple II computers were some of the first to be placed in the home as the "family computer". While they weren't the only ones, they were certainly among the first and also among the most widely deployed. The number of people who can tell you today that their first computer was an Apple IIc, or Apple IIgs is lengthy; myself included.
Revolutionized portable music
While not the first company to produce MP3 players, or even hard-disk based MP3 players, Apple created a beautifully designed device in 2001 called iPod. Jobs took the position that existing media players were not particularly good, or usable. He assembled a team to create a new device as a part of Apple's "digital hub" strategy. This was, at it's core, a basic MP3 player with an internal hard disk which could store 5-10 GB of music, which at the time was all, or most, of most peoples' digital music collections. iPod became the foundation of later forays into the personal electronics space which has become central to Apple's position in the market.
It has been called "the second coming of mobile telephony", it is Apple's iPhone. Jobs and members of his leadership team like Jonathan Ive released it's first iPhone in 2007 and has revised it every year selling millions upon millions of devices every year. Apple has become a (the?) leader in mobile phone sales and development worldwide leading a device category that they helped create less than 5 years ago.
Redefined portable computing
With the launch of the iPad tablet in 2010 Apple helped to define a third product category which had, until then, been somewhat vaguely defined. Steve Jobs himself referred to the iPad and it's successor the iPad 2 as devices that would usher in the "post-PC era". While not everyone feels that iPads will replace their computers, they have certainly helped to define a product category where people will use devices to complement their "real lives" with their digital ones.
So there you go, a brief summary of the impact Steve Jobs has had on the worlds of computing and technology in the past 35 years. We can only hope that he's inspired his teams at Apple so that the innovation of Apple, particularly over the past decade, will continue in years to come.