Michelle Catin|Oct 6, 2011

I came across an interesting Ted Talk the other day about innovation. The speaker asked if great inventors had the foresight to see unintended consequences in their innovations.  I was reminded of this when I heard Steve Jobs had died, and wondered if his intentions were to change the world, as he sat in his parent’s garage, building the first Apple computer.The innovations that Jobs set out to pave, go beyond the limits of our imaginations.  He has affected the way we use technology, even if you don’t own an Apple product. As my colleague, Esther Griego put it, “he invented the modern day computer interface.  Before Steve, people were computing in DOS.”His biggest contribution? Some may say modern adoption of the smart phone. He didn’t invent the smart phone, he made it better. He created consumer passion and we can thank him for walking around with our cell phones attached like placentas, fueling our  everyday  lives. Our phones have become megaphones, the new way we consume media (music, news, etc.) and the way we stay in touch with friends, families and brands beyond any “traditional” method. Because of this, Jobs has had a huge impact on my career and as a digital communicator, mobile strategies are always top of mind.However, the truth is that Jobs leaves behind a greater legacy. His innovations will last for many years, and it’ll be very hard not to see Steve Jobs in our every day lives.  Here are some of his not so obvious innovations:

  • USB Port – Steve Jobs did not invent the USB port, but he standardized it in the late 90’s.  USB ports were a unique selling proposition for Apple computers and their positioning focused heavily on “easy plug and play.” USB ports allowed users to simply plug in peripherals (mouse, keyboards, printers) without the need to install software. This became a hardware industry standard, and USB ports have now become essential in every computer.
  • Mouse – Jobs can also be accredited for delivering the first computer mouse to the masses. He was inspired by a similar technology invented by Xerox, but designed it so that it could be cost-effectively mass-produced.
  • Micropayments –iTunes is the archetype of the micropayment business model. For a small dollar amount, consumers can own digital goods, like music, videos, books, games and apps.  Through iTunes, Jobs made the music industry profitable again and it created a competitive developers marketplace via the App Store.  This unique business model paved the way for some of today’s most successful micropayment companies, including Zynga (Farmville) and Amazon. We can expect to see more micropayment business models in the upcoming years.
  • Product design – There is no doubt that Apple products are beautiful. The simplicity of their design and their usability were built with the consumer in mind every step of the way. We’ve become spoiled because we now expect our electronics to not only look pretty, but also work flawlessly. It’s innovations like the iPhone, MacBook and iPod that drive competition to the marketplace, and make companies deliver better products for consumers.

So did Steve Jobs intend to change the world? I think so because “the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” Can you think of other not so obvious Steve Jobs innovations?


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