10/06/2011 08:53 am ET | Updated Dec 06, 2011

Steve Jobs: Great Insights for Software and Hardware. What Was the End Game?

Steve Jobs had a great sense of what hardware and software could do. My mother, in her 90s, can use her Apple laptop and tablet to check her Facebook page. I know countless people who were both terrible or great at the geekier side of computing that fell in love with Apple's products, and benefited greatly from Jobs ability to design and make products that were both more powerful and easier to use at the same time. That said, it was not clear what his longer run vision was for society, other than to sell us more Apple products.

Jobs was willing to build his newer products on free open source software and then use proprietary extensions and standards and patent litigation to marginalize free software. He was quite good at turning the operating system and applications into a store to buy things from Apple.

While Jobs was building Apple in a giant brand, I did not see much of an appreciation of the need to find ways to support the creation of software or other knowledge goods as public goods. This was a shortcoming, not as a businessman, but as a visionary.

Earlier, Apple took several steps to undermine the open document format, and engineer incompatibly between Apple and the Linux, at a time when Linux was a possible candidate to challenge Microsoft Office and Windows desktop products. Apple choose to be the high end partner in a two company dominance of software for desktop computers, and today plays a similar role as the high margin alternative to the Android Linux products for mobile phones and tablet computers. With Jobs gone, his vision will likely endure for some time, but with less magic and charisma.

In the end, Jobs' gift of making software and hardware work for people was the main thing, and impressive enough, reminding us that sometimes the best thing people can do for society is to do their best at their daytime job. Jobs promised great computers and software, and if you could afford it, and shared his vision, it was better than anything anyone else could have delivered.