The transition went much faster – and much smoother – than anyone had anticipated, thanks in large part to Rosetta. The dynamic translator let applications designed for PowerPC systems run on Intel-based Macs, giving developers time to revamp their products for Apple’s Intel-based future. In fact, PowerPC apps only became obsolete this summer when Apple retired Rosetta with the introduction of Mac OS X Lion.

Beyond the Mac

Of course, the assorted transitions during Jobs’ reign as CEO weren’t confined to the Mac. Perhaps the greatest transition Jobs initiated was moving Apple away from being just a software and computer maker and into the world of consumer electronics. The shift became official in 2007 when Apple dropped the word “Computer” from its name, simply calling itself Apple Inc, and began with the iPod.

When Apple unveiled its music player in the autumn of 2001, the market for MP3 players was in its early stages. Devices at the time relied on small amounts of flash memory that could hold only a handful of songs. In short, it was a field that was ripe for innovation – and innovate Apple did. The iPod’s 5GB capacity gave it the storage space to, in Apple’s words, “put 1,000 songs in your pocket”. Though iTunes debuted earlier in 2001, it was with the iPod’s October 2001 release that Apple’s ecosystem started to take shape. “We love music,” Jobs said during the iPod’s introduction. “And it’s always good to do something you love.”

Apple moved fast with the iPod, diversifying the range to expand its appeal and consolidate its market reach

It proved to be lucrative for Apple, too. The company has sold hundreds of millions of iPods in the last decade, and though sales growth slowed and then declined in recent years, Apple continues to enjoy a 70 per cent share of the MP3 player market. Part of the reason for the device’s success? Apple’s repeated willingness to reinvent the iPod line. Steve Jobs seemed to anticipate the demand for the iPod from the get-go. “Music’s a part of everyone’s life,” he said at the 2001 launch event. “Music’s been around forever. This is not a speculative market. And because it’s a part of everyone’s life, it’s a very large target market all around the world.”

The advent of the iPhone

The iPod didn’t create a new product category, and nor did the iPhone with 2007’s iPhone introduction. Smartphones had existed before, but were aimed largely at business customers who wanted to check their email on the move.

Apple set its sights on the broader consumer market with a product that boasted stunning design, ease of use, and a harmonious marriage between software and hardware.

“Every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything,” Jobs said at the 2007 Macworld Expo keynote when he pulled the first iPhone out of his pocket. “Apple’s been very fortunate. It’s been able to introduce a few of these into the world.”

That may sound like the kind of “reality distortion field”-style hype that Jobs became famous for. But it also happens to be true. Look no further than how other smartphone makers responded – with devices that mirrored the iPhone’s touch-screen controls, powerful web browser, and array of third-party mobile apps.

The post-PC era

Now Apple’s leading us into the “post-PC” era – a period in which mobile devices no longer need to sync up with computers. It was with that vision in mind that Apple rolled out the iPad, which brings PC-style computing to a handheld device. Launched less than two years ago, the iPad has already carved out a new market for tablet computing, with other companies once again trying to keep pace with Apple. It also joins the original Mac, the iPod, and the iPhone among the revolutionary products Jobs helped develop during his Apple career.

That’s a lot of achievements in a very short period of time.

Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2004. After surgery he returned to Apple, but had to take another leave of absence in 2009, ultimately undergoing a liver transplant. He took his final leave of absence in January 2011.

This August, Jobs resigned as CEO. “I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I’d be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come,” Jobs said in a letter addressed ‘to the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community’. He continued: “I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role. I’ve made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.”
It would be a mistake to characterise Jobs’ time at Apple by the products that were  released. Those came about because of principles held by Jobs that he made sure were shared by others at Apple, especially as he refashioned the company following his 1997 return to Cupertino.

The products mentioned throughout this story might not have come to pass were it not for Apple’s constant need to innovate. It’s worth noting that some of Apple’s biggest product releases during Jobs’ tenure – the iPod and the iPad especially – were developed during recessions when consumers were less inclined to spend money on pricey electronics.

“The way we’re going to survive is to innovate our way out of this,” Jobs told Time Magazine in early 2002, a strategy the company returned to when the economy went south again in 2008. In both instances, Apple under Jobs upped its research-and-development spending, helping the company produce a strong product lineup that could weather tough financial times.

So what’s the secret ingredient? There’s a special approach to creating products that sticks with other Apple employees, even after they leave the company. “You almost imagine that Steve is in your office,” Flipboard founder and ex-Apple engineer Evan Doll told the San Francisco Chronicle. “You say to yourself, ‘what would he say about this?’ When you’re kicking around an idea for a product, or for a feature, you’ll even say it in discussion – ’Steve Jobs would love this!’ or, more often, ‘Steve Jobs would say this isn’t good enough!’ He’s like the conscience sitting on your shoulder.”