For months after the introduction of the Apple iPad, hundreds of thousands of early adopters sat hunched over their new tablet computers trying to figure out what to do with them.

The customers knew it was an Apple product, so they knew it came from a line of transformational devices that have changed the way people think about information, communication, arts, entertainment and technology. They wanted to be a part of the ongoing revolution, even if they did not know exactly where it was heading.

That leadership and ability to generate excitement and loyalty in the marketplace is the legacy of Steve Jobs, the Apple CEO, who died Wednesday at 56. Some people, like former Maine Gov. Angus King, have called him a genius on par with American innovators like Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.

We’ll see if his impact lasts as long as theirs, but it is clear now that Jobs was the most important businessman of his time and one whose career points to an economic future we would be wise to embrace.

Jobs and his company became a shorthand way to talk about the information technology revolution that he did not start, but which he invigorated by developing products that were easy for anyone to use, putting computer power into the hands of people who would otherwise never have had access. It’s no surprise that Jobs’ company was the one that partnered with Maine during King’s term in office to put laptop computers in the hands of every public school seventh and eighth grader, immersing a whole generation in a new way of thinking about technology in every corner of the state.

Research no longer required access to a good local library. School projects were as likely to involve Web page design or video production as a written report. Communication could be global and instant.

Today, we in Maine are like the early iPad adopters. We know we are part of a revolution, but we don’t know exactly where we are headed. In this new world, almost any task can be done in almost any place. A place like Maine, with its natural beauty and attractive lifestyle, could benefit if it has the right underlying structures.

An ongoing public-private effort to bring high-speed Internet to all parts of the state is a crucial and long-overdue first step. A stronger focus on math, science and technology education from the early grades through the university level is also a must. Access to the Internet and an educated work force are keys to participating in the new economy.

Everyone will be trying to follow the path that Jobs started, but now without his leadership. We expect others will step to the fore, but it will be some time before any of them are able to convey the same vision, excitement and confidence that was Jobs’ trademark.