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How Steve Jobs changed mobility

Melissa J. Perenson | Oct. 10, 2011
It's no dispute that Steve Jobs' influence on technology has been far and wide. However, in reflection, one could say he single-handedly transformed and redefined mobility in the 21st century, in a way no other technology company or individual has done.

It's no dispute that Steve Jobs' influence on technology has been far and wide. However, in reflection, one could say he single-handedly transformed and redefined mobility in the 21st century, in a way no other technology company or individual has done.

In this regard, mobility refers to more than just computing, and more than just cell phones; it goes beyond that the devices we carry every day, to include both what they're designed to do and how we use them.

Jobs had the vision to push through the kinds of mobile products that had long been conceived of in futuristic settings--the "PADD" and communicators seen in the classic Star Trek, for example--or were until recently limited to "Japan-only" as opposed to the worldwide mass market.

A Mobile World -- Jobs-style

His vision for mobile, and for a mobile ecosystem, helped fuel the first iPhone five years ago, and later products like the App Store and the MacBook Air. These are products that, before Jobs put his touch on it, all but floundered in the mainstream--or never surfaced at all.

Think, for a moment, about life before the iPhone. I know I took a moment to reflect on this, after news spread about Jobs' passing. I remember well the early touchscreen phones, with proprietary and obtuse interfaces and a lack of complementary software to run on the phone. Most everything -- including acquiring content like music or videos, or using GPS navigation -- was controlled through the mobile carriers. It was an unfortunate situation for consumers, to be sure.

The mobile phone market was simply a messy cacophony of devices until the iPhone debuted in all of its touchscreen wonder in 2007. Competitors were light years behind Jobs' creation -- and even with the debut of the first Android phone more than a year later, it took a long time for the competition to catch up. It took both vision and the fearless ability to follow through on that vision to make the iPhone happen, and when it did -- instantly -- the rest of the market had to play catch-up.

Fast forward to today. The iPhone is ubiquitous -- I see it everywhere I travel, and Tokyo, where I'm writing this, is no exception. But more than that, it's about how I can use my iPhone seamlessly around the world, no differently than if I were in the States (save for the exorbitant international roaming -- which is why I'm using the Wi-Fi instead). I can access Google Maps pedestrian directions to destinations, based on exactly where I am; and I can browse the Web for store hours on-the-fly from a street corner on the Ginza, or for finding a metro map.

 

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