John Gruber, over at http://daringfireball.net has a discussion regarding Steve Jobs and what he was, in terms on an "inventor", tinkerer, etc.
It surprises me that people don't seem to get what Jobs was more clearly: He was a Synthesist. I immediately think of Professor Reisfeld from Robert Heinleins Have Spacesuit, Will Travel":
Pee Wee: He's the synthesist. Everybody else specializes. Daddy knows everything and puts the pieces together"
Jobs excelled at seeing where the pieces needed to be. The idea that people rattle off, that it was choo-choo time and therefore someone was going to make the railroad ignores the fact that no one else did. Would we have had the "iPad"? Sure. Maybe in another 4-5 years someone other than Jobs would have introduced something kinda like the iPhone. Or tablets might have morphed into what is now the iPad.
But I feel it's a lot more likely that it would have been 7-10 years of different designs (look at Android) being tried out, warring with each other instead of Jobs/Apple coming out with the correct design*.
Coming out with the correct design, and I want to stress this here, ON THE FIRST TRY.
Sure it needed faster hardware, better cell phone infrastructure, but the fact is that the iPhone was a grand slam, on the first try at the bat.
Of course, that was because Apple (under Jobs' tutelage) dumped EVERY design that wasn't what we saw as the final iPhone. I'll bet there were some real dogs in there. Likely we'll never see what they looked like.
So, yes, Jobs did us good, and he was a genius as a synthesist. The greatest works of Genius are the ones that are obvious after they come out. Anyone could have "discovered" gravity, as the character "Dirk Gently" states, after dropping a pencil, "see? they even keep it on weekends." But Newton did. I don't hear people griping about that.
*How do I know it's the "correct design? As Gruber notes, look at what phones looked like in 2007 and what they look like now. Take the hint.