Steve Jobs, A Revolution Every Other Year [Updated]

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.]