I found out about Steve Jobs’ death last night on an Android smartphone. And I’m writing this right now on a PC running Microsoft Windows. Jobs didn’t invent either of them.
But his company, Apple, launched the iPhone in 2007 — the first Android phone came out in 2008. Windows, meanwhile, was widely seen as a ripoff of Apple’s Macintosh OS when it was released in 1985, a year after the first Mac.
Apple is the most valuable company in the world. But even if you’re one of the shrinking number who hasn’t bought something from them, if you ever use personal electronic devices, Steve Jobs has had an effect on your life.
Microsoft struggled for years to get people to buy tablet computers. Nobody seemed very interested. Then last year, Jobs introduced the iPad. It flew off the shelves by the millions and, suddenly, every tablet had to look like an iPad. Apple is now suing Samsung because, its lawyers say, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab copied it a little too closely.
Jobs didn’t just have that effect at Apple either. In the early 1990s, people thought computer animation looked too awkward to sustain a full-length movie. Then in 1995 Pixar, which Jobs had bought from George Lucas in the mid-1980s, released Toy Story, which became a huge hit. Eventually, nobody wanted to see the old-fashioned kind of animated movie. In 2004, Disney, which had been making animated films for more than 65 years and distributed Pixar’s movies, announced it was getting out of the traditional-animation business to focus exclusively on CGI. (It’s since come back after it bought Pixar from Jobs, who got 7% of Disney in the deal. That’s 6% more than Walt’s nephew Roy.)
Even more than businesses and consumers, schools always wanted what Jobs was selling. In the ’80s, educators loved how friendly and easy to use the Apple II was and filled their computer labs with them. At one time, it was rare to find a computer in school that wasn’t made by Apple. It helped that Jobs always felt it was important to give schools and students big discounts.
After starting Apple in his parents’ garage when he was 21, Jobs was forced out of the company in 1985. But while he was gone, even his old company wanted to do what he was doing. Eleven years after he left, Apple bought his new company, NeXT, intending to use a version of its software as the new operating system for Macs. Jobs ended up back in charge. That software became Mac OS X and Macs became cool again.
You’re going to hear a lot about how Steve Jobs was a genius, a visionary, a pioneer. It’s all true, of course, but it doesn’t mean he was perfect. The coolest kid can use his power for good or for evil, and Jobs made his share of enemies over his long career. But like him or not, if you’re reading this, he changed the way you live — maybe a little, maybe a lot.
Margie Phelps of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church, famous for picketing the funerals of soldiers, announced on Twitter yesterday that her group would be protesting at Jobs’ funeral. He “gave God no glory,” she posted, and “taught sin”.
She tweeted it. The webpage said, “via Twitter for iPhone”.