Steve Jobs, Whose Tech Products Delighted A Generation, Dies At 56

Steve Jobs, the iconic leader who single-handedly turned Apple from an also-ran computer maker into a company with products that captured the imagination of millions and blurred the boundary between consumer electronics and business IT, has passed away at the age of 56.

Apple on Wednesday announced the death of Jobs in a statement which read, "Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and in inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple."

Jobs, who had been suffering from poor health caused by pancreatic cancer for some time, leaves behind a legacy of turning simple electronic devices into industry-changing, fashion-driving products which completely blurred the line between consumer products and business tools.

These include the Apple iPad, which ignited a tablet PC business that had floundered for years; the iPhone, which turned mobile phones into smart devices and fashion statements; and the iPod Touch, which brought the Internet into the pocket of users ranging from students to CEOs.

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Under Jobs' watch, Apple revolutionized the way business approached IT. The company's iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch not only became runaway best-selling products in their categories, they sometimes created their own categories.

More importantly, as those products became wildly popular with consumers, users started to realize that they could use their mobile devices at work, driving businesses to scramble for ways to accommodate them.

This trend, the consumerization of IT, is currently revolutionizing business IT departments. Many businesses, from SMBs to enterprises, have given up trying to keep users from bringing in their own devices for accessing corporate data or handling e-mail, and instead are scrambling to expand their security, networking, client, and storage infrastructures to accommodate them.

For Jobs, the road to Apple success has not always been easy. Apple, which was one of the first computers to develop a successful personal computer with its Apple-II in 1977, missed the opportunity which came from the PC boom of the 1980s and 1990s by focusing on its own proprietary architecture instead of jumping on the IBM-compatible PC bandwagon, and by the 1990s was a niche player with a miniscule share of the market.

Jobs in 1985 was pushed out of the company he co-founded, but returned in 1986 as an advisor. The following year, he was interim CEO, and by 1990 was the CEO.

The 1990s were a decade of struggle for Apple, which was saved financially by a $150 million investment in the company by rival Microsoft. But in 2001, Apple released its first iPod music player, and the company has grown wildly since.

That growth was fueled by the 2007 release of the iPhone, a device which consigned the common cellphone to the ash heap of history by introducing the concept of a smart device which gave consumers the ability to get phone, music, video, Internet access, and games in a single device.

That success was duplicated with the 2010 release of the Apple iPad. The iPad was not the first tablet PC. However, it did what no other tablet PC did in over a generation of trying: It made consumers, then business people, want to actually purchase and use one by making it easy for developers to make and sell applications that appealed to users.

Jobs was remembered as technology genius who made IT cool.

Albert Pang, president of Apps Run The World, an Apps research firm based in Dublin, Calif., said Jobs passing leaves a void that can not be filled.

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The products that Jobs masterminded like iPhone and iPad had people "waiting in lines overnight," said Pang.

"Those products are changing people's lives as we speak. Who can fill those shoes? He is one of those inventors and artists that you always remember," he added. "When an inventor passes away there is a void out there that nobody can fill. It is a tremendous loss to the industry and everyone involved in the industry. It is really a good time for us to step back and look at how far we have progressed and to look at what we owe Steve Jobs. He made tremendous contributions to this industry."

"The impact on the industry is huge," said Michael Krigsman, president and CEO of Asuret Inc, a Brookline, Mass technology consulting firm.

"There is a hole that remains that will be very difficult to fill. There are few people with the vision and breadth that Jobs possessed. It is very sad for all of us. For solution providers, he created tremendous demand by innovating and delivering new products on a consistent basis."

"I am totally shocked," said an IT executive attending the Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco. "Even though I knew he was sick, I never thought he wouldn't be here because he was such a strong presence. He remained in the industry until the end. He only stepped back a couple of weeks ago. That is commitment and dedication to the industry. This industry was his lifeblood.He was forever focused on the technology industry and making it better and better and better. He was never afraid to push the boundaries of what we could do with technology."

A technology distribution executive at Oracle OpenWorld, who did not want to be identified, said Jobs' legacy remains the innovative products he brought to the industry including the iPhone and the iPad.

"I am saddened," said the executive. "He had a profound affect on the IT industry. Everybody admires Apple. Everybody looks up to Apple. You can't go to a conference without seeing an iPad. He made IT cool. People spend their own money on Apple products."

John Convery, executive vice president of vendor relations and marketing at Denali Advanced Integration, a Redmond, Wash.-based solution provider which is in the process of developing an Apple focus, said it is rare to see such a young man become such a giant of the industry.

"You wish he would be here a long time to continuing innovating," he said. "Jobs is in the same class of a handful of people how have made major contributions to the industry.

Jobs positioned Apple well for success long after he left the company, Convery said. "He had a great succession plan in place," he said. "Leadership is more than one person.. You need R&D, enginereing, and more. But Apple is a leader."

Job's main legacy is an understanding of the needs of consumers, Convery said. "A few years ago, Apple had a 6-percent share of the PC market," he said. "But it always had loyal fans. He really understood how to make Apple's products easy for customers to use."

Steve Burke contributed to this article.