When historians look back at the legacy of Apple and the revolutionary products they created what will they say was the turning point, the catalyst that projected Apple from an almost bankrupt company to the most recognized and admired brand in the world to-date? Would it have been the release of iTunes, the first iPod, iPhone or the iPad?
Though it goes without saying that those products changed the future of computing, but the turning point was Apple (really Steve Jobs at this point) deciding to change the MacOS platform over to NeXTStep…the basis of which is Cocoa. To put that importance in perspective that is like Bill Gate walking in to the team that was working on developing Windows95 and saying STOP what you are working on! We are going to start over from scratch on this OS and make it sustainable for the foreseeable future.
*Bill Gates didn't do that and as a consequence their OS sucks.
Up until that moment that Steve made that executive decision Apple had been busy working on a new OS since the one that had been in production had reached the limits of its single-user, co-operative multitasking architecture and the UI was certainly looking dated. From that decision alone the world would later be introduced to Mac OS X and iOS. I am not sure of the stats for the latest iOS, but as of iOS 3.0 both iOS and Mac shared 80% of the same libraries and with each iteration, and the upcoming release of Lion, that gap will decrease.
When people talk about company leadership, for this humble technologist/developer, this is what all about. Being able to see longevity in your product before it is conceived, make a definitive decision and see it through. Are Apple and Jobs fortune tellers? Could he see that his decision would one day be the basis for the next evolution in mobile computing, of course not. But what he did see was the need to have a solid foundation for the buildings of those world changing products could/would be built.
That is VISION. That is LEADERSHIP. The rest is HISTORY.