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Steve Jobs' gift to the Church

  • 02 September 2011

Rupert Murdoch may well outlive Steve Jobs, who last week announced his resignation from his role as CEO of Apple due to declining health. But Murdoch won't outlast the impact Jobs has had on the media and the communications industry.

Jobs has made five critical contributions of enduring importance. Apple II was the first personal computer, and with it came the transformation of publishing, thanks to software that allowed you to do it on your desktop. Apple also transformed film and video editing, producing affordable and accessible software that meant anyone could perform tasks that had previously been the preserve of professionals.

Later, the iPod transformed the music industry and saw an end to many revenue models. The iPhone changed telephony and the ways in which we access that ubiquitous source of information and exchange, the internet. And the iPad has transformed computing, by making that critical thing that the internet brings to computers — interaction — affordable and mobile.

Not bad. But what is even more significant than these breakthroughs is how Apple, under Jobs' direction, has led innovation and directed media innovation.

I'm old enough to remember what the publishing world was like before the advent of desktop publishing. That development compressed the work of five people — typist, compositor, editor, proof reader and layout artist — into the work of one.

This put publishing in the hands of any individual or institution that wanted to become its own information source, and produce its own material independent of production houses and printers. It also fuelled the rise of publishers, mastheads and brands that later held complete sway in the print media.

Add the internet to the mix and you can bypass established channels in order to distribute your own material. Everyone becomes their own publishing hub. The capacity that Apple brought to editing and producing audiovisual content meant that everyone could be a telecaster, too.

Most remarkably, Jobs and Apple have created tools for bulding things the world badly needs: interaction, connection and community. There are forces at work in modern culture that break relationships and divide communities. The tools Jobs and Apple offer, married to the channels of online communication, from email to Facebook, provide tangible means of building community upon positive, shared purposes.

Never mind that they can also be used to isolate individuals or provide a platform for the pompous