News Column

Apple Visionary Steve Jobs Dies at 56

Oct. 6, 2011

Jon Swartz and William M. Welch

Steve Jobs with iPhone

Steve Jobs, the innovative co-founder of Apple who transformed personal use of technology as well as entire industries with products such as the iPod, iPad, iPhone, Macintosh computer and the iTunes Store, died Wednesday.

The Apple chairman was 56.

The iconic American CEO, whose impact many have compared to auto magnate Henry Ford and Walt Disney -- whom Jobs openly admired -- abruptly stepped down from his position as CEO of Apple in August because of health concerns. He had been suffering from pancreatic cancer and underwent a liver transplant in 2009 although Apple, in announcing his death, did not list a cause.

"Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being," the company said on its website. "Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple."

Apple invited "thoughts, memories and condolences" at rememberingsteve@apple.com.

President Obama mourned Jobs' passing, saying he exemplified American ingenuity and innovation: "Brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it."

"Steve was fond of saying that he lived every day like it was his last. Because he did, he transformed our lives, redefined entire industries and achieved one of the rarest feats in human history: He changed the way each of us sees the world," Obama said.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, long regarded as Jobs' foil in the early years of personal computing, said he was truly saddened. "The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come," Gates said. "For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it's been an insanely great honor. I will miss Steve immensely."

Jobs' death came just a day after Apple's new CEO, Tim Cook, unveiled the latest and much-anticipated version of the iPhone, which contained internal updates but lacked the kind of dramatic new design or function that created marketing excitement around previous versions.

Although Jobs had stepped aside from running Apple on a day-to-day basis, his death raises questions about the company's ability to continue to amaze consumers with new, must-have products that have helped to define a generation. It's a question that was reinforced by the muted reaction from Wall Street and technology watchers to the latest iPhone announcement.

"You don't replace Steve Jobs," said Brian Sullivan, CEO of executive search firm CTPartners. "You slice up what he does: product development, vision and marketing. No one person can bring his swagger and savoir faire to Apple."

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, a former Apple board member, called Jobs the best CEO of the past 50 years -- perhaps 100 years.

Jobs' success flowed from a relentless focus on making products that were easy and intuitive for the typical consumer to use. His products were characterized by groundbreaking design and style that, along with their technological usefulness, made them objects of intense desire by consumers worldwide.

He was known as a demanding, mercurial boss and an almost mystical figure. Author and business consultant Jim Collins once called Jobs the "Beethoven of business."

His creation of iTunes as an online way to purchase music digitally helped transform the music industry and delivered a blow to the standard industry practice of packaging music in albums or CDs.

Jobs' work at Apple and other projects made him a fortune estimated by Forbes magazine in 2011 at $7 billion. He was No.110 on Forbes' list of billionaires worldwide and No.39 in the U.S. in the magazine's September 2011 estimates.

Jobs, a Buddhist, was married to Laurene Powell Jobs, 47. He had four children, three with Powell Jobs. A fourth child, Lisa, had an early Apple computer -- a predecessor to the Macintosh -- named after her.

Apple, and a reboot

Jobs dropped out of college to build computers with high school friend Steve Wozniak, creating what became the Apple I computer in 1976.

As sales lagged by the 1980s, Jobs was ousted from the company's leadership in a 1985 boardroom coup. He returned in 1996 after Apple bought his technology start-up, NeXT, for $400 million. Within months, Jobs took over as CEO and led a major corporate turnaround.

Five years later, with the release of the iPod personal digital music player, Apple had leaped from computer maker to become the leading consumer electronics giant worldwide.

Once on the brink of a financial abyss, Apple had a market value of $350 billion -- not far behind No.2 ExxonMobil -- by the time Jobs resigned as CEO in August 2011.

After his forced departure from Apple, Jobs bought what became Pixar from filmmaker George Lucas. The digital animation movie company has produced box office hits including Toy Story and Finding Nemo. Disney bought the company for $7.4 billion in 2006. Jobs held a 7.3% ownership stake in Disney.

Health concerns

Jobs was known for creating a culture of secrecy at Apple that fueled intense media speculation about the company's next product. Jobs himself introduced major products with flair at highly anticipated events that proved to be one of the company's best marketing tools.

He didn't hesitate to level caustic comments at competitors, particularly Microsoft in earlier years and later Google, which he ridiculed as evil, mediocre and lacking in taste. His skewering of Microsoft was parodied in a series of TV ads featuring the characters "Mac" and "PC."

Jobs was known for firing employees in profanity-laced tantrums and reducing some subordinates to tears. Yet many of his top deputies at Apple and Pixar worked with him for years.

Jobs is listed as an inventor or co-inventor on 313 Apple patents.

Although he brought simple, elegant technology to the masses, the reclusive Jobs often was uncomfortable around others and rarely spoke publicly or to reporters. His reluctance to appear in public led to questions about his health, as did a dramatic loss in weight and gaunt appearance.

Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2003. He informed Apple employees in 2004.

"No one wants to die," he said in a commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005. "And yet death is the destination we all share."

"Jobs led an enormous cultural shift of the businessman as a creative, even artistic, force," says Alan Deutschman, author of The Second Coming of Steve Jobs.

"When Jobs first came on the scene, it wasn't cool to be in business," Deutschman says. "Through the 1970s, the Dow hardly moved. Being in business was seen as being a total sellout. But Jobs was young and glamorous, and gave business that image. Now, young people aspire to be in business."

The early years

Steven Paul Jobs was born in San Francisco on Feb. 24, 1955, to unwed parents. He was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs of Mountain View, Calif.

The young Jobs contacted William Hewlett, co-founder of Hewlett-Packard, to ask for parts for a class project. Impressed, Hewlett offered Jobs a summer internship.

Jobs briefly went to Reed College in Portland, Ore. After a stint as a video-game designer at Atari, he trekked to India in 1974, where he embraced Eastern culture and religion.

In 1975, Jobs began hanging out with Wozniak. Jobs, then 21, and Wozniak co-founded Apple Computer in Jobs' parents' garage.

By 25, Jobs was a millionaire. His first go-round at Apple was highlighted by the introduction, in 1984, of the Macintosh, a revolutionary personal computer with an inviting graphical user-interface and a mouse that popularized PCs.

In a 1996 interview in San Francisco, Jobs offered a glimpse of his hopes to mirror the success of Walt Disney and George Lucas. "Computers are commodities with a six-month shelf life," he said. "Classics like Snow White and Fantasia are passed from generation to generation."

Wozniak said Apple is a reflection of Jobs' creative daring: "He helped it achieve incredible things in music, smartphones, tablets and retail, while still making great computers."

"Almost every computer in the world has some Steve Jobs' history in it," Wozniak said Wednesday night on ABC's Nightline.

Leander Kahney, author of Inside Steve's Brain, said Jobs reconciled conflicting traits -- "narcissism, perfectionism, total faith in his intuition" -- to create an eclectic business philosophy. "In the process, he became a self-made billionaire."



Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2011