Jobs didn’t invent computer technology, or the cell phone, or the notion of digitizing music. But he invented methods, business models, and devices that turned each into significantly larger cultural and economic phenomena. He saw what others couldn’t and mainstreamed amazing gadgets that people decided they simply couldn’t live without.
In a society where pinching pennies is a must, Jobs created Apple products that remained at a premium. Shelling out hard earned cash for the latest iPod, iPad, or the iPhone became the norm.
In an era frequently characterized by executive greed and massive pay for significant underperformance, Jobs worked for a dollar a year. At a time when many founding CEOs step down when they hit their late 40s and early 50s to chase other pursuits (a la Bill Gates), Jobs stuck with it. In an era in which many experts fretted about the ability of America’s economy to thrive and innovate, Apple grew into a major exporter. Apple now represents American brands, the way McDonald’s and IBM and Coca-Cola once did.
Believe it or not, Jobs was actually pushed out of the company he built, yet when he returned to the company in 2007 it was in shambles. Competing manufacturers held Apple software licenses and were making clones of the company’s hardware, undermining the brand. Jobs immediately cancelled the program and brought all Apple development back under one roof.
From there he slowly built up Apple’s credibility amongst computer users and eventually oversaw the launch of the iMac and iBook, two of the most iconic Apple products in the company’s history. The somewhat unusual look and candy-colored combinations of Apple’s hardware began to give the company an edgy appeal, and consumers ate it up. Apple’s stock seemed to have no ceiling, as each new product brought new customers into the company’s dedicated fan base.
Apple launched the iPod in 2001, and along with the iTunes software, Jobs’ company revolutionized the way we listen to music. Digital music players can be found in every corner of the globe, and the iPod line is by far the most popular of them all. Apple made purchasing and listening to music so affordable and easy that over 220 million iPod devices have been sold since its introduction.
In 2007 Jobs launched what is undoubtedly the best-selling Apple product to date: the iPhone. His vision of a smartphone was far different than what most wireless consumers were used to, but now it’s hard to imagine a world without it. As competitors did their best to catch up, Jobs stayed the course, always standing by his promise to create useful products on Apple’s terms, and without influence from the rest of the tech world.
Whether you love Apple products or despise them, there is no denying that Steve Job’s way of thinking was revolutionary and changed the way we use technology. He brought us some of the coolest inventions ever created in the technology world, and he did this using a business model and way of thinking that most companies despise.
This century is only a decade old. But it’s a safe bet that in 2099, when analysts and historians are looking back, Steve Jobs will be remembered as one of the giants of 21st century business.
R.I.P Steve Jobs.