Steve Jobs, 1955–2011: Mourning Technology's Great Reinventor

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Jack Arent / Palo Alto Daily News / AP

Jobs speaks at the graduation ceremonies at Stanford University on June 12, 2005

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Little by little, Jobs started acting less like a turnaround artist and more like a man who wanted, once again, to change the world. "Victory in our industry is spelled survival," he told TIME in 2001, when Apple was still on the rebound. "The way we're going to survive is to innovate our way out of this."

In May of that year, Apple had opened retail locations in McLean, Va., and Glendale, Calif., the first of hundreds it would build. Big-box merchants rarely did a good job of explaining to consumers why they should choose a Mac over a cheaper Windows computer; now Apple could do the job itself, in the world's least cluttered, most tasteful computer stores.

The single most important moment in Apple's and Jobs' redemption came six weeks after the 9/11 attacks. At a relatively low-key press event at Apple's Cupertino, Calif., headquarters, Jobs explained that the company had decided to get into the MP3-player business. Then he pulled the first iPod out of his pocket. All of a sudden, Apple was a consumer-electronics company.

Soon it was an exceptionally successful consumer-electronics company. The iPod wasn't much more than a tiny hard drive with a headphone jack and slick software, but it became a cultural touchstone, especially after Apple made it work with Windows PCs as well as Macs. Even its white earbuds became iconic. iPods gained the lion's share of the digital-media-player market and never lost it.

At first, iPod owners got music by ripping their own music or sharing tracks via peer-to-peer networks like Kazaa. Apple, seeing a need for a simple, legal source of music, introduced the iTunes Music Store in 2003. Unlike earlier music services, iTunes offered a proposition of Jobsian elegant simplicity: songs were 99 cents apiece, and you could play them on up to three devices and burn them to CD. Music companies weren't thrilled — they would have preferred higher prices and more restrictions — but consumers bought a million songs in the first week, and by 2008 they had purchased 4 billion of them.

Five years after Apple entered the music business, it surpassed Walmart to become the U.S.'s largest music retailer. By that time, iPods had screens capable of displaying video, and Jobs' company was a major distributor of movies and TV shows as well.

As important as the iPod was, it was ultimately just a high-tech Walkman. The iPhone, unveiled at a Macworld Expo keynote in 2007, was something far more: a powerful personal computer that happened to fit in your pocket. "Every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything," Jobs said in introducing it, a statement that — unlike some of the claims he'd been known to make at keynotes — turned out to be factual rather than fluffy. It instantly made every other smart phone on the market look antique.

For Jobs, it was a do-over: a chance to prevail in the PC wars that Microsoft had won the first time around. Typically, he responded not by aping the strategy that had worked so well for Microsoft but by being even more like Steve Jobs. Like the first Mac, the first iPhone had obvious deficiencies. For instance, it shipped with a poky 2G wireless connection just as 3G was becoming pervasive. But its software was so radically better than anything anyone had ever seen that it didn't really matter.

In 2008, Apple introduced the App Store, which seamlessly delivered programs created by third-party developers for iPhones, giving Apple a 30% cut of all developer revenue along the way. The App Store was the only authorized way to get programs onto an iPhone; Apple regularly rejected programs that it deemed unsafe, offensive or disturbingly competitive with its own efforts. And yet the iPhone ended up with both the most apps and the best apps, making it hard to argue that Jobs' tight control had stifled the creativity of app developers.

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