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Steve Jobs: a lifetime of visionary disruption in advancing technology

A Disruptor: 2000s

Throughout the 2000s, Jobs further challenged the status quo with a rapidly snowballing strategy of investment in innovation that included a well-funded push to enhance the company's PowerBook mobile computers; the development of the iPod in 2001; the creation of an open source web engine to power the company's own Safari browser; the acquisition of a series of application development firms that resulted in the creation of a suite of professional, creative and productivity apps including Final Cut, Logic, Aperture, iLife and iWork; and investments in multitouch that would ultimately result in the iPhone, iOS and last year's iPad release.

Core to all of these developments was a reimagining of the Mac platform as a digital hub, a strategy Jobs unveiled in 2000. Jobs' comprehensive vision for what Apple could build was increasingly crafted around Mac OS X, a refined and modernized edition of the NeXT software that first appeared in 1988.

In 2001, Jobs unveiled the first consumer edition of Mac OS X, tied to a revolutionary new graphics system that drew windows and other elements using the same hardware accelerated graphics techniques that video games use. The new operating system was described as having a fifteen-year development strategy behind it, and over the next decade Apple regularly launched new reference releases that enhanced performance, added new functionality, and increasingly simplified and embellished the usability of the system, forging a new path in consumer computing technology divergent from previous products.

Parallel with Mac OS X, Jobs unveiled plans to revolutionize the market for digital music with iTunes and then the iPod, which together have not only taken over and transformed the music business, but have further changed how videos, ebooks, and mobile software are sold and distributed.

When Microsoft announced it would defeat the increasingly successful iPod using a Windows-like strategy that leveraged its PC manufacturing partners, Jobs fought back with innovation, delivering powerful but easy to use new product revisions that grew smaller and thinner as the company's manufacturing and design prowess evolved. This year, Microsoft admitted complete defeat in unseating the iPod after a decade of attempts with PlaysForSure and Zune.

As the iPod became Apple's cash cow, pundits next looked to smartphones as its most likely competitor, but Jobs directed the company to develop its own replacement for the iPod, starting with internal designs for a tablet-sized web browser device and then focusing efforts on building a handheld computing device that leveraged the core functionality and development tools of Mac OS X and Apple's device savvy with building iPods, then deploying the new device as a radical rethinking of the smartphone.

Jobs' iPhone melded the Mac and the iPod into a single device, subsidized by mobile carriers in a way that would create a massive revenue stream for Apple and allow it to continue innovating at a breakneck speed. Jobs then turned the iPhone itself into an iPod with the iPod touch, which has since become the company's most popular iPod device. Counting both iPods and all other iOS devices, Apple has sold well over half a billion mobile devices in just over a decade, wildly overshadowing its original Mac business.

But Jobs didn't abandon desktop computing. Instead, his company has developed Mac OS X and iOS in tandem, sharing core technologies between the two and adapting the desktop to take increasing advantage of the usability concepts pioneered for iOS, including enhanced animation in the user environment, simplified user interface controls and multitouch navigation.

One year ago, Jobs' "Back to the Mac" public keynote address outlined not only how the company would adapt Mac OS X Lion to incorporate developments from its mobile iOS devices, but also that Macs would gain the same App Store software market for buying applications.

Of course, major elements of Jobs' presentation were built upon the wild success of the iPad, a product that was originally envisioned within Apple before the iPhone, but left to gestate while the iPhone built Apple into a super power of mobile device sales.

By the end of the 2000s, Jobs had not just beat Microsoft in music players, but had also usurped the company's crown in leading desktop operating system development as well as taking away Microsoft's mobile phone aspirations entirely. When the iPhone first appeared in 2007, Microsoft's chief executive Steve Ballmer scoffed at the idea that Apple could take more than a couple percentage points of the smartphone market. Over the next four years however, Apple, under Jobs' leadership, would become the number one mobile device maker on the globe, inhaling the vast majority of the entire industry's profits.

Within the last decade, Jobs' Apple had also surpassed Microsoft in revenues and in earnings, but Microsoft isn't the only company decimated under the boot of Apple's marching advancement. Job's pace of innovation at Apple had also embarrassed Sony, once an undisputed leader in consumer electronics led by its Walkman brand. In mobile devices, Jobs simply crushed Nokia, RIM, Palm and even its former "iTunes phone" partner Motorola. Apple even managed to embarrass Nintendo, taking away the revenues supporting the portable gaming market through the development of the iOS App Store.

Jobs similarly disrupted the virtual lock on web videos and dynamic content that Adobe had maintain with Flash Player, introducing iOS as a tremendous impetus for web developers to abandon the proprietary Flash and adopt open HTML5 development instead. That action similarly effaced Microsoft's Silverlight, which aspired to simply embrace, extend and extinguish Flash.

Once again, however, Jobs formed an external partnership, this time with Google, to help deliver Internet services for iPhone, including Maps, YouTube and web search. And once again, Jobs' partnership turned into a rivalry when Google's chief executive initiated a plan to turn its internal Windows Mobile killer into a weapon against the iPhone, hoping to, like Microsoft, leverage partnerships with other hardware makers to take away the market Jobs had crafted.

In early 2010, it appeared Google's Android was overtaking Apple's iPhone business, facilitating the introduction of more innovative hardware with higher resolution screens and software features Apple hadn't yet delivered, including some features core to Google's own services, such as Maps Navigation. Verizon Wireless formed a key partnership with Android licensees, helping Google gain an important foothold in the market as sales of Android-branded phones increased dramatically.

However, by the middle of last year, Jobs introduced his own weapon: iPhone 4, a model that beat back complaints that Apple's design was tired and basic, its camera was weak and its screen resolution was lagging. On top of its new offering, Jobs presented FaceTime video conferencing and a further aggressive push in software ranging from video games to enterprise support, two areas notably lacking in Android.

After the release of iPhone 4, Android sales at Verizon began to plateau, with AT&T winning loyal new subscribers as the global market for iPhones exploded. With Verizon's faith in Android weakened, the carrier returned to Apple to gain access to the iPhone, subsequently helping to make iPhone 4 America's most popular smartphone model by far, with the 2009 iPhone 3GS remaining the second most popular model.

On page 5 of 5: A Legend: 2011