Jobs created products that people love, and clearly his willingness to take "end-to-end responsibility for the user experience," as Isaacson describes it, was a big part of the successful formula.
When Behind, Leapfrog
This is what separates the modern Apples from the modern Research in Motions and Nokias. Merely getting back into the game isn't going to cut it if you're trying to become a player. You need to re-set the bar and redefine the terms of the market.
That's what Jobs did, Isaacon writes, after it became clear that the original iMac was missing the digital music boat:
People with PCs were downloading and swapping music and then ripping and burning their own CDs. The iMac’s slot drive couldn’t burn CDs. “I felt like a dope,” Jobs said. “I thought we had missed it.”
But instead of merely catching up by upgrading the iMac’s CD drive, he decided to create an integrated system that would transform the music industry. The result was the combination of iTunes, the iTunes Store, and the iPod, which allowed users to buy, share, manage, store, and play music better than they could with any other devices.
Contrast that with how RIM and HP last year entered the tablet market created by Apple's iPad. Both companies released tablets that weren't nearly as good as the iPad yet were priced identically.
Worse, the PlayBook and TouchPad were developed in response to the original iPad, but Apple already had released the iPad 2 in March 2011, ahead of RIM and HP's debut tablets. So not only did HP and RIM fail to leapfrog Apple in the tablet market, they even failed to catch up.
Isaacson cites many more keys to Jobs's success in the HBR piece. It's a good read.