BREAKINGVIEWS - Apple effect far greater than $350 bln market cap

Fri Oct 7, 2011 1:07pm IST

A tribute to Apple Inc., co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs is left in front of an Apple store in downtown Montreal, October 6, 2011. Jobs died on October 5, 2011 at age 56 of cancer. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi/Files

A tribute to Apple Inc., co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs is left in front of an Apple store in downtown Montreal, October 6, 2011. Jobs died on October 5, 2011 at age 56 of cancer.

Credit: Reuters/Christinne Muschi/Files

Related Topics

(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.)

By Martin Hutchinson

NEW YORK (Reuters Breakingviews) - Steve Jobs leaves behind a company with a huge $350 billion market capitalization, but it is actually much bigger than that. Apple, which Jobs co-founded and ran through most of its history, has changed the world several times.

The company's first great development was the Apple II, which made personal computers easy to use. It worked especially well with Dan Bricklin's VisiCalc software, the first successful spreadsheet program. Now automatic recalculation and easy adjustments are taken for granted, but then they were revolutionary for anyone who worked with numbers.

Apple lost the PC marketing wars to IBM and Microsoft, but remained the trend-setter. The 1984 Macintosh's point-and-click technology (partly derived from Xerox's 1970s Palo Alto Research Center) reduced the need to remember innumerable tricky-to-use DOS commands and brought out the visual and tactile potential of computers. The rivals only fully caught up a decade later with Windows 95.

The revolutions continued when Jobs returned to Apple after 12 years away (revolutionizing animation at Pixar while he was gone). The iPod set a new standard for storing and playing music digitally, but Apple's greatest effect on the world came with the iPhone.

The leap of imagination -- the combination of mobile phone and computing capability, mixed in with cool design, and fun to use -- still seems awesome. The cultural effect cannot be measured. It leveled the world: even the most remote tribesman with a smartphone is connected to the Internet cloud as if he were in a New York office. Apple is losing share in smartphones, but still deserves most of the credit for their development.

Jobs' genius for design and understanding of the needs of non-technical users has helped make the tech sector a consumer business -- and thereby revolutionized the economy and the lives of almost everyone. The latest effort is the iPad. Frank J. Fleming, a fan, called it "the only thing that's met my childhood expectations of what 2011 would be like." It is hard to argue. An earlier apple is said to have spurred Isaac Newton to discover gravity. This Apple may be just as important.

(Editing by Edward Hadas and Martin Langfield)

FILED UNDER:

SAARC Summit

REUTERS SHOWCASE

E-Commerce Boom

E-Commerce Boom

Online grocers come up trumps in India's e-commerce boom   Full Article 

Reuters Poll

Reuters Poll

GDP growth to slow to 5.1 pct, but no rate cut yet  Full Article 

Oil Prices Fall

Oil Prices Fall

Oil at four-year low as OPEC production cut looks unlikely  Full Article 

Google in Europe

Google in Europe

Insight - Behind Google's Europe woes, American accents  Full Article 

Vodafone Tax Dispute

Vodafone Tax Dispute

India advised against challenging Vodafone tax ruling - source  Full Article 

India-focused Funds

India-focused Funds

India-focused hedge funds up over 40 pct YTD - HFR  Full Article 

Trade Deal

Trade Deal

WTO postpones trade deal by a day after last-minute objection.  Full Article 

RBI Rate Hopes

RBI Rate Hopes

Markets pricing in rate cut, despite wary RBI  Full Article 

Land Disputes

Land Disputes

Disputes over land for industry on the rise in India, angering locals - charities  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device  Full Coverage