Thursday October 6, 2011 8:37 pm
Steve Jobs, 1955-2011
Steve Jobs, the enigmatic and elusive chief executive of Apple, has died. He was 56.
His passing comes just one day after Apple unveiled its latest smartphone, the iPhone 4S. Tim Cook, the company's new CEO took the stage on Tuesday to unveil the phone and champion the many successes that Apple had accomplished under Jobs's tenure. Many of us hoped that the company's signature "one more thing" would be an appearance by Jobs, but we had to suffice with Cupertino's new product lineup, which Jobs no doubt had a hand in guiding.
Though Jobs suffered through various health setbacks in the past few years, he helped shape Apple into the powerhouse it is today. Few companies have people lined up around the block for their latest smartphone and hardware manufacturers would love even a fraction of Apple's iPad market share. Yesterday, Cook said that Apple has now sold 250 million iOS devices, all of which had to pass muster with the notoriously meticulous Jobs.
During his time in the tech spotlight, Jobs amassed a personal fortune of $8.3 billion, according to the latest figures from Forbes. He inspired an action figure, a fake blog persona, and numerous parodies featuring admirers donning his trademark uniform of black turtlenecks and jeans.
It wasn't always that way, though. Apple started like many a tech startup – in a garage. It was 1976 and the product was the Apple-1. There was no casing, power supply, keyboard, or monitor, and it was $700. Jobs and co-founder Steve Wozniak only sold about 200 of the devices, making about $20 each, but they had more success with the Apple II.
With some funds from venture capitalist Arthur Rock, they built 1,000 machines at a local factory and unveiled the device at the West Coast Computer Faire in 1978.
"My recollection is we stole the show, and a lot of dealers and distributors started lining up and we were off and running," Jobs said in a 1996 interview with PBS.
That helped the company go public in 1980, making Jobs and "the Woz" millionaires.
It wasn't all smooth sailing, however. Jobs handed the CEO reigns over to former Pepsi chief John Sculley in 1983 and the Mac launched the following year with the iconic "1984' TV commercial. But it was not like the iPhone or iPad rushes we see today; sales were sluggish and eventually, Sculley convinced the Apple board that Jobs needed to go.
In a 2010 interview with Cult of Mac, however, Sculley said that "looking back, it was a big mistake that I was ever hired as CEO. I was not the first choice that Steve wanted to be the CEO. He was the first choice, but the board wasn't prepared to make him CEO when he was 25, 26 years old."
"The one who should really be given credit for all that stuff while I was there is really Steve," Sculley said.
Jobs moved on to form NeXT Software, where he introduced a $7,000 monochrome system that was defeated in the market by products from Sun and others. As said in a 1994 piece, "Jobs's vaulting ambition and stunning egomania doomed him from day one." But despite the lackluster products, many people – from journalists to analysts to politicians – "were so easily captivated by Jobs's unparalleled charisma," PCMag said.
That charisma helped Jobs return to Apple – the company bought NeXT Software in 1996 for $400 million. At the time, Apple wasn't exactly thriving, but by March 1998, PCMag published a story called "Apple's Comeback," pointing to strong sales of its G3 processor and new software titles coming out of the Microsoft deal. That year also saw the unveiling of the popular iMac personal computer, and when Apple debuted the multi-colored, next-generation iMacs the following year, it reportedly sold one system every 15 seconds.
The new millennium, however, saw Apple expand its offering and unveil many of the products now so closely associated with the company, including the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad.
The iPod made its debut in 2001. "The 5GB Apple iPod MP3 player is so cool, you just might run out and buy a Mac," we said.
When Jobs appeared to give a keynote at the 2002 Macworld in New York City, it was "part rock concert and part fireworks display." "Jobs' entrance was met with thunderous applause, whistling, and feet stomping; new products inspired ooohs and ahhhs." He introduced a Windows version of the iPod and the latest version of Mac OS X at the time, known as Jaguar.
iPhone, iPad, and Beyond
Would someone really pay $300 for a phone, critics wondered?
"Personally, I don't think the iPhone will set the world on fire," wrote columnist John Dvorak.
Former Editor Jim Louderback predicted that the iPhone would "fly then flounder" while Lance Ulanoff said it would "flop then fly."
Tim Bajarin was more optimistic, predicting it would "fly and keep on flying."
"The Apple iPhone will change the way people use their cell phones. The question is, will it be the new Mac or the new iPod?" mobile analyst Sascha Segan asked at the time.
Turns out it wasn't the "new" anything, but a phenomenon unto itself. Apple sold 270,000 iPhones during its first 30 hours, and by September, it had sold its one millionth iPhone.
"One million iPhones in 74 days—it took almost two years to achieve this milestone with iPod," Jobs said at the time.
There were, of course, complaints: AT&T as the sole U.S. carrier, lack of Flash, and a locked-down eco-system, to name a few. But the device was slick enough for many to overlook its flaws, and by the time the iPhone 3G was released in 2008, Apple sold one million of the devices in its first weekend on the market, which Jobs called "stunning." It did the same the following year with the iPhone 3GS.
Last year saw the arrival of a completely revamped iPhone but also the iPad. Again there was skepticism. But the success of the iPhone made many take a harder look at the iPad and what it might mean for the nascent netbook category, e-book readers, and PCs as a whole.
"iPad is our most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price," Jobs said at its launch. "iPad creates and defines an entirely new category of devices that will connect users with their apps and content in a much more intimate, intuitive and fun way than ever before."
Despite the $500- $800 price tag, Apple sold two million iPads in less than two months, prompting long wait times. "We appreciate their patience, and are working hard to build enough iPads for everyone," Jobs said.
The iPhone 4 also made its debut, but not before a stolen prototype was featured on tech blog Gizmodo, rankling the normally very private Apple. The device sold millions, but was also plagued by "antennagate," a problem that dropped calls if a user gripped the phone in a certain way. Eventually, Apple held a press event at which Jobs presided, and the company offered up free iPhone bumpers to alleviate the problem. As was typical, however, Jobs did not exactly issue a complete mea culpa.
Jobs apologized to users who had been having connectivity problems with the iPhone 4, but denied that accusations of "antenna-gate" were accurate. Numerous smartphones have displayed signal attenuation when held in a certain way, he said, pointing to the BlackBerry Bold 9700, the HTC Droid Eris, and the Samsung Omnia II.
These "weak spots," Jobs said, are just a fact of life in today's smartphone market. "We knew if you gripped it in a certain way the bars ware going to go down a bit just like every smartphone," he said. "We didn't think it was going to be a big issue."
Apple has not "figured out a way around the laws of physics – yet," Jobs said.
While Cupertino is likely still wrangling with the laws of physics, it appears that the newly announced iPhone 4S, at least, will not have the same problem.
Jobs was not entirely consumed with the iPhone and iPad last year. He also took the time to take jabs at the then growing Android mobile operating system, calling it fragmented, and got into the habit of answering random e-mails sent to his Apple address, penning (very) brief responses to questions about everything from MobileMe and USB 3.0 to the company's PR strategies and updates for iOS.
Though highly successful, Jobs's busy 2010 again took a toll on his health and he took another leave of absence in January 2011. He surprised and delighted fans, however, by showing up for the debut of the iPad 2 in March, telling those in attendance that he had worked too hard on the product to miss its launch, and was also on stage at June's iOS 5 and Lion preview.
But beyond the products, what about Jobs as a man? He has been described as arrogant and demanding, but also brilliant and extremely detail-oriented, as a recent anecdote from Google engineer Vic Gundotra demonstrated. His passing this week even prompted a statement from the President of the United States, with Obama calling him "among the greatest of American innovators."
He was "brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it," Obama said.
As news of Jobs's death made the rounds, that seemed to be the general sentiment. He was tough, but he knew what he was talking about. Regardless of whether you are a Mac or a PC, or if you have an iPhone or Android device, you have to admire the mark Jobs made on the tech industry and beyond, fans and rivals alike. We'll miss you, Steve.
For more, see our full coverage of the death of Steve Jobs. Apple is also asking fans to share their memories, thoughts, and condolences via firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article, written by Chloe Albanesius, originally appeared on PCMag.com and is republished on Gear Live with the permission of Ziff Davis, Inc.
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