Steven Paul Jobs, the co-founder, two-time CEO, and chairman of Apple Inc., died October 5, 2011, after a long battle with cancer. He was 56. He was is survived by his wife and four children.
The achievements in Jobs' career included helping to popularize the personal computer, leading the development of groundbreaking technology products including the Macintosh, iPod, and iPhone, and driving Pixar Animation Studios to prominence. Jobs’ charisma, drive for success and control, and vision contributed to revolutionary changes in the way technology integrates into and affects the daily life of most people in the world.
Steve Jobs' Early Life
Born in San Francisco in 1955, Jobs was was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs of Santa Clara, Calif.
Jobs attended high school in Cupertino, Calif., the city where Apple is based. In 1972, he briefly attended Reed College in Portland, Ore., but dropped out after a semester. Jobs returned to California in 1974 and landed a job with Atari, where his friend and eventual business partner Steve Wozniak also worked.
Apple – Rise and Eventual Ouster
Jobs co-founded Apple, then known as Apple Computer, with Steve Wozniak to provide a circuit board for hobbyists who built their own computers. Despite that homebrew beginning, Apple helped usher in the age of the personal computer with the introduction of the Apple II line in 1976.
Those machines soon gave way to a revolutionary change in desktop computing – the Macintosh. The Mac OS was the first commercially available and widely embraced system to use the graphical user interface that is common today and a mouse for interacting with the icons on the screen. The Mac was a giant success and rocketed Jobs and Apple into position as one of the world’s most important computer companies.
The company made a huge splash with its 1984 Super Bowl commercial that introduced that Macintosh, which played on George Orwell’s novel 1984 and positioned IBM as Big Brother, while Apple represented heroic rebels struggling for freedom.
By that time, Jobs had lured John Sculley, an experienced executive, away from PepsiCo to be Apple’s CEO. But, in 1985, amid a sales slump, Jobs lost a corporate power struggle to Sculley and the company’s board of directors, and left Apple.
NeXT – A New Challenge
Upon leaving Apple, Jobs founded NeXT Computer, a computer company that took the graphical lessons learned from the success of the Mac and married them to the computing power of Unix. The stylish and technologically advanced, but expensive, NeXT computers never caught on in the way that the Apple II or Mac lines did, though NeXT maintained a steady business from 1985-1997. And, come 1997, NeXT would take on a new, and much more central role -- at Apple.
Pixar – A Hobby Becomes a Powerhouse
While at NeXT, Jobs purchased a computer graphics division of Lucasfilm Ltd. in 1986 for $10 million. That division became Pixar Animation Studios, with Jobs as its CEO and majority shareholder.
Though originally intended as a computer hardware company aiming high-end machines at Hollywood, when that business failed to take off, the company transformed into a maker of animated movies with a contract with Disney.
Under Jobs’ leadership, Pixar became a dominant movie-making force in Hollywood, churning out a string of smash hits, including Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, and Wall-E, among others.
In 2006, Jobs engineered the sale of Pixar to the Walt Disney Co., a deal which landed him a spot on Disney’s board and made him the company’s largest individual shareholder. After the conclusion of that deal, Fortune Magazine named Jobs its Most Powerful Businessman of 2007.
The Return to Apple - Triumph
Jobs earned that title not only due to his role at Disney but also because, by that time, he had returned to Apple as its Chairman and CEO.
In late 1996, Jobs had overseen the sale of NeXT to Apple and returned to a leadership position in the company he co-founded. The technology underlying NeXT’s hardware and software was acquired in a $429 million deal in 1996 and became the foundation of Apple’s next-generation Mac OS X operating system.
When Apple CEO Gil Amelio was ousted by the company’s board of directors in 1997, Jobs returned to the company as its interim CEO.
At that time, Apple was foundering under low marketshare, a confused licensing strategy, diffuse product line, and lack of focus, all of which led to much speculation in the press and online that the company would either merge with another or go under. In order to keep the company afloat, Jobs immediately began a series of sometimes-unpopular cuts, including paring from Apple’s product lines middlingly successful but passionately followed products like the Newton PDA.
The first major hit product of Jobs’ second tenure at Apple was the iMac, an all-in-one computer introduced in 1998, which continues in production today. The iMac was followed by a string of hit laptop and desktop computers, though some failures - such as the Power Mac G4 cube - were mixed in.
Under Jobs’ leadership, Apple returned from the brink of bankruptcy to again become a stable, successful company. But, thanks to the introduction of a small gadget, the company would soon skyrocket.