The Steve Jobs impact on the mobile space

The Steve Jobs impact on the mobile space

Summary: The vision of Steve Jobs is evident in the number of game-changing products Apple has produced over the years. His impact on the mobile space has been profound, and worth looking at in detail.

TOPICS: Apple, Mobility

You've no doubt heard of Steve Jobs stepping down as CEO of Apple. His official announcement sent shock waves throughout the tech world as no single individual has had such a dramatic impact on the technology in use today. The Jobs impact has affected mobile space as much as any tech sector, and it is worth taking a look at how his imprint is all over the mobile technology in use today.

The Macintosh

Apple shook the PC generation with the release of the original Macintosh computer, the first all-in-one system that predated the laptops of today. The Macintosh showed the industry that folks craved a system that could be taken from location to location, even though it couldn't end up very far from a power outlet. The original Macintosh was a simple box that was a simple but elegant design, a precursor to the design style that Apple would eventually be famous for producing. The Macintosh set the scene for mobile computing and operating systems comprised of windows that would become the standard for personal computing for decades.

The Newton

One of the most impressive mobile gadgets at the time of its release was the Apple Newton PDA. It set the stage for stylus input on a handheld device through technology that converted handwriting to digital text. The Newton as originally launched was far from perfect, and it evolved amazingly far given the short time it was on the market before Jobs cancelled it in 1998.

Jobs' impact on the mobile space was due to canceling the product line on his return to Apple after a brief hiatus. The innovative team behind the Newton scattered throughout the mobile industry and made an impact outside of Apple. The team behind the handwriting recognition (HWR) of the Newton ended up forming a new company that brought sophisticated HWR to the early Tablet PC in the form of the ritePen software. That company has evolved into a major player in the mobile space today, the Evernote Corporation.

The iPod

The iPod music player has arguably impacted the mobile space more than any other device in history. The elegant design philosophy that Jobs imparted to the teams at Apple produced a gadget that didn't do much beyond what was already available on the market, playing digital music, but did it in a way that would see it become an icon in the mobile sector. The catchy advertising campaign consisting of happy iPod users in silhouette would propel it to become one of the highest selling gadgets in history.

Jobs' vision of the way customers would buy music became his personal objective, one that was achieved in typical Jobs style. The entire music industry eventually changed to give customers what they wanted, the ability to simply purchase music in digital form for consumption on the iPod and other MP3 players. This change would eventually be reflected in the iPhone and shape the nascent mobile phone industry. It was also the precursor for the app revolution to come.

The iPhone

Jobs took the phenomenal success of the iPod and released the iPhone, the most important product in Apple's history. Embedding an iPod in a smartphone was a brilliant move on Jobs part, setting the stage for the iPhone to become a household name. The iPhone was a device tightly controlled by Apple to insure it delivered the simple yet functional experience Jobs was insistent on producing, and sales figures show this was the absolute correct method.

The iPhone became the smartphone that most wanted, and all companies making phones took notice and the iPhone's impact can be seen on almost all phones today. Physical QWERTY keyboards have become a minor feature of a few phones, with large touchscreens the norm. The success of the iPod in the music industry was repeated with apps on the iPhone. The term apps didn't even exist until Apple made it a household word, and the app industry that Jobs created has become a multi-billion dollar industry. Never has a single company created so much revenue for other companies like Apple with both music and apps.

The MacBook

The original unibody MacBook constructed of aluminum in a thin form set the stage for the laptop sector as no single product before. The simple design was the epitome of Apple's engineering, and set the stage for all of the thin notebooks on the market today. Apple pushed the limit for thermal engineering on such thin laptops, and the ability to put as much battery in a thin device as possible.

The MacBook Air is an evolution of that original design, and through careful engineering and control of the supply chain Apple has dropped the price point of these thin laptops to a highly competitive range. Competitors were already scrambling to make products that could compete with the MacBook Air on a design level, and now find they must do so on price at the same time.

The thin laptop design of the MacBook Air is the reason for the new Ultrabook category of laptops being promoted by Intel. This new category of notebooks is supposed to be very thin with good thermal control for heat dissipation, while coming in at a $1,000 price point. Early reports indicate companies are finding this very hard to do, and early models are reported to appear above the $1,000 price. The impact of the MacBook Air is giving competitors fits as they struggle to compete with Apple on every level.

The iPad

Steve Jobs has been a stickler for taking lessons learned from products and using them in future products. Never has that been more evident than in the iPad, the tablet from Apple that single-handedly created a market for slates. Early critics of the iPad deemed it simply a large iPhone, but the brilliant vision of Jobs was that this was what customers wanted. Apple aimed the iPad at the same target market that first bought the iPod by the millions, and then the iPhone. The strategy was a huge success, with tens of millions of iPads being sold in its short lifetime.

Jobs was able to take the simple, elegant design to the masses, at a price that would keep the entire mobile industry scrambling to duplicate. No single competing product has made as much as a scratch in Apple's iPad market over a year later, a testament to the brilliance of Jobs' vision.

The recent release of OS X Lion by Apple incorporates design elements from the iPad, bringing mobile technology to the core desktop OS. It is clear Jobs sees the mobile aspects of the iPad converging with the desktop space, and early reception to the design elements in Lion show he may be right once again.

The Steve Jobs vision

Steve Jobs has a reputation of being a hard-nosed businessman unwilling to compromise, and that is the reason his impact is so far-reaching in the tech industry. He has always shown great vision, and the unwillingness to compromise that vision. If Apple couldn't produce what his vision dictated, then the product wasn't released. Instead of releasing a compromised product to market, Jobs sent the bright teams at Apple back to the drawing board to make his vision a reality. When the product met his exacting standards, then it could be released.

Jobs track record is not perfect, he is human after all. But there is no question he has been right most of the time, and his impact is proof positive of that. He has been hammered over the years for his tight control over Apple's products, and that is his genius. His credo has been to make Apple products do what the customers want in the best way possible, and his unwillingness to compromise on that is why Apple is one of the most successful companies, if not the most successful, in history.

Images credit: Apple

Around CBSi:

Around the Web:

Topics: Apple, Mobility

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Good synopsis of the man who made Apple fourish

    Even though I'm an adamant opponent against anything Apple due to, what I find to be, their tight restrictions of its products, I have to agree with Kendrick in his analysis of Jobs's time at Apple. He single-handedly made that company what it is today. I may despise the man for practically crushing all competition through his shrewd business practices; but I have to give it to Jobs that if he wasn't around, we probably wouldn't be where we are in the tech world today.
    • RE: The Steve Jobs impact on the mobile space

      @korey.mendes It was Job?s single minded focus that changed the direction of computing as we know it today. Sure Microsoft made a so-so OS that was adopted by the masses, but Microsoft made windows in reaction to seeing Mac OS. For all we know, computers today might still be monochrome with a DOS prompt without Steve Jobs.
  • Consequently ...

    ... many of the other major players in technoogy: M$, INTEL, HP, ACER, SAMSUNG, ... will be forced out of their mediocrity into designing the higher quality/functional offerings typically available only from Apple.
  • Newton and PowerMacintosh were done without Jobs, but influence of these ..

    .. products are underestimated.<br><br>Thanks to Newton, the world has ARM processors now. It was Apple's whim that they chose Acorn desktop CPUs to downscale them to mobile power consumption.<br><br>The same is with PowerPC, which appeared only because Apple needed next generation desktop CPU and chose IBM's Power workstation/server CPUs to be downscaled for desktop machines.<br><br>Now both ARM (basically all smartphones) and PowerPC (in XBox, PS3, countless printers and MFPs) sold hundreds of millions of units each per year.
  • I don't buy it this story.

    Job$ mostly copied some existing products on the market and marketed them to the sheeps with money to burn.
    More recently Apple entered the patent litigation business.
    The Linux Geek
    • RE: The Steve Jobs impact on the mobile space

      Please hurry and turn your own garage startup into the highest-valued company on Earth so I can crap on you when you're dying.
      Robert Hahn
    • In many a case Jobs did NOT copy but rather made MUCH better:)

      @The Linux Geek ... As for litigation I'm afraid you are either very young or extremely uninformed for ad long as there have been competing technology companies there has been litigation. This is so not a recent thing... Rather it has been a rather common thing.

      Pagan jim
      James Quinn
      • reply

        Thanks to Newton, the world has ARM processors now. It was Apple's whim that they chose Acorn desktop CPUs to downscale them to mobile power consumption.

        The same is with PowerPC, which appeared only because Apple needed next generation desktop CPU and chose IBM's Power workstation/server CPUs to be downscaled for desktop machines.

        [url=]south san francisco plumbing[/url]
  • RE: The Steve Jobs impact on the mobile space

    Jobs and Apple represent the pinnacle of useless, overhyped and overpriced crappy trinkets
    • Actually, hundreds of million people argue that these devices are useful,

      @timjones170: ... and more conveniently useful than competing devices.

      <b>Almost none of these hundreds million of people had a single Apple product just few years ago</b>, so they are able to compare the experience. ("Fanboys"/"fanatics" base is capable of only few hundreds thousand buys of Apple products per quarter, what was proven in 2001, not forty million products per quarter as now).
    • Bitter much?

      @timjones170 ... You stay classy my friend:)

      Pagan jim
      James Quinn
    • RE: The Steve Jobs impact on the mobile space

      @timjones170 Hey at least my iPhone is not stamped with a carrier logo like yours LOL
    • RE: The Steve Jobs impact on the mobile space

      @timjones170...That must be why all the other companies are copying them...
  • From Counternotions

    This is the best summary of what Apple did in the mobile space from <a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"></a><br><br>
    Before Apple:
    Carriers ruled the industry with an iron fist<br> To access carriers networks handset makers capitulated everything<br> Carriers dictated phone designs, features, apps, prices, marketing, advertising and branding<br> Phones were reduced to cheap, disposable lures for carriers service contracts<br> There was no revenue sharing between carriers and manufacturers<br> There was no notion of phone networks becoming dumb pipes anytime soon<br> Affordable, unlimited data plans as standard were unheard of<br> A phone that would entice people to switch networks by the millions was a pipe dream<br> Mobile devices were phones first and last, not usable handheld computers<br> Even the smartest phones didnt have seamless WiFi integration<br> Without Visual Voice Mail, messages couldnt be managed non-linearly<br> There were no manufacturer owned and operated on-the-phone application stores as the sole source<br> An on-the-phone store having 65,000 apps downloaded nearly 2 billion times was not on anyones radar screen<br> Low-cost, high-volume app pricing strategy with a 70/30 split didnt exist<br> Robust one-click in-app transactions were unknown<br> There was no efficient, large scale, consistent and lucrative mobile app market for developers large and small<br> Buttons, keys, joysticks, slidersanything but the screen was the focus of phones<br> Phones didnt come with huge 3.5 touch screens<br> Pervasive multitouch, gesture-based UI was science fiction<br> Actually usable, multi-language, multitouch virtual keyboards on phones didnt exist<br> Integrated sensors like accelerometers and proximity detectors had no place in phones<br> Phones could never compete in 3D/gaming with dedicated portable consoles<br> iPod-class audio/video players on mobiles didnt exist<br> No phone had ever offered a desktop-like web browser experience<br> Sophisticated SDKs and phones were strangers to each other<br><br>This list too could go on. But its sobering to remember that a single device by a company with zero experience in the industry and against all odds caused such a tidal wave of change. Change didnt come because of Nokia, Microsoft, Sony Ericsson, Samsung, RIM or any other player in the market for the past 15 years bet their company on it.
    • Then android came along and brought you back into

      the world of total carrier lockdown. And ZDNet posters flocked to it in droves, shouting their praise at finally being able to escape Apple's Walled garden.
  • RE: The Steve Jobs impact on the mobile space

    "Apple shook the PC generation with the release of the original Macintosh computer"<br><br>TOTAL BS!!!<br><br>Where the hell were you when the Amiga 1000 was released???<br><br>The Amiga had a multitasking operating system 10 years before Microsoft. It could display multiple resolutions on the same screen, and had a GUI that no other computer could touch. Walk into any video production studio in the late 80's/early 90's and you would find an Amiga 2000/2500 box with a video toaster sitting there. Many CG artists used the Amiga for professional design work. The Amiga was also an easy thousand dollars cheaper than any PC or MAC at the time, making it's way into millions of households!<br><br>Suck up to Apple all you like, but Jay Miner did more for innovation in the personal computer industry in the 80's than both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs combined. Give credit where credit is due!!!
    • RE: The Steve Jobs impact on the mobile space

      But unfortunately Amiga was more poorly run than Apple in the late 80s & early 90s, and was released a year AFTER the Mac.

      Innovation doesn't work without a business plan that makes money and prevents competitors from co-opting your advantages.

      That's one of the things Jobs learned when he left Apple. Maybe Jay Miner should have been fired too.

      BTW, Steve Jobs has his name on over 300 patents. How many does Jay Miner have?
      • A year late

        but I was doing some light reading. To set the record straight, your quip about patents is the stupidest thing I've read in a while. The Amiga was the single most amazing computer product for tis time in computer history, developed by a few guys from the ground UP. Yes, the chipset, the cpu, the operating system. Unlike Steve Jobs, Jay Miner was a truly gifted engineer and his machine concept wiped the floor with anything else available FOR YEARS after. Commodores mis management of their position is hardly the fault of Jay Miner.

        So Steve Jobs had some patents filed in his name. Whoop-de-doo - and you accept that as some sort of evidence that he invented something? Are you trying to suggest he could have done what Jay Miner and co. did, building their demo Amiga box out of component parts and producing a demo so impressive for its time that people were looking for the 'super computer' hiding somewhere nearby? Go read some history and get a clue.... that is all.
    • In order to shake a generation, you actually, you know,

      have to sell product. Apple Macintosh, Adobe Postscript and Aldus Pagemaker on that Apple Macintosh revolutionized the print industry. And I mean totally revolutionized it. If you weren't alive at the time, you simply cannot comprehend how big a deal that triple hit was.