With the sad passing of Steve Jobs, we’ve lost a true visionary. The man who took Apple from obscurity and near downfall to all-conquering cultural behemoth has made his mark on our lives many times over. Glen Ferris takes a look at how Apple changed the world…
Before the iPhone came along, cellphones at best offered a few entertaining diversions and a cack-handed way of accessing the internet. But when the smartest of smartphones was launched, mobile device uses were introduced to an embarrassment of riches. Apps changed the way we accessed information, the combined package of integrated camera, media player and internet capabilities blew away the nearest competition and the touchscreen made it all so brilliantly easy to use. Imagine life without 3G/WiFi net access, email push, iPod and Angry Birds and you realise just how much one little phone has changed how we do things.
Released at a time music downloads were hugely popular (and mostly illegal) and with the music industry panicking about where the future was headed, Apple in typical style identified the problem and came up with a blindingly clever solution. A decade since it was introduced, iTunes has redefined how music is bought, sold and marketed. Music charts, release dates and sales figures are calculated according to iTunes now. With billions of songs downloaded – and, more impressively, paid for - it’s now the number one music retailer in the world and quite possibly the most important technological innovation of all time.
Curiously released a fair while after iTunes was launched, the iPod may have got off to a stuttering start but it soon became rightly known as the defining music player for a generation. While many people balked at putting away their CD Walkmen in favour of this digital marvel, the ability to hold your entire music collection in your pocket and access any song at any time became too much to resist. The iPod wasn’t the first mass-marketed MP3 player but it certainly became the most iconic with its brilliantly designed click wheel and iTunes-friendly interface marking it out as a true market leader. Such was its impact, in fact, that - like Hoover, Jacuzzi and Tannoy before it - it became the de facto name for all such digital devices.
Only a few years ago, many of us were questioning just what the iPad brought to the game. It’s not an iPhone, it’s not a laptop, it exists in a gap between the two and its use wasn’t exactly clear - but that didn't stop the iPad from becoming one of the fastest selling products of all time. Fast-forward two years and it's not only the best tablet device on the market but it has become a vital piece of kit applicable in virtually every profession and situation. For a taste of what the future of computing will bring to us, look no further than this sleek bit of design.
After reinventing the phone, Apple opened the doors for third-party developers to make their mark with the App Store. Typical of the company’s style, Apple encouraged other companies to get their thinking caps on - and gave them a platform to make a shedload of cash – when it allowed the opportunity to create their own apps. With billions downloaded, a host of household names created and a market worth over $6.2 billion generated, we can safely say that the app experiment was a huge success.
It would be easy to overlook the impact that this quintessential media viewer has made over the years. Invisibly ubiquitous, today it’s the standard for digital video. We use it to watch trailers, downloaded films and television shows and it comes in very handy for handling images, audio and interactive programmes. Without Quicktime, we’d be pretty damn lost.
While the iMac and original Macintosh were undoubtedly magnificent innovations, Apple’s first truly portable device was the model that not only marked a turnaround in the company’s fortunes but also was the impetus behind the modern laptop revolution. Steve Jobs’ return to the company saw the bulky machines of yesteryear replaced by sleek, lightweight and thin marvels that also somehow managed to match the performance of their desktop-bound buddies. Take a look at any laptop today and you’ll find that the G4 has influenced it in terms of design or performance.