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Time magazine names Steve Jobs one of 20 most influential Americans

The vision of the late Steve Jobs, cofounder of Apple, has been recognized once again, with Time magazine naming him one of the 20 most influential Americans of all time —putting him right up there with Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, the Wright brothers, Alexander Graham Bell, Henry Ford, and Martin Luther King. The article refers to him as the "high priest of the computer age," and recognizes his genius for design. It concludes by saying, "he pushed and pushed to make the interface between computers and people elegant, simple and delightful. He always claimed his goal was to create products that were 'insanely great.' Mission accomplished."

The graphical user interface of the 1984 Macintosh ended up being the dominant paradigm for personal computers. The form factor and interface of the iPhone has changed the phone industry. The iPad has changed the PC industry, and although it has been widely emulated, it's still garnering 68% market share so far this year. Plus, his iTunes store has revolutionized the approach to distribution of digital media. And now Apple's iCloud is setting a standard for integration across devices.

It's been said that Jobs left a 6-year road map for Apple when he passed away last year, so let's hope that more wonderful innovations are in the pipeline. And all indications are that that is the case. AppleInsider has just uncovered a patent showing that Apple is exploring creating automated homes. Using NFC (near-field communication) chips, the iPhone would control just about everything in its vicinity: Apple TV, Mac, iPod, cable box, PlayStation controller, home sprinkler system, thermostat, camera, lighting, security system, garage door opener, etc., as well as one's digital wallet and secure e-ticketing system. The 144-page filing that Apple submitted suggests that the company has all the details figured out. It appears that Apple will just keep on changing our world.

Steve Jobs not only influenced our technology and culture, but also, for better or worse, entrepreneurship and management. Yes, he was a legend for demanding perfection, but his mood swings, temper, and aggression were also legendary. An article in Wired magazine discusses the co-existence of his genius and aggression — and says that he has inspired a generation of entrepreneurs to emulate his ruthlessness in the pursuit of vision. 

The article says that Jobs's management style is a sort of antidote against the conventional wisdom of worker empowerment and consensus. Make the cows happy, the conventional wisdom says, and they'll give more milk. Jobs brought back the old-school autocratic approach that, the article says, gives bosses "permission to be aggressive and domineering again." It's okay to tell people their work is crap. And the article quotes entrepreneurs inspired by this approach. Yet this approach comes with the recognition that there's collateral damage: people are hurt.

Love him or hate him, Steve Jobs continues to influence.

As a postscript, let me mention that I recently got Google's Nexus 7 tablet. I was just very curious about the Android platform, Jelly Bean in particular. And curious about this tablet in particular. I'm impressed with it. But the thing that has really struck me is how much it copies the iPad. Yes, it has its own personality, but the underlying conception is iPad all the way.

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Jim Karpen's picture

Jim Karpen holds a Ph.D. in literature and writing, and has a love of gizmos. His doctoral dissertation focused on the revolutionary consequences of digital technologies and anticipated some of the developments taking place in the industry today. Jim has been writing about the Internet and technology since 1994 and has been using Apple's visionary products for decades.