Steve Jobs' indelible mark on the computer industry

There's unlikely to be another visionary like him

There is unlikely to be another visionary like Apple Chairman Steve Jobs, who died Wednesday at age 56 , no one who will have anything approaching his impact on the computer and electronics industries.

Ultimately, Jobs' stubbornly held convictions about how people should use computers and other devices won out against all his competitors and critics. The Macintosh, iPod, iPhone and iPad are all success stories. And Apple under his leadership seemed to get better and better at combining his vision with economic success.

The Macintosh may not have won the market share war, but the iPod and iPad certainly have. And the iPhone is in a two-horse race.

Apple has surpassed every other tech company in the U.S. in market cap. No matter what you think of the company's products, you have to tip your hat to its financial success, which after all, is what business is about.

The question left to answer is: What will Jobs' ultimate legacy be? Has he left behind a company now lacking the critical vision that was instrumental to its success, a company that will be crippled by his death? Or was Jobs the truly superb CEO that many believe him to be? Did he plan for succession and bring key members of his staff along to carry the torch for him after his departure?

We're about to find out.

I hope for Apple's millions of customers that Jobs was able to rein in his ego--that piece of him that was probably requisite to sticking to his guns on product design and functionality--just enough to do everything he could to make Apple continue on course without him. The man had eight years to come to terms with his death and do what was needed. I think he did that in his own way -- just look at the quick transition to CEO Tim Cook in August. For now, we should give Apple the benefit of the doubt.

Jobs' passing is a profound event for Apple, and for the tech industry. In one way, it's the end of the era of the computer industry's early, meteoric rise. In another, it's the fitting ending to a fairy-tale story of a man whose soaring highs and deep lows were merely the introduction to the story of his gradual return to success, against great odds.

In short, it's another example of the American dream with a truth-is-stranger-the-fiction Hollywood-esque quality about it. Even if you weren't an Apple fan, you may have found yourself rooting for Jobs. His brilliance was and is inescapable.

Scot Finnie is Computerworld's editor in chief. Follow Scot on Twitter at @scotfinnie or subscribe to his RSS feeds:articles | blogs . His e-mail address is sfinnien@computerworld.com .

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