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Jobs 'most important innovator of our times'

By Leander Kahney, Special to CNN
  • Steve Jobs, who has been ill with cancer, steps down as CEO of Apple
  • Leander Kahney says Jobs' influence has been greater than that of anyone else in industry
  • From Apple II to Mac to iPad and iPhone, his goal was to make technology universal, he says
  • Kahney: Jobs' products are ubiquitous; he's the most important innovator of our times

Editor's note: Leander Kahney is the editor and publisher of Cult of Mac, a blog devoted to Apple. He is also the author of "Inside Steve's Brain" (Atlantic Books), a biography of Steve Jobs.

(CNN) -- I was standing at the checkout in a store Wednesday when I heard Steve Jobs had resigned from Apple. Someone shouted it out to the crowd. He was holding his cell phone. It was such important news, he felt it should be announced publicly. It felt like a historic moment.

I've been following Jobs and his career for more than a decade. I even wrote a book about him. His resignation was inevitable, especially given his latest medical leave (he has been battling pancreatic cancer), and if I'd stopped to think about it, it probably should have been sooner than this. But it seemed as though it would be sometime in the future -- maybe next year, or the year after.

Jobs' resignation letter

So it came as a shock. Jobs' life is his work, and if he's not working, it may mean the worst. He will assume the brand new position of "chairman." Tim Cook, Apple's chief operating officer, will take over his job as CEO.

Still, it's a sad day.

Jobs' influence has been greater than that of anyone else in the industry -- from his shepherding of the first PC designed specifically for consumers, the Apple II, to the Mac, which set the standard for PC interfaces.

Timeline of Jobs' career

Jobs' ambition was to make high technology universal. At the beginning of his career, he pushed his buddy Steve Wozniak to design in 1977 the first personal computer for ordinary people. The Apple II, one of the first mass-produced home computers, had to have a nice, well-designed case and be up and running straight out of the box. This was at a time when other companies were selling PCs that had to be soldered together by the user.

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Jobs had the same vision and ambition -- to bring technology to the masses -- in every year that followed. In 1984, the Macintosh ("Mac") first made graphical computing accessible and kicked off the "cult of Mac."

Jobs' sway on technological products has become near universal. They are no longer niche products. Like the telephone or the automobile, we all use computers -- for work, for play, to create and to communicate.

His influence is likely to become even greater. The iPhone and iPad are setting the stage for a new generation of truly personal mobile computers. It's not hard to imagine that one day everyone will have one (or at least a cheap knockoff).

As with the PCs that came before them, these products are showing the rest of the industry how it's done. They are easy and intuitive to use. They have a delightful magic.

And all this comes from a hippie kid who had the ambition to put a dent in the universe and the vision that technology had to be easy enough for even kids to use.

Look around. Jobs' products have become universal, like the automobile or the telephone. He's the most important innovator of our times, and his resignation is a great loss.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Leander Kahney.