Let’s get this out of the way: the thing we’re lauding Steve Jobs for doesn’t yet exist. Tech pundits widely expect Apple to launch a tablet device in 2010, and they expect it to be thin, gorgeous, and game changing—but at the moment, yes, it is pure myth.You can forgive our expectations. When Jobs introduced the iPod in 2001, it seemed an appealing but insignificant little toy; by 2008, Apple had surpassed Wal-Mart as the biggest music retailer in the United States. When Jobs introduced the iPhone, pundits said it could never live up to the hype; instead it kick-started the mobile Internet and the world of handheld apps. Jobs bought Pixar in 1986 for $10 million and sold it to Disney for $7.5 billion. He built the Macintosh and OS X. Sorry, haters: when it comes to Jobs and the Apple tablet, the hype is justified.
Just as iTunes made Jobs a titan in music and movies, an iTablet would make Jobs an instant player in publishing—books, magazines, education—as well as other industries (retail, hospitality) that can make use of a portable device with a touch interface and Internet connectivity. Whether or not it releases a tablet in 2010, Apple will still make the most elegant desktop and laptop computers on the market, ones that PC makers will copy for years to come. The rumor mill will heat up for the fourth generation of the iPhone. Apple will make further inroads into delivering entertainment directly to homes, bypassing stores. And it will all bear Jobs’s imprimatur. More so than at other tech companies, Steve Jobs is Apple. It is his fanatical insistence on design perfection that creates such iconic devices; his theatricality that makes product launches so unmissable. The best indication of all is that Apple stock fluctuates in line with his health. If he remains well, 2010 will not be the last year that Jobs and Apple drive the world of technology.