Steve Jobs, the iconic leader who single-handedly turned Apple from an also-ran computer maker into a company with products that captured the imagination of millions and blurred the boundary between consumer electronics and business IT, has passed away at the age of 56.
Apple on Wednesday announced the death of Jobs in a statement which read, "Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple."
Jobs, who had been suffering from poor health caused by pancreatic cancer for some time, leaves behind a legacy of turning simple electronic devices into industry-changing, fashion-driving products which completely blurred the line between consumer products and business tools.
These include the Apple iPad, which ignited a tablet PC business that had floundered for years; the iPhone, which turned mobile phones into smart devices and fashion statements; and the iPod Touch, which brought the Internet into the pocket of users ranging from students to CEOs.
Under Jobs' watch, Apple revolutionized the way business approached IT. The company's iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch not only became runaway best-selling products in their categories, they sometimes created their own categories.
More importantly, as those products became wildly popular with consumers, users started to realize that they could use their mobile devices at work, driving businesses to scramble for ways to accommodate them.
This trend, the consumerization of IT, is currently revolutionizing business IT departments. Many businesses, from SMBs to enterprises, have given up trying to keep users from bringing in their own devices for accessing corporate data or handling e-mail, and instead are scrambling to expand their security, networking, client, and storage infrastructures to accommodate them.
For Jobs, the road to Apple success has not always been easy. Apple, which was one of the first computers to develop a successful personal computer with its Apple-II in 1977, missed the opportunity which came from the PC boom of the 1980s and 1990s by focusing on its own proprietary architecture instead of jumping on the IBM-compatible PC bandwagon, and by the 1990s was a niche player with a miniscule share of the market.
Jobs in 1985 was pushed out of the company he co-founded, but returned in 1986 as an advisor. The following year, he was interim CEO, and by 1990 was the CEO.
The 1990s were a decade of struggle for Apple, which was saved financially by a $150 million investment in the company by rival Microsoft. But in 2001, Apple released its first iPod music player, and the company has grown wildly since.
That growth was fueled by the 2007 release of the iPhone, a device which consigned the common cell phone to the ash heap of history by introducing the concept of a smart device which gave consumers the ability to get phone, music, video, Internet access, and games in a single device.
That success was duplicated with the 2010 release of the Apple iPad. The iPad was not the first tablet PC. However, it did what no other tablet PC did in over a generation of trying: It made consumers, then business people, want to actually purchase and use one by making it easy for developers to make and sell applications that appealed to users.
Jobs was remembered as technology genius who made IT cool.