An already dramatic month of technology industry news has moved into the historical category with the announcement of Steve Job’s retirement. No doubt the speculation about what this means for Apple and for the computer industry will carry on for days, if not weeks and months. From the point of view of a mobile technology enthusiast, I can’t help but wonder what it means for the products that mean the most to me.
To put it bluntly, Steve Jobs has defined what we know today as mobile technology. Mobile technology means to me any technology that one carries around, which by my definition includes media players, smartphones, tablets, and ultramobile computers. The standard of each one of those four product categories is an Apple product created to fulfill Steve Job’s vision.
Few if any people at the time recognized Job’s footprint being placed on mobile technology only two years after his return to Apple in 1996. In February 2008 Apple announced it was discontinuing the Newton OS hardware and operating system. Newton was Apple’s first attempt at mobile technology. It required a stylus for input and did handwriting recognition, while today’s touchscreen smartphones and tablets don’t require styluses and handwriting recognition pretty much does not exist.
Apple did not invent any of the four product categories, but that really doesn’t matter because the Apple products in each define how we know them today. The iPod provided what we always wanted in a media player, the ability to carry our entire music catalog around and easily transfer our music to the device.
Smartphones were stuck in a rut of small screens and small on-screen controls manipulated with sticks of plastic and didn’t provide much function beyond storing contacts, appointments, and tasks. Today’s smartphones have large touchscreens with controls that you manipulate with a finger and can do anything one can imagine thanks to the iPhone and it’s apps.
Tablets were trying to be personal computers in the form of a legal pad of paper. The iPad has redefined the tablet as an alternative to personal computers, or as Leo Laporte so rightly stated, the iPad has fulfilled Apple’s original vision of providing the computer for the rest of us.
Ultramobile computers have been around longer than any of the other three product categories in a variety of incarnations, one of the most recent of which was the netbook. Netbooks attempted to define ultramobile as giving up computer processing power for the sake of portability and price, but now ultramobile is about thin, light, long battery life, full computing and elegance with the Macbook Air.
It is incredible to be able to attribute an entry industry to one person and frightening when that one person leaves. Honestly, I don’t know what Steve Job’s resignation means for the mobile industry going forward, but I definitely know what Steve Jobs has meant to today’s mobile industry. Everything.