The sad passing of Steve Jobs deserves a moment to reflect upon how his products shaped the Department of Defense. At first blush, there isn't much to say. Military laptops and desktops, almost without exception, employ Microsoft Windows operating systems, and hardware from Dell, Toshiba and other well-known brands. Military-issued handheld devices - Smart Phones, GPS transceivers, laser target designators, laser range finders, etc. - often employ BlackBerry systems, or custom designed hardware and software. The artful design choices that evoke so much emotion when looking at Apple devices has always been a low priority for defense product engineering shops.
Yet the dearth of Apple or Apple-inspired military products overlooks the grassroots, almost disruptive impact Apple has had on the military over the past 10 years. This influence began on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, where Soldiers seeking an escape played music on their iPods and connected to family through their video camera-enabled Macbooks. It gained momentum with the release of the iPhone and iPod Touch and the opening of the AppStore, innovations that quickly found a combat role, and shocked a military industrial complex that was fielding cumbersome GPS handhelds and radios that lacked graphical user interfaces. And Apple's influence will likely continue to grow and shape military products as the iPad proliferates, Apple business enterprise offerings gain acceptance, and the iCloud reaches it's full potential.
With these game-changing innovations, the level of Apple's influence on the military may continue grow. However, Jobs' death may very well slow the pace of change the consumer electronics industry - led by Apple - has on the military industrial complex. And for that reason, in addition to countless others, he will be sorely missed.