Steve Jobs Legacy Reaches Far Beyond Apple

Oct. 6, 2011
'The whole idea that a computer is something that a consumer might want comes from Jobs; the way we compute today wouldn't be what it is without him,' said a Gartner analyst.

Steve Jobs was once known as the man who saved Apple computers. He will be remembered as one of the rare few who changed the world. Jobs guided Apple from the brink of financial ruin to a lofty place among the world's most valuable companies before his death on Oct. 5.

But thinking of Jobs merely as the man behind Apple's resurrection would be on par with thinking of The Beatles as just a band that made cool music. As did the Fab Four, Jobs altered the rhythm of modern life.

"His legacy goes way beyond Apple," Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg said after Jobs ceded the company helm to chief operating officer Tim Cook in August for health reasons.

Forrester analyst Charles Golvin's "laundry list of the tendrils" Jobs extended into our lives dates back to the 1970s, when he and Steve Wozniak founded Apple and introduced home computers.

"The whole idea that a computer is something that a consumer might want comes from him," Golvin said. "The way we compute today wouldn't be what it is without Steve Jobs."

While personal computers powered by Microsoft software ruled work places, Jobs envisioned people-friendly machines with mouse controllers and icons to click on to activate programs or open files.

"The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come," said Microsoft head and former rival Bill Gates, reacting to his death. "For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it's been an insanely great honor."

Jobs was even credited with raising the standard for animated films by bringing his vision to Pixar, a movie studio he founded while exiled for a time from Apple due to an internal conflict. "At Pixar he redefined what a movie could be like with computers," Gartenberg said of the studio, which has since churned out a series of blockbusters such as "Cars" and "Toy Story."

Jobs also transformed the music industry with iPod MP3 players and the iTunes online shop, where people could buy digitized music. Prior to iPods and iTunes, the music industry grappled with how to make money selling digital music and struggled to stave off piracy made possible by easy file sharing on the Internet. With the iPod, Apple gave music lovers a hip new way to listen on the go and provided recording labels and artists a controlled distribution channel for songs.

"Jobs reinvented the music business model," Gartenberg said. "Not only did he have a consumer electronics hit with iPod, but iTunes became the most successful music retailer on the planet."

With the launch of the iPhone, Jobs set in motion a shift to mobile computing on handheld gadgets that Internet giants such as Google and Facebook have embraced as the future.

"Apple really created the modern smartphone era, not just for business but for the consumer," Gartenberg said. "Prior to the iPhone, smartphones were about keyboards, not touchscreens; it was a business device."

And with the iPhone came an "app economy" of smartphone software programs to play games, monitor health, track exercise, navigate and more.

Golvin cited the iPhone as the impetus for Google to dive into the mobile business with Android software for smartphones. "There were phones that accessed the Internet before the iPhone, but it completely changed the paradigm and brought it to mainstream consumers," Golvin said. "Now look at all the companies profiting from that."

Jobs proclaimed the arrival of a "post personal computer era" with the iPad, which set fire to a moribund tablet computer market.

"With the iPad he revolutionized again the way consumers compute and introduced the whole idea of the post-PC era," Golvin said.

The iTunes shop for digital content expanded to include movies and people increasingly turned to mobile devices for entertainment.

Jobs even left his mark on the retail industry with real-world Apple stores that bring in more profit per square-foot than any other merchant. "The way things have to be sold was completely changed by Steve Jobs and Apple," Golvin said. "The way technology is marketed, he did it better than anyone else."

While Apple wasn't the first to come up with smartphones or tablet computers, Jobs was a master at tailoring products to resonate with consumers. He also had marketing magic so potent that people camp out in the streets to be the first to get their hands on Apple's new creations.

"His famous reality distortion field and the ability to convince people are more than legendary," Golvin said.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011

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