Apple has had it's ups and downs to be sure. A giant at the outset of personal computer, the Jobs-Wozniack team (along with their investors) started with the Apple II* and never looked back.
*The Apple II is one of my first experiences with computers, along with Atari (with BASIC). I'm sure I am not alone, especially in my generation.
Except, of course, they did look back. After the initial success of Macintosh (and a brilliant commercial, shown below), the 1990's proved to be a little more difficult. IBM (and IBM clones) running Windows proved to be the commercial smash that really took home computing mainstream. But, none of that was Jobs' fault. He was forced out in 1985 over, as I understand it, being difficult to work with.
*It should be noted they never took it to the same level Apple did. Just enough to stay relevant.
In 2001, the game changed. Apple decided it could do more than computers. Out came the iPod, along with iTunes. Following that came the iPhone and now the iPad. The iPad especially demonstrates how much influence Apple has. Tablet PCs had been around for a while, and were thoroughly ignored by the public. Apple takes a swing at it, and now it's the hot new thing. Why did the iPad succeed while others failed? I don't entirely know. Especially not to the level it succeeded. Other than having a bigger screen and being prettier. That seems fairly minor to have the kind of runaway success* it has had. That seems to be the power of Jobs.
*Runaway success definitely compared to other tablets, anyway.
Apple has always seemed to have a quasi-religious following, especially since the iPod-era, for lack of a better name. That's the kind of following that allowed Apple to have more cash on hand than the US Government. Well, at least on Apple's end. Uncle Sam had (has?) its own problems to help on that end. Now that the leadership of Jobs is absent again, it will be interesting to see if Apple stays on top. Surely Jobs wasn't the only visionary to push Apple forward, but the malaise of the 90's could very well set in again.*
*For a decade that was really a very good one economically, it seems odd that Apple struggled so much, but now is one of the few companies to really do well during the downturn of Post-9/11. I guess that's the power of finding your niche.
The passing of Jobs is a major one in tech circles. The first of this generation of tech giants to pass. Passing on at 56 is a big help to that. I'm sure he didn't feel like he'd lived half his life at 28, but I'm told that's just the mystery of existence. RIP, Steve. We'll see if Bill Gates can get as touching an xkcd as you did.