Steve Jobs, A Revolution Every Other Year [Updated]

| Analysis

With the news that Steve Jobs is stepping down as CEO, it seemed a good time to look back at the many innovations that the man has been a part of since he first rose to prominence with the founding of Apple Inc.

Looking at his accomplishments at Apple, NeXT, and Pixar, I count 16 revolutionary products and services, which works out to not quite one every other year since the founding of Apple Inc. on April 1st, 1976.

Without further ado, here is a list of major product milestones that Steve Jobs shepherded to market. Steve Jobs was pivotal in making these into what they were and are. These were the game changers.

Let me count the ways:

Revolution Year Why It Was (or Is) Important
1. Apple 11976 This ushered in the concept of powerful personal computers that mere mortals could obtain. Steve Wozniak deserves all the tech Kudos here, but Jobs was key in seeing the potential for selling it and then making that happen.
2. Apple II1977 The first “total package” computer that the average person could bring home, plug in, and go. Again, The Woz gets all the tech credit, but Steve Jobs sold it and had the vision.
3. Lisa1983 Steve Jobs was booted from the Lisa group, but he got the ball rolling with his stroll/deal with Xerox. This got the Graphical User Interface on its way towards the mainstream.
4. Macintosh1984 This is the computer that brought the graphical user interface to the masses, or “the rest of us,” as Steve Jobs said at the time.
5. Desktop Publishing/LaserWriter1985 Right before Steve was invited to leave Apple he helped bring the world the ability to produce high quality print and layout with the LaserWriter. The Mac, Postscript, Appletalk and Pagemaker all came together with the 300dpi goodness of the LaserWriter to give the masses the ability to create beautiful (and in many cases, gaudy) layouts. *Thanks to Kimhill for the reminder
6. Pixar1986 His investment and resolve in keeping the company afloat, and his incredible deal making brought full length computer animation into the mainstream.
7. NeXTstep/Mac OS X1988 OS X is NeXTstep plain and simple; the libraries still refer to NeXT. The two have a modern Unix under the hood, incredible display technology, modern operating system libraries and a slew of other advancements. You can see a NeXTstep demo on YouTube.
8. NeXT’s/OS X’s Development Environment1988 The reasons for such rapid and rich application development on the iPhone, iPad and Mac all stem from the object oriented development technologies developed at NeXT and advanced at Apple as Xcode. That development environment was also responsible for the birth of the World Wide Web, which was originally developed on a NeXT box by Tim Berners Lee.
9. iMac1998 This Mac started the trend towards the consumerization of the computer industry, and injection of high style into the field of desktop computers. Style now matters, and that started with the iMac.
10. Apple Retail Store2001 Even though all the professional analysts said Apple Stores would fail, the retail locations are now the highest grossing (per square foot) retail shops in the U.S., and possibly the world. This recreated what a retail experience can be. Sadly for consumers, not enough retail shops have copied the recipe.
11. iPod2001 The little music player that could. It truly brought about the digital music revolution.
12. iTunes Music Store2003 This changed the music industry, curbed music piracy by giving users a legitimate and quality way to procure music, and created entirely new digital purchasing ecosystems.
13. iPhone2007 Everything today is a copy of the iPhone, even Android devices started out as Soon’ish Blackberry knockoffs and after seeing the iPhone, Google shifted gears into iPhone dream knockoffs. We would still be using garbage four-cursor keypads to navigate our way through inane option menus but for this major convergence advance. The entire mobile boom of the last few years was brought about by the iPhone.
14. DRM TKO2007 Steve Jobs helped bring bout the death of Digital Rights Management (DRM) for music downloads when he penned his essay sharing his distaste. He helped bring about the death of this copy protection scheme that seemed to punish honest users, and did little to thwart those that would pirate.
15. App Store2008 This has revolutionized the distribution of software on mobile devices. The Mac App store, iBooks and other outlets further the same basic premise, and have further disrupted entire industries and distribution models.
16. iPad2010 Amazingly all the smug geniuses calling the iPad a big iPod touch are less critical of Android tablets that have adopted a similar model. Despite having plenty of time to copy the original iPad, Android devices relatively suck, and yet the press at large and Android fanboys in general find ways to pan the iPad and defend the current crap that represents the state of Android tablets. Likely having their noses rubbed into being so unbelievably wrong about the iPad gives them a need to lash out. Regardless, Steve helped successfully usher in another category of technology.

One more thing…I have a feeling that we may see one more announcement and major shift in computing that will have Steve Jobs’ finger prints all over it.

Steve Jobs has been at it for around 30 years with about 16 revolutions under his belt. In some ways, you’d think that Moore’s law was trying to catch up to Jobs.

I do not know of anyone that has been so integral in improving the world in so many inventive ways. I’m hoping that this finds Steve Jobs very pleased with his accomplishments and am certain he’s left a legacy that will inspire all of us.

[Update: Added Desktop Publishing/LaserWriter to the list, bringing the total count to 16 different revolutionary products and services Mr. Jobs has been involved with.]

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Comments

John Dingler, artist

Hi John,
I wonder if Jobs saw More’s Law around the corner warning him that innovation at Apple is coming to an ending, and so he eased himself out for the same reason that I think Gates did which was that he may have seen the post-PC era coming and he could do nothing about it, and handing silly Ballmer the opportunity to manage the WindowsPC end game to its soft, quiet death a few years from now.

JonGl

I do not know of anyone that has been so integral in improving the world in so many inventive ways. I?m hoping that this finds Steve Jobs very pleased with his accomplishments and am certain he?s left a legacy that will inspire all of us.

And yet, Steve Jobs himself once said:  “This stuff doesn’t change the world. It really doesn’t ... Technologies can make it easier, can let us touch people we might not otherwise. But it’s a disservice to constantly put things in a radical new light - that it’s going to change everything. Things don’t have to change the world to be important.”

Lots of wisdom there, and, I think, precisely because he had this attitude, he was able to bring all this to us. He will be missed at the helm.

-Jon

curlykale

Very sad day. Steve understood (1) the supreme value of ideas

(2) the public’s desire for design; products that looked good anywhere.

(3) building them right; vigorous hands-on quality control.

With these three notions, how could he not fail to raise an empire.

Hell, I’m writing this on a G5 ‘05 with tiger and it’s still a beauty.

Thanks Mr.Jobs;

Fight the good byte,
Ck.

kimhill

You forgot the LaserWriter / Desktop Publishing.

Lee Dronick

You forgot the LaserWriter / Desktop Publishing.

Oh yeah! As a teenager I worked in a small print shop where I set movable type into a composing stick. We had two presses, one electric and one lever operated.

The Bozo

?i want to put a ding in the universe?, Steve Jobs

the Bozo.

Lee Dronick

?i want to put a ding in the universe?, Steve Jobs

It is better to put a ding in the Universe than the dongs that some others are giving us. smile

farmboy

When Apple started up, everyone was still using typewriters and graph paper. The first time I was able to print out multiple copies of a document I thought I was in heaven (Apple //c and ImageWriter).

You’re right, Sir Harry, at that time graphic arts involved real typesetting and real keylining (I did both until I was pretty good at it). Then came a few very expensive “computer” cold type systems (Agfa, etc.). Then an Apple LaserWriter and desktop publishing software (Ready-Set-Go and Aldus PageMaker!) changed everything.

1stplacemacuser

MIght or might not be “revolutionary” but adopted the 3.5” floppy, then years later adopted not having the 3.5” floppy.

Wasn’t Jobs also responsible for adopting the use of the USB format as well?  Certainly firewire, and now, perhaps, the thunderbolt.  Bluetooth?

Lee Dronick

at that time graphic arts involved real typesetting and real keylining (I did both until I was pretty good at it

Picking up a chase and having the type and furniture fall out was like quitting a page layout program without saving the file, something you did only once. smile

Intruder

Wasn?t Jobs also responsible for adopting the use of the USB format as well?

USB (1.1) was on many Windows machines all the way back to Win95. I don’t believe it was actually supported until SP2 or so. Apple did popularize it with the first iMac. Before then, it was a rarely used port.

John

I’m not sure USB/Floppy were revolutionary, though I readily agree that’s subjective. Certainly was good for the consumer.  Anyway, depending on how you count, it’s still at least “16 Revolutions per Career.”  It’s a pretty good rate, and probably would have been a better headline in retrospect.  Anyway, thanks for all the feedback; much appreciated.

wab95

And yet, Steve Jobs himself once said:? ?This stuff doesn?t change the world. It really doesn?t ... Technologies can make it easier, can let us touch people we might not otherwise. But it?s a disservice to constantly put things in a radical new light - that it?s going to change everything. Things don?t have to change the world to be important.?

Exactly right. It’s not the technology that changes the world, it’s what people do with it that does. And technology that inspires use in both work and play has the best chance of being used by creative people, who in turn will change the world.

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