Blog Post

Taking stock of Steve Jobs’ legacy

Steve Stanford Speech

A friend recently asked me, knowing that I was involved with Siri, what Steve Jobs’ legacy will be. Siri was the last giant milestone in Jobs’ career, but he had a long list of accomplishments.

In the course of one lifetime, Steve Jobs:

  • Helped create and popularize the personal computer (Apple II, 1977) (s AAPL)
  • Oversaw the second most valuable American IPO, after Ford Motor Company (Apple, 1980)
  • Helped create the modern personal computer with mouse, icons and a graphical user interface (Macintosh, 1984)
  • Co-created an influential modern operating system (Mac OS, 1984)
  • Created the most memorable advertising campaigns of his generation (Macintosh Superbowl Ad, 1984; “Think Different” campaign, 1997; etc.)
  • Co-created a modern publishing platform (bitmapped display, Apple LaserWriter, Aldus PageMaker, 1984–1985)
  • Ushered in the concept of a modern movie animation studio (Pixar, which he bought in 1986)
  • Popularized two more modern operating systems (NeXTStep, 1989, then OS X in 2002)
  • Released the modern object-oriented programmer’s toolset (NeXTStep, 1989)
  • Resurrected the company he founded after returning to it when it was 90 days from bankruptcy (Apple, 1996)
  • Reimagined and popularized digital music players (iPod, 2001)
  • Transformed the retail experience and created the highest revenue-per-square-foot retail stores in the world (Apple Stores, 2001)
  • Enabled easy digital music management (iTunes software, 2001)
  • Released mass-market digital media creation and management software (iLife, 2003)
  • Revolutionized online paid digital music distribution (iTunes Store, 2003)
  • Sparked a transformation of the broadcast TV and cable industries (iTunes + Apple TV, 2007)
  • Introduced the modern smartphone and helped shift the focus from telephony to music and Internet access (iPhone, 2007)
  • Took down the “walled garden” application stranglehold of telecom carriers (with the iPhone + App Store, 2008)
  • Reimagined the modern laptop computer (MacBook, 2006; MacBook Air, 2008)
  • Transformed online software distribution with the application (“app”) store (Apple App Store, 2008)
  • Invented the modern tablet computer (iPad, 2010)
  • Along with Amazon, reimagined digital magazine publishing and distribution (Apple Newsstand + iTunes, part of iOS5, 2011)
  • Laid the groundwork for mass-scale adoption of the artificial intelligence revolution in mass-market computing (Apple “Siri,” 2011)
  • Built one of the world’s best management, engineering and marketing teams (Apple, 1996-2011)
  • Created the world’s most respected and highly valued brand (Apple, 2008-2011)
  • Increased value to shareholders 65-fold in 10 years (Apple, 2000-2011)
  • Built the most valuable company in the history of the world (Apple, 2011)

Steve Jobs did not achieve any of this alone. But he was the visionary, instigator, leader, motivator, marketer, pitchman and showman for all of them. He was the most prolific technology and business innovator of our time. His restless intellect uniquely combined the humanities with technology and science, and brought a Zen sense of spare aesthetics to our everyday lives.

His brilliance, passion, commitment and energy changed, and continues to change, the lives of hundreds of millions of people for the better.

Steve’s legacy is hard to judge as a whole, as it lives on in the company he created, the technologies he unleashed, the many acolytes he trained and the aesthetic sensibility he imbued in all of us.

My family, many friends and I mourn for someone we never met.

Gary Morgenthaler is a partner at Morgenthaler Ventures. He was the first VC investor in Siri and was a board member at the company until it was acquired by Apple. Morgenthaler was also an investor and board member in Nuance, a partner of Apple. 

Image courtesy of Flickr user Keng Susumpow.

16 Responses to “Taking stock of Steve Jobs’ legacy”

  1. Let’s not forget the all-in-one candy-colored iMacs that were certainly trend setting, arrived at a critical juncture for Apple, and live on in beautiful models to this day.

  2. J.Stewart

    Jobs basically invented the GUI and the multi-touch interfaces.

    These are the most influential computer interfaces there ever were.

    Yeah, I hear people say Xerox invented the Graphic User Interface (GUI). Well, Xerox invented the mouse and an incredibly rudimentary screen interface. But the modern GUI was Steve Jobs’ invention. Jobs invented drop-down menus. Jobs invented drag-and-drop. Jobs deserves the credit for inventing the modern, usable GUI.

    Then he did it again with multi-touch.

    iOS was the first multi-touch interface that the average consumer was able to use. Pinch to zoom. Inertial scrolling. It’s all Steve Jobs’.

  3. oetgrunnen

    What if?
    Steve and Steve hadn’t popularized the personal computer, and introduced the graphical ui.
    My assumption, computers would have been expensive devices focused on business. The computer would have very little impact in the home. subsequently, there would have been little or no use of the internet, and the internet would have stayed a network for scientist to exchange there ideas.
    Therefore there would be no reason for businesses to go on the internet, and basically the whole e-econnomy and social networks as we know them now would not come into existence.

    Yes sure, maybe somebody else would have come up with the same idea, but if at all, then many many years later, and what would that have meant for mankind.

  4. Richard

    I can understand why financial people focus on the financial success story and the stock price of Apple, but I fear such people will never understand the most important thing Steve Jobs brought: his unshakeable respect for simplicity and his cellular understanding that “design” is not how a thing looks but how it works. Competitors seem to think it’s about hype and promises and copying the surface attributes and the look of icons; those things are all meaningless. The Steve Jobs way was ruthless editing, recognizing what the essence of a thing needs to be, and stripping away what isn’t essential. People embrace Apple products because those products get out of your way and just work. I’m saddened to think of all the clumsy, intrusive, over-designed and badly thought out tools we’ll have to use in the years ahead because Steve is no longer around to make someone do it over right.

  5. Elizabeth Boylan

    Not to mention Apple’s product line, product care policies and recycling program is the most environmentally conscious and sensitive of any technology or computer company on the planet. Even the materials chosen of glass and metals instead of plastics speak to sensitive and responsible design.

    Just one tid bit, the researchers at Xerox’s PARC program had invented Object Oriented Programming, Ethernet, GUI interfaces, the mouse, and networked computers as early as 1971. The executives at Xerox were too ‘blind’ to realize what they were sitting on and allowed Jobs to see everything. They would have botched things anyway. The right person and visionary to bring these inventions to the world was obviously Jobs, as we all can see now.

      • Steven Appenzeller

        The DARPANET traces its origin back to 1969 when the first message was sent and it was declared operational in 1975 when the Defense Communications Agency took control. All of this happened before Al Gore even won his first election for Congress in 1976. Sorry, Al Gore has nothing to do with the birth of ARPANET or the internet.