On Wednesday, Steve Jobs stepped down as the CEO of Apple Inc. following an extended leave of absence in order to focus on his health. During this time, Tim Cook (Apple’s Chief Operations Officer since 2004) has been acting as interim CEO, handling day-to-day business. While it could be argued that some of Apple’s greatest business decisions are yet to come, it’s hard to look back on the history of Apple and not attribute much of the company’s overall success to Steve Jobs. Now that he’s stepping down, and moving in to a new role as Chairman of the Board, we can reflect on some of the products that make Apple great.
The iPhone, first introduced to the world in January of 2007, arguably changed the world of mobile communications. At a time when only a small percentage of mobile phone users were carrying smartphones, Apple stepped up and delivered a device with a giant multi-touch screen and a unique set of features that were quickly imitated by the competition. While third-party apps weren’t made available until some time after the initial launch, the platform became immensely popular almost overnight. For six months before the release of the iPhone, tech pundits and enthusiasts contemplated exactly how great this handheld device would be. Lines wrapped around street corners, and the iPhone became the benchmark by which most other smartphones were compared.
Few devices can actually be given credit for creating an entirely new category of computers. While the tablet form factor has existed in one form or another in the past, the iPad introduced a tablet with an operating system made specifically for the hardware. By integrating with an already-existing app platform, the iPad was able to quickly integrate a multitude of software, seamlessly. Today, tablet computers make up one of the largest consumer electronics markets in the industry.
During a time when PCs for “normal” people were still considered more of a novelty than the future of information and communications, Apple developed a computer that would become a hallmark in personal computing. Introduced in the late 1970s, the Apple II series helped legitimize Apple as a serious contender in the world of computer technology. To this day, the Apple II is regarded by enthusiasts and engineers as one of the best computers ever designed.
The first successful personal computer to feature a mouse and graphical user interface launched in January of 1984. The Macintosh was, and continues to be, Apple’s largest and most popular trademark line of personal computers. Now called the Mac, Apple’s line of personal computers has expanded to include the all-in-one iMac, the MacBook line of portables, Mac mini, and the flagship powerhouse Mac Pro.
It’s hard to write about Apple’s greatest products without mentioning the one that helped turn Apple around. When Steve Jobs returned in 1997, he brought with him a vision of a company that doesn’t just make computers, but products that redefine the way people experience technology. The iPod, coupled with iTunes, helped Apple expand its reach into the broader world of consumer electronics. Undoubtedly, the popularity of this digital music platform not only helped Apple’s bottom line, but helped usher in a new era in how we purchase and experience music today.
Over the years, Steve Jobs has arguably had as much impact on how we live our lives as anyone. His vision and desire to expand boundaries and create something new not only saved a company in peril, but changed the way we think about technology for many years to come.
CC licensed Flickr photo of Steve Jobs shared by Abode of Chaos.