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Steve Jobs’ death from cancer on Oct. 5, 2011 at the age of 55 was a significant blow not just to Apple, the company which he co-founded with Steve Wozniak in 1976, but to the generation of smartphone and tablet users who benefited directly from his creative innovations for over two decades.
In spite of the high-profile launches of both the iPad 2 and the iPhone 4S, for Apple 2011 was the year that the media focused primarily on the declining health and increasingly frail appearance of its CEO, Steve Jobs. Beginning with his appearance at the iPad 2 launch event in San Francisco on March 2, Jobs underwent severe scrutiny as rumors surfaced that he was coming to the end of his time at Apple.
This was in light of a press release published in January, in which he stated: “At my request, the board of directors has granted me a medical leave of absence so I can focus on my health”. For the next several months, online news outlets reported on his ambiguous health state until, finally, his death was confirmed on Oct. 5 by Apple’s board of directors in a statement reading, “Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being”.
In the weeks after Jobs’ death, Apple’s stock showed a noticeable decline and the future of the company, as well as its market lead with the iPad, came under question from many in the technological community. However, more fascinating than the business concerns associated with Jobs’ passing was the public’s endeavors to honor Jobs’ contribution to advancing all of our modern methods of communication.
Commemorative issues of various publications, ranging from Time to Bloomberg Businessweek were published; an official biography was announced; a public memorial was organised at the Apple Campus in Cupertino; and it was revealed that Jobs would receive an honourary Grammy award in 2012 for his contributions to the music industry, specifically with regards to his involvement with iTunes and how record labels were able to combat online music piracy in the early 2000s.
Finally, in December 2011 Steve Jobs was listed as the “Most Fascinating Person” by ABC’s annual television special. Host Barbara Walters noted that one of their fundamental rules is that “every fascinating person must be living… but rules were made to be broken and that was certainly how Steve Jobs lived his life”.
With this accolade, Jobs’ ongoing cultural significance and relevance was made apparent; while it remains to be seen what sort of public image Apple will craft without its turtleneck-wearing founder. Current CEO, Tim Cook, has already overseen the launch of the latest generation of Apple’s smartphone – the iPhone 4S – while both the next-generation iPad and iPhone are expected to be released at some point in 2012, indicating that the company intends to move full-steam ahead in an effort to strengthen its allegedly-narrowing lead over the tablet market.
2012 will be an important 12 months for Apple as it faces its first 12 months without Jobs’ influence, but 2011 will certainly be remembered by many as the year in which the world lost one of its cultural and technological visionaries.