Steve Jobs - capitalist innovator

Steve Jobs was born on 24th February 1955. By the time he died, aged 56, in 2011, he had changed the world. He was in many ways a poster boy for the innovative capitalist, introducing new products that displaced established ones and changed the way people behave. He was Schumpeter's "creative destruction" in action. In partnership with Steve Wozniak, he founded and led Apple, a company that became at one stage, the world's most valuable. Jobs himself became one of the world's richest men.

The roll call of Apple products reads like a list of the things that enhanced and enriched people's lives, and made new opportunities possible for them. The 1984 Macintosh featured a graphic user interface and a mouse. I saw one at Cambridge and was captured by its intuitive ease of operation. The 2001 iPod revolutionized the MP3 pocket music player. More significantly, it became a style icon. Apple products were decidedly cool among the young generation.

The 2007 iPhone was a sensation, and was Time Magazine's "invention of the year." It put the smartphone into people's pockets, and made portable computing a mass-market phenomenon. The iPad in 2010 was a product that created a demand not previously there. It put the product out to create its own market. Jobs quoted the hockey player Wayne Gretzky to describe Apple's policy: "I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been."

Some big firms relapse into crony capitalism, lobbying government for favours and relying on legislation to inhibit competitors instead of outperforming them on quality and price. This is not what capitalism should be, or where its benefits lie. Steve Jobs epitomized the role capitalism plays in introducing products that people freely buy because they perceive the benefits to themselves. He was also a globalist, bringing job opportunities that improved the prospects for people in poorer countries.

It helped that Jobs was a charismatic showman. Working with Jonathan Ive as designer, he made products that created a culture people willingly bought into. The smooth, sleek, white products with curved edges were things that people wanted to be seen with. Jobs was a symbol and a spokesman for the role that innovative capitalism can play in making the world a better place. He certainly did.