Steve Jobs hasn’t been exactly short of resounding successes in his last ten years at the helm of Apple. Macs have become mainstream and iPods have changed music forever. But it’s the iPhone, and more specifically iOS, which is arguably Jobs’s finest achievement during his second stint at Apple.
It’s changed everything, from the way we use mobile phones, to the way competitors create products. Without it, it’s hard to envisage how our connected world would look today. That might seem glib, but it laid the foundation not just for Apple, but also big name rivals like Google and Microsoft.
iOS initially seemed like an alien concept, so different was it to anything else around when it was first seen, as iPhone OS, back in January 2007.
Dismissed by the likes of Nokia, it was seen as too simplistic. But that’s surely its central joy. Using iOS is utterly intuitive. Even the most technophobic type can get to grips with swiping through apps.
Of course, as it grew, it moved away from simply having a few native apps. The dawn of the app store in 2008 saw iOS take off truly. While Google’s Market had been trailed extensively and was released just a few months later, it lacked traction while the Big G’s software took time to get off the ground.
That’s now changed, with Android bossing the smartphone charts. But without iOS to lay the groundwork, especially in the area of apps, would Android have enjoyed the same success?
Yes, Android Market arrived around the same time. But it lacked the iOS App Store’s intuition and has only recently got its act together.
Steve Jobs didn’t create mobile apps, but with iOS, he helped make the mainstream and easy-to-access. Likewise, would Microsoft have really torn up Windows Mobile and shifted to Windowes Phone without it? It’s iOS’s mainstream stylings that truly make it Jobs’ number one achievement.
Mac OS might be stunning, but it still lags miles behind Windows 7 in terms of volume and penetration. iOS is the thing that really pushed Apple’s software into the hands of the masses, in the same way the iPod did in terms of hardware.
Millions of people using iPhones were able to see what Apple did differently. This was evidently Jobs intention from the get-go, despite the iPhone’s position as a premium, big-ticket item.
But it’s more than just getting iOS into iPhone users’ hands. Without iOS, the rampant success of the iPad, and Apple’s domination of the tablet market, would not have happened.
Using Mac OS X was a non-starter. Jobs had seen what Windows Vista and 7 tablets looked like and knew that was too much. iOS on the iPad allowed Jobs to prove that we don’t need hefty operating systems to complete complex tasks.
He’s described this as the “post PC world”. While that is a touch grandiose, there is a ring of truth to it. iOS has helped lead us to a world where devices are better connected, simple to use and sharply designed. Not just Apple products, but ones from Google, Microsoft and even HP. There might be better options than iOS now, but its massive influence makes it Jobs’ crowning glory.