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msnbc.com contributor

Explainer: Steve Jobs' greatest products

  • Apple co-founder Steve Jobs died on Wednesday, but he left behind a legacy full of iconic products. We've rounded up some of the most significant ones for you — along with a little bit of their history.

  • Mac OS X - Overhauling the operating system

    Apple CEO Steve Jobs announces that Apple's new op
    John G. Mabanglo  /  AFP/Getty Images
    The Mac OS X title encompasses a series of operating systems released by Apple under code names including Cheetah, Puma, Jaguar, Panther, Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard, and Lion. Mac OS X 10.0 — better known as Cheetah — was made publicly available in March 2001. The latest version of the popular operating system series, Mac OS X Lion, was released in July 2011.

  • NeXT - Innovation in exile

    NeXT
    The NeXT computer was packaged in a one-foot cube-shaped case and introduced in 1988, after Jobs had been removed from Apple. It was a high-end workstation which — despite not winning over many customers — is noted as being the system on which the first Web browser was written. It is also worth mentioning that the world's first Internet-connected server was supposedly a NeXT system.

  • Macintosh - Computers get cute

    Paul Sakuma  /  AP
    Recognizable by its iconic beige all-in-one case, the Macintosh 128K is the first member of the Macintosh family of personal computers. It was released in January 1984 — with a dramatic Super Bowl commercial — and touted a $2,500 price tag (which was considered quite reasonable when it came to personal computers at that time).

    The original Macintosh 128K would be discontinued in October 1985, but its lineage continued on — with models including the Macintosh 512K, the PowerBook Duo, the Power Macintosh, the PowerBook G3, the iMac, the Power Mac G4, the iBook, the Mac Mini, the MacBook, the MacBook Pro, the MacBook Air, and many more models in-between and after.

  • MacBook Air - Winning with thin

    A new MacBook Air ultra thin laptop sits
    Tony Avelar  /  AFP/Getty Images
    The MacBook Air was described as the "world's thinnest notebook" during its January 2008 introduction. And that was no joke — the device was an unprecedented 0.16-inches at its thinnest point. Steve Jobs presented it by pulling it out of a manila envelope. Initially Apple would only offer a 13.3-inch MacBook Air model, but in October 2010, an 11.6-inch version was announced.

    The MacBook Air managed to squeeze a full-sized keyboard and display into a powerful little package which included 1.6 GHz or 1.8 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor (which would in later years be replaced by Intel Core i5 and Core i7 dual-core processors).

    It's worth noting that — like all of Apple's notebooks since the original MacBook Pro — the MacBook Air incorporates Apple's MagSafe —a proprietary magnetically-attached power connector system.

  • Lisa - Ahead of its time

    Franck Fife  /  AFP/Getty Images
    The Apple Lisa was a personal computer introduced in the early 1980s. Its name is supposedly either an acronym for "Local Integrated Software Architecture" or a nod to Steve Jobs' first daughter, Lisa Jobs.

    While it wasn't exactly a bestseller — it is rumored that thousands of unsold units were sent to a landfill — the computer is noted for its significance in computing history. It was considered to be superior to what was coming out of the Macintosh project at that time and included a tight integration between hardware and software. Oh, and a built-in screensaver, which was uncommon at the time.

  • iTunes - Instant gratification via the Internet

    Apple Unveils Music Store
    Getty Images
    Apple introduced the iTunes digital jukebox software in January 2001, a few months before the unveiling of the first-generation iPod. Two years later the company announced the opening of the iTunes Music Store, a place where over 200,000 songs could be purchased for 99 cents each.

    In October 2005, the iTunes Store would expand to include TV shows and music videos. In September 2006, it would begin offering full-length movie downloads and by January 2008 movie rentals would be available thanks to arrangements with all major film studios.

    As of October 2011, Apple has sold over 15 billion songs through the iTunes Store.

  • iPod - A pocket-sized revolution

    Apple's New ortable Music Player
    Getty Images
    When it introduced the iPod in October 2001, Apple advertised that the portable media player is a way to carry "1,000 songs in your pocket." Since then, the company has introduced — and retired — several members of the iPod product family including the iPod Mini, iPod Nano, iPod Shuffle, and iPod Touch. Each new model has offered significantly more storage capacity than the original 5GB device.

    As of October 2011, Apple has sold over 320 million iPod devices and deemed it the "world's most popular music player."

  • iPhone - Mobile computing hits next level

    MacWorld Expo Contiunes In San Francisco
    David Paul Morris  /  Getty Images
    In January 2007, Apple unveiled the iPhone. It described the gadget as "combining three products — a revolutionary mobile phone, a widescreen iPod with touch controls and a breakthrough Internet communications device with desktop-class email, Web browsing, searching and maps — into one small and lightweight handheld device."

    The iPhone ran Apple's very own mobile operating system, which has since been dubbed iOS. The phone was initially offered in the U.S. exclusively by cellular provider AT&T.

    Since the first-generation iPhone, Apple has introduced the iPhone 3G, the iPhone 3GS, the iPhone 4 and — most recently — the iPhone 4S. At this point the mobile devices are available on three major U.S. carriers — AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint — as well as a number of international cellular providers.

  • iPad - Challenger to the PC

    Ryan Anson  /  AFP/Getty Images
    When he stepped onto a stage to show off the iPad for the very first time in January 2010, Steve Jobs described the device as something "magical and revolutionary." The 9.7-inch slate-like gadget offered a high-resolution multi-touch display, Apple's A4 system-on-a-chip processor and an impressive 10-hour battery. The device was offered in a Wi-Fi-only as well as in a 3G-enabled version.

    The next generation tablet, the iPad 2, was announced in March 2011. It was thinner, lighter and faster than the original device — and included front- and back-facing cameras for use with Apple's FaceTime video chat and Photo Booth apps.

  • iMac - End of the beige computer

    Apple's Latest Product The Imac
    Getty Images
    Apple's iMac line of desktop computers includes several models introduced since 1998 — from the brightly colored iMac G3 all-in-one to the lamp-shaped iMac G4 to the slender iMac G5 to the latest aluminum unibody model.

    The iMac line has seen a great deal of change since the first iMac G3, which was a 233-MHz CRT unit. The most recent model comes in 21.5- and 27-inch flat-panel versions and advertises processor speeds of up to 2.93 GHz.

  • Apple II - Homeward bound

    APPLE II
    Eric Risberg  /  AP
    The Apple II series of computers is considered among the first successful mass-produced personal computers. The first model was introduced in June 1977 and the line withered off in November 1993.

    This particular line of PCs was significant as it was competitively priced and as a result made its way into many households, businesses, and educational institutions.

    To this day, there are individuals who use Apple II applications on either carefully maintained systems — which are considered collectors' items — or by relying on emulator software.

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