Steve Jobs was co-founder of Apple, along with Steve Wozniak, but he was also behind Pixar and the founder of NeXT, a computer platform development company that created the foundations for the Mac OS X operating system. He was an inventor, an entrepreneur and an incredibly successful businessman with a unique personality.
The story of Steve Jobs could start with the founding of Apple in 1976, but Jobs had many influences that made him the person he was, and without which Apple may never have happened. Jobs was born on 24 February 1955. His parents were graduate students Abdulfattah Jandali and Joanne Carole Schieble. Jobs’ parents later married but, due to their circumstances, gave baby Steve up for adoption.
Jobs was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs and was bought up in California. In an interview with Macworld’s sister title Computerworld back in 1995, Jobs spoke at length about his childhood.
“I was very lucky. My father, Paul, was a pretty remarkable man. He was a machinist by trade and worked very hard and was kind of a genius with his hands. He had a workbench in his garage and when I was about five or six, he sectioned off a little piece of it and said: ‘Steve, this is your workbench now’. And he gave me some of his smaller tools and showed me how to use a hammer and I saw how to build things.
Jobs (left) and Wozniak (right) check incoming components in the first Apple production facility, the garage of Jobs’ parents
“It really was very good for me. He spent a lot of time teaching me how to build things, take them apart and put them back together.”
Paul Jobs was transferred to Silicon Valley and in the interview Jobs speaks about growing up in the heart of Silicon Valley: “It was really the most wonderful place in the world to grow up.”
HP engineer Larry Lang lived close to the Jobs family. “I got to know this man, whose name was Larry Lang, and he taught me a lot of electronics. He was great,” said Jobs.
Jobs was highly intelligent, but school bored him until, age 10, he was inspired to learn by a forth grade teacher: “I think I probably learned more academically in that one year than in my life. It created problems, though, because when I got out of fourth grade they tested me and they decided to put me in high school and my parents said ‘No’. Thank God.”
The man who went on to co-found Apple clearly felt in debt to the teacher who he believed saved him. According to the 1995 Computerworld interview he was sure that it was what saved him. “I’m 100 per cent sure that if it hadn’t been for Mrs Hill in fourth grade and a few others, I’d have absolutely ended up in jail. It could have been directed at doing something interesting that other people thought was a good idea or doing something interesting that maybe other people didn’t like so much.”
Apple’s Apple II quickly developed an appeal for being the ultimate text-based personal computer, but its advertising, like its interface, now seems very dated
It seems that even as a 10 year old, Steve Jobs had the capacity to become either one of the US’ biggest success stories or an evil genius.
Another influence on Jobs was the era he grew up in. Look though Jobs’ history and it’s clear that he strongly felt the influence of his time. In the Computerworld interview Jobs speaks about his memories of the assassination of John Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis. “I remember John Kennedy being assassinated. I remember the moment that I heard he’d been shot. I also vividly remember the Cuban Missile Crisis. I probably didn’t sleep for three or four nights because I was afraid that if I went to sleep I wouldn’t wake up. I guess I was seven years old at the time and I understood exactly what was going on. I think everybody did. It was a terror that I’ll never forget, and it probably never really left me. I think that everyone felt it at that time.”
Jobs went to college in 1972, but dropped out after a single term. However, Jobs continued to attend classes at the college, including a calligraphy course that he said lead to the multiple typefaces and properly spaced fonts available on the Mac.
Like his pop-idols, Jobs grew his hair, took LSD, travelled to India and came back a Buddhist, and worked with the confidence that anything was possible. Later, rather than dismiss the experiences of his youth, he synthesised and prioritised them. It was cool to be an artist. It was cool to be a non-conformist. It was cool to believe that nothing was impossible.
Jobs bought this experience and attitude, his interest in technology, and his extraordinary intelligence to Apple, the company he founded with friend Steve Wozniak in 1976.
Jobs and Wozniak met in 1970 when Jobs got a part-time summer job working with the other Steve. Wozniak was five years older than Jobs, but shy while Jobs was outgoing. The two shared a love of technology and joined the Homebrew Computer Club, a regular meeting of engineering hobbyists who would trade parts and share information about computer construction.
Wozniak, it emerged, was an engineering genius who designed his own computer. Jobs took the prototype to a local computer store and sold 50 units and Apple was in business. This first prototype computer was the Apple I.
Jobs and Wozniak co-founded Apple, along with Ron Wayne, in 1976. The prototype Apple I was followed by the Apple II, Apple’s first mass-produced product. It was released in 1977.
Designed by Wozniak, the Apple II featured a rugged plastic case, an integrated keyboard and power supply, support for colour displays, and a 5.25in floppy drive. The Apple II was a huge success, ushering in the personal computer era.
Apple tried to build on its success with an Apple III targeted at business users, but it was a failure. The story goes that Steve Jobs wanted the computer to run silently – so he ordered that it be built without an internal fan. Unfortunately, customers found that it overheated frequently.
Despite this, the company went public on 12 December 1980 and its IPO generated record-setting capital.
In exchange for $1 million of pre-IPO stock, Xerox gave Apple access to its PARC facilities, where Jobs and others saw the progress Xerox was making with the graphical user interface (GUI). This led to the Apple Lisa and the Mac.
Soon Apple’s board of directors felt that it was time to get a business-class executive to lead the company. Jobs asked Pepsi president John Sculley: “Do you want to sell sugared water for the rest of your life or come with me and change the world?” Sculley joined Apple in 1983.
The Macintosh introduced the principles that would come to guide the evolution of desktop computing for the next 20 years
This was the year before the Mac launched. The Mac is perhaps one of the things Jobs is most remembered for, but he didn’t create the Mac project – it was started by Jef Raskin in 1979. In fact, Jobs was initially working against the Mac team on the Lisa – but he took it over in 1981 and brought it to fruition. Jobs didn’t write the code or design the circuit boards, but he was the one who provided the vision that made it all happen. As original Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld wrote: “Steve already gets a lot of credit for being the driving force behind the Macintosh, but in my opinion, it’s very well deserved… the Macintosh would never have happened without him.”
Apple’s introduction of the Macintosh in 1984 introduced the graphical user interface to mainstream desktop computing. The Mac ran on a 32-bit processor (compared to the more usual 16-bit processors for other PCs at the time) and had 128Kb of memory.
The Mac’s impact wasn’t just felt by people who bought it in the 1980s, though. In hindsight, it redefined what a computer was. Microsoft introduced its Windows program as a reaction to it. By 1995, Windows had duplicated Apple’s graphical interface. Essentially, every personal computer in existence now follows most of the paradigms introduced by the original Mac more than a quarter of a century ago.
Jobs was also a driving force behind the famous 1984 television commercial, directed by Ridley Scott, that debuted during the Super Bowl in January 1984.
The advertisement was a hit, but unfortunately the Macintosh saw sluggish sales performance. This strained the relationship between Jobs and Sculley. Sculley favoured introducing IBM compatibility; Jobs was opposed. Jobs and Sculley each went before Apple’s board and lobbied for the other’s removal. Eventually, on 31 May 1985, Apple announced that – following its first-ever quarterly loss and a round of layoffs – Steve Jobs was leaving the company he’d co-founded. He left with a net worth of $150 million and started his next venture, called NeXT.
Time away from Apple
In his famous commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005, Jobs said: “I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me… It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.” He used his time away from Apple to not only found NeXT but also to buy a fledgling animation studio that would become Pixar.
Apple, on the other hand, racked up more than its share of stumbles with Jobs away. Under several post-Jobs CEOs, the company tried – and repeatedly failed – to release an updated successor to the Macintosh operating system. Taligent was the future. Then Copland – Mac OS 8 – was hyped as the new direction for the OS, only to be abandoned and replaced with an incremental update to the original Mac OS.
“Apple leads when it expresses its vision through its products, exciting you and making you proud to own a Mac,” said Steve Jobs, announcing the first iMac (“Internet-age computer for the rest of us”) in 1998
In 1996, Apple decided to buy one of two companies that owned modern operating systems as the basis for a next-generation Mac OS. Both were run by former Apple executives. One was Be, run by Jean-Louis Gasse, which had a Unix-based OS that could already run on existing Mac hardware. The other was NeXT.
In late 1996, Apple CEO Gil Amelio announced that the company would acquire NeXT for $400 million. That deal brought Steve Jobs back to Apple, initially as Amelio’s advisor. Apple declared “the advanced technical and rapid development environment of their latest OS [that became Mac OS X] will allow developers to create new applications that leapfrog those of other operating systems, such as Windows NT.”
Apple was right – NeXT’s operating system became the basis for Mac OS X – but it’s unlikely that Amelio predicted how the acquisition would play out. In July of 1997, Apple’s board of directors voted to remove Amelio from his post, naming Jobs the company’s interim CEO.
Back at the core
This move kicked off an era of increasing – and unceasing – success for Apple and Jobs. In Jobs’ August 1997 Macworld Expo keynote, Apple announced that it was ending the licensing programme that allowed other companies to sell Mac-compatible ‘clone’ computers and that Microsoft had invested $150 million in the company. Both controversial moves paid off.
A year later, Steve Jobs unveiled the product that single handedly kicked off Apple’s rebound: the iMac. Jobs had asked British designer Jonathan Ive – whom he’d eventually promote to the role of senior vice president of industrial design – to create a colourful, easy-to-set-up, all-in-one computer. The result was a new Mac with a unique look that startled the industry. Its bold colour, lack of a floppy drive, and embrace of the new USB connectivity standard were all considered shockers at the time. Consumers, however, were unanimously delighted.
Jonathan Ive, Apple’s senior VP of industrial design, has been with the company since 1996, where he has won numerous design awards for his succession of excellent products
Apple sold 800,000 iMacs in fewer than five months. The floppy faded into history and USB became a roaring success. The iMac, and the Jobs/Ive partnership, cemented Apple’s stance that its insanely great products needed to look like nothing else on the market to succeed.
In March 2001, Apple released the first iteration of Mac OS X after a beta that began in late 2000. The operating system was based on NextStep, the Unix-based OS devised by Jobs’ team at NeXT. Though it was named as a simple sequel to OS 9, OS X had an entirely new codebase and marked a dramatic new beginning. Jobs had overseen a massive effort at Apple to create native, Unix-based ports of the original Macintosh APIs – programming hooks upon which Mac developers relied, in a system called Carbon. That meant that developers could, with some exceptions, quickly make their software compatible with OS X merely by recompiling it, without needing to rewrite the software from scratch. And applications that weren’t updated for OS X could take advantage of the integrated Classic environment to run OS 9 apps within OS X. It was a towering achievement for both Jobs and Apple.
In 1998, the company’s QuickTime authoring standard was being threatened in the digital video editing space by Microsoft’s Advanced Authoring Format. Avid and Adobe had both moved away from the format, and only Macromedia’s KeyGrip software – which had recently been rebranded as Final Cut – still incorporated it. But Final Cut had been ignored and delayed by Macromedia in favour of development on its Flash software.
The solution, as overseen by Jobs, was to buy Final Cut. The company used it to accelerate development on the QuickTime standard, releasing the first Apple-branded version, Final Cut Pro, at the 1999 National Association of Broadcasters show. Final Cut Pro 1.0 was designed to provide editors interested in the non-linear space with a simpler, low-cost way to get into the business – and to ensure that QuickTime would not go the way of some of Apple’s lost software technologies.
As a direct result of the company’s investment into high-end non-linear editing software, Apple could begin to explore a whole new area – consumer-level editing.
One of the most significant consumer-level Apple products to emerge at this time wasn’t hardware, but software – iLife. The company was ahead of the rest of the industry in realising that digital media – music, videos, and photos – would soon become central to people’s lives.
In 1999, Apple released iMovie (and shipped it with a new iMac DV, for Digital Video), software designed to let even the most novice computer user download video from their video camera and turn it into high-quality movies – complete with transitions, titles, and effects.
That was followed, in 2001, by iTunes (which debuted early in the year, but became much more significant with the autumn debut of the iPod) and iDVD, which let home-video enthusiasts create DVDs of their movies. Then 2002 brought the debut of iPhoto, which made it easy to download and organise photos from digital cameras. By 2003, Apple had improved the integration of iPhoto, iMovie and iDVD with each other and rolled them into a single package – iLife – that shipped with every Mac.
The impact of iLife is often overlooked: It meant that at a time when digital media was ascendant, and Apple was trying to differentiate its hardware from the competition, every Mac included a suite of great, easy-to-use software that let people create and manage that media – something that wasn’t true of any other computer on the market at the time.
Apple’s retail strategy evolved as well. In 2001, the company opened up its first retail stores, at a time when other PC makers were stumbling with brick-and-mortar outlets. A decade later, Apple now operates more than 300 stores around the globe. The stores first turned a profit in 2004; last year, they recorded $9 billion in retail sales with $2.4 billion in retail profit. More significantly, as Apple likes to point out in its quarterly earnings report, 50 per cent of the people buying computers at the Apple Store are first-time Mac customers.
Apple announced that it would be transitioning the Mac CPU from PowerPC processors to Intel processors at WWDC 2005
Four years after the introduction of OS X, Jobs and Apple announced another transition – a move away from the PowerPC architecture to chips built by Intel. It was a big gamble for a company that had relied on PowerPC processors since 1994, but Jobs argued that it was a move Apple had to make to keep its computers ahead of the competition. “As we look ahead, we may have great products right now, and we’ve got some great PowerPC products still to come,” Jobs told the audience at the 2005 Worldwide Developers Conference. “But we can envision some amazing products we want to build for you and we don’t know how to build them with the future PowerPC road map.”
The transition went much faster – and much smoother – than anyone had anticipated, thanks in large part to Rosetta. The dynamic translator let applications designed for PowerPC systems run on Intel-based Macs, giving developers time to revamp their products for Apple’s Intel-based future. In fact, PowerPC apps only became obsolete this summer when Apple retired Rosetta with the introduction of Mac OS X Lion.
Beyond the Mac
Of course, the assorted transitions during Jobs’ reign as CEO weren’t confined to the Mac. Perhaps the greatest transition Jobs initiated was moving Apple away from being just a software and computer maker and into the world of consumer electronics. The shift became official in 2007 when Apple dropped the word “Computer” from its name, simply calling itself Apple Inc, and began with the iPod.
When Apple unveiled its music player in the autumn of 2001, the market for MP3 players was in its early stages. Devices at the time relied on small amounts of flash memory that could hold only a handful of songs. In short, it was a field that was ripe for innovation – and innovate Apple did. The iPod’s 5GB capacity gave it the storage space to, in Apple’s words, “put 1,000 songs in your pocket”. Though iTunes debuted earlier in 2001, it was with the iPod’s October 2001 release that Apple’s ecosystem started to take shape. “We love music,” Jobs said during the iPod’s introduction. “And it’s always good to do something you love.”
Apple moved fast with the iPod, diversifying the range to expand its appeal and consolidate its market reach
It proved to be lucrative for Apple, too. The company has sold hundreds of millions of iPods in the last decade, and though sales growth slowed and then declined in recent years, Apple continues to enjoy a 70 per cent share of the MP3 player market. Part of the reason for the device’s success? Apple’s repeated willingness to reinvent the iPod line. Steve Jobs seemed to anticipate the demand for the iPod from the get-go. “Music’s a part of everyone’s life,” he said at the 2001 launch event. “Music’s been around forever. This is not a speculative market. And because it’s a part of everyone’s life, it’s a very large target market all around the world.”
The advent of the iPhone
The iPod didn’t create a new product category, and nor did the iPhone with 2007’s iPhone introduction. Smartphones had existed before, but were aimed largely at business customers who wanted to check their email on the move.
Apple set its sights on the broader consumer market with a product that boasted stunning design, ease of use, and a harmonious marriage between software and hardware.
“Every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything,” Jobs said at the 2007 Macworld Expo keynote when he pulled the first iPhone out of his pocket. “Apple’s been very fortunate. It’s been able to introduce a few of these into the world.”
That may sound like the kind of “reality distortion field”-style hype that Jobs became famous for. But it also happens to be true. Look no further than how other smartphone makers responded – with devices that mirrored the iPhone’s touch-screen controls, powerful web browser, and array of third-party mobile apps.
The post-PC era
Now Apple’s leading us into the “post-PC” era – a period in which mobile devices no longer need to sync up with computers. It was with that vision in mind that Apple rolled out the iPad, which brings PC-style computing to a handheld device. Launched less than two years ago, the iPad has already carved out a new market for tablet computing, with other companies once again trying to keep pace with Apple. It also joins the original Mac, the iPod, and the iPhone among the revolutionary products Jobs helped develop during his Apple career.
That’s a lot of achievements in a very short period of time.
Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2004. After surgery he returned to Apple, but had to take another leave of absence in 2009, ultimately undergoing a liver transplant. He took his final leave of absence in January 2011.
This August, Jobs resigned as CEO. “I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I’d be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come,” Jobs said in a letter addressed ‘to the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community’. He continued: “I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role. I’ve made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.” It would be a mistake to characterise Jobs’ time at Apple by the products that were released. Those came about because of principles held by Jobs that he made sure were shared by others at Apple, especially as he refashioned the company following his 1997 return to Cupertino.
The products mentioned throughout this story might not have come to pass were it not for Apple’s constant need to innovate. It’s worth noting that some of Apple’s biggest product releases during Jobs’ tenure – the iPod and the iPad especially – were developed during recessions when consumers were less inclined to spend money on pricey electronics.
“The way we’re going to survive is to innovate our way out of this,” Jobs told Time Magazine in early 2002, a strategy the company returned to when the economy went south again in 2008. In both instances, Apple under Jobs upped its research-and-development spending, helping the company produce a strong product lineup that could weather tough financial times.
So what’s the secret ingredient? There’s a special approach to creating products that sticks with other Apple employees, even after they leave the company. “You almost imagine that Steve is in your office,” Flipboard founder and ex-Apple engineer Evan Doll told the San Francisco Chronicle. “You say to yourself, ‘what would he say about this?’ When you’re kicking around an idea for a product, or for a feature, you’ll even say it in discussion – ’Steve Jobs would love this!’ or, more often, ‘Steve Jobs would say this isn’t good enough!’ He’s like the conscience sitting on your shoulder.”