As an innovator and visionary, Steve Jobs' accomplishments can be held on a pedestal with the likes of Microsoft’s (MSFT) Bill Gates, Google’s (GOOG) Larry Page and Sergey Brin and Facebook’s (FB) Mark Zuckerberg. The aforementioned names are all highly regarded within technology for transforming consumerism and the accessibility of information. While best known as the CEO of Apple (AAPL), the late Jobs has had a profound effect on the world outside of technology. From purchasing Pixar in 1986 to supporting charities and environmental causes, Jobs’ achievements and innovations continue to affect industries and lifestyles worldwide.
Most associate Jobs’ success with Apple; however, in the early days, Jobs' relationship with Apple proved to be a rocky one. After resigning from the company in 1985, Jobs founded NeXT, a firm that created computers for business and educational needs. While NeXT wasn't particularly successful based on units sold, the company continues to be an integral part of computers today: portions of Nextstep operating systems still live on within Mac OS X. Additionally, the famous “Wolfenstein” and “Doom” computer games were written on NeXTcube stations. (For more, see: Steve Jobs And The Apple Story.)
Job’s $5 million acquisition of Lucasfilms' Computer Graphic Division in 1986 proved to be a wise investment. The potential he saw in the company – later renamed Pixar – paid off when he sold it to Disney (DIS) in 2006 for $7.4 billion. Prior to the mid 1990s, Disney was the gold standard of full-length animated feature films, and it wasn’t until the success of “Toy Story” in 1995 that Pixar landed on the map. With each subsequent film, Pixar gained steam and created a whole animation industry in Hollywood. The company’s movies grossed $3.8 billion worldwide before its acquisition by Disney.
While Jobs lacked expertise in graphic design and video production, he believed Pixar’s computer technology and animation would one day match Disney’s work. Job’s biggest impact was on the strategic direction of the company, including leading and overseeing Pixar’s IPO in 1995. The investment capital Pixar received from going public gave Jobs the freedom to rapidly expand the company. Many attest that Jobs' drive and vision for Pixar gave the company the support it needed to prosper and flourish. Today Pixar is recognized as one of the most influential film studios in the world.
Jobs’ product launches while at the helm of Apple continue to impact countless individuals. Released in 2001, the iPod was widely recognized as the first user friendly and innovative means of accessing music on the go. Consumers had used portable radios, CD or tape players for remote audio purposes prior to widespread access of mp3 files. Syncing with Apple’s iTunes program, the iPod gave users the means to carry and purchase hundreds of songs on a single device. Currently the iPod can be found in three different models depending on user needs.
Jobs’ next big product launch was the iPhone. Combining the features of an iPod with those of a phone and computer, the iPhone enabled users to make calls, listen to music, and browse the Internet on one touchscreen-capable device. Besides synchronization to iTunes, the iPhone featured an exclusive App Store that liberated users from purchasing content from wireless carriers. Before the App Store, wireless carriers controlled the distribution of content to phones. As evidenced by the 500 millionth iPhone sale and 50 billionth app download in early 2014, Jobs’ iPhone has clearly had a far reach.
Taking their cue from the iPhone, Apple and Jobs then created the first touchscreen tablet without a keyboard. A cross between a laptop and an iPhone, the iPad spurred the development of a new industry that other technology companies have since entered. Jobs' influence on retail products has revolutionized consumer technology, forcing engineers and developers to create new and innovative products. Consumers have benefited most from increased competition, as products remain modestly priced but boast increased capabilities and features.
As seen at NeXT, Pixar, and Apple, Jobs had a visible role in the success of products and companies. However, behind the scenes Jobs was known by a select few as a philanthropist. While his philanthropic efforts were rarely made public, many have attested to Jobs charitable nature. Jobs donated over $50 million to Stanford hospitals and contributed to various projects to fight AIDS. As a philanthropist, Jobs' goal wasn't to be recognized, but to help those who needed it. (For more, see: How To Start A Charity.)
Not only are Apple products considered innovative, they are also environmentally friendly. Jobs promoted an initiative for environmentally friendly products during his time as CEO. Apple utilizes eco-conscious materials such as recycled plastics and papers in its products to conserve global resources. Likewise, all Apple products are ENERGY STAR qualified, which means they are energy efficient. (For more, see: Clean Or Green Technology Investing.)
The Bottom Line
As the initial creator of upscale user friendly mechanisms, Steve Jobs' accomplishments in technology continue to have profound effects today. The competition created from the introduction of the iPod, iPhone, and iPad has revolutionized the technology industry. Consumers have benefited from developments in phones and computing, and have a wider array of choices when purchasing computers, phones and tablets. While Jobs’ influence on technology was obvious, his philanthropy has gone widely unrecognized. Jobs donated to a variety of charitable causes, and he also sought to lessen the long lasting environmental impacts of Apple’s products by changing the company’s environmental policy.