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What is Steve Jobs' legacy?
The Apple founder has a long list of innovative products and savvy business moves to his name — making his most valuable contribution a matter of great debate
 
Steve Jobs has certainly left his mark on on our technological world, but critics debate whether the iPod, the company, or the general cultural phenomenon will be remembered as his greatest creation.
Steve Jobs has certainly left his mark on on our technological world, but critics debate whether the iPod, the company, or the general cultural phenomenon will be remembered as his greatest creation.
REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Apple's lionized founder, Steve Jobs, resigned Wednesday evening as CEO of the world's most valuable tech company. The move was at once surprising and inevitable, given that Jobs has struggled with health issues since being diagnosed with cancer in 2003, and had been on sick leave since the beginning of the year. But from the Mac to the Apple store to the iPhone, Jobs boldly led the company on a long, wildly successful path of innovation. For which aspect of Apple's historic success should Jobs be most celebrated? Here, five possibilities:

1. Apple the iPod maker
Jobs has had a "profound" impact on the gadget market, and "the iPod music player has arguably impacted the mobile space more than any other device in history," says James Kendrick at ZDNet. His "elegant design philosophy" produced a tech toy that became an icon and changed an entire industry. The ever-present silhouette ad campaign propelled the iPod to become one of the best-selling gadgets ever.

2. Apple the iPad maker
Jobs' career at Apple has two acts, says Larry Dignan at ZDNet. In Act One, he created the Mac and eventually got kicked out of the company. In Act Two, he returned and saved the company with the iPod and iPhone. But let's face it — the iPad is his crowning achievement. While some would say that the Mac itself is his legacy, I think that computer merely started the revolution that the iPad finished. It delivered on "the promise of the Mac — a computing device that just works." With the iPad, Jobs "reinvented computing," at an untouchable price point. The tablet is the future.

3. Apple the company
"Jobs' greatest creation isn't any Apple product," says John Gruber at Daring Fireball. "It is Apple itself." Like its product, Jobs' company has "simplicity, elegance, beauty, cleverness, humility, directness, truth." The company's imprint is visible everywhere from the stores to the ad campaigns to the boxes the gadgets come in. "The same thought, care, and painstaking attention to detail that Steve Jobs brought to questions like, 'How should a computer work?'... he also brought to the most important question: 'How should a company that creates such things function?'"

4. Apple the cultural phenomenon
Under Jobs, Apple 
occupied a unique position in global culture, says Linda Holmes at NPR. "Its fascination with design, its laid-back advertising that echoes the spareness of its products, and its cultivation of fans who... feel about the departure of Jobs the way they felt about the Beatles breaking up" prove that Apple isn't just a corporation. Jobs has a unique relationship with consumers. When he took the stage in his trademark black mock turtleneck to introduce a new project, he would espouse "how great the future is going to be," and Apple fans believed him.

5. Apple the innovator
"Mr. Jobs... has almost single-handedly reshaped a stunning range of industries: Music, TV, movies, software, cellphones, and cloud computing," says David Pogue in The New York Times. "It's hard to imagine that we'll ever see another 15 years of blockbuster, culture-changing hits like the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad — from Apple or anyone else... Thank you, Mr. Jobs, for an incredible run. The worlds of culture, media, and technology have never seen anything like you."

 

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