Steve Jobs: the man, the legend, the visionary. A lot can be said about Jobs — both good and bad. The man was no angel and certainly was not the easiest person to deal with. Nevertheless, he almost singlehandedly shaped the history of the past three decades, setting the world up for a more prosperous and technologically advanced future.
As I said before, much can be said about the negative impact that Apple has had and continues to have in certain parts of the world. Many of its methods are questionable and its neglect at times is instrumental in the suffering of many. Nevertheless, Steve Jobs himself is a person worth aspiring to. He was an eccentric — to say the least — but he did get the job done and done very well. There is arguably just as much to be learned from his mistakes and failures as there is from his triumphs. When looking at his career as a whole, one will notice a certain trend to his madness: he stayed true to his passions and he stayed on top of likely future trends.
Being successful in your field is difficult — no matter what field. Success itself is elusive and more often than not comes at times and from corners least expected. Steve Jobs and his longtime friend, Steve Wozniak, started Apple back on April Fool’s Day in 1976. Both Steves believed that the personal computer was going to spark a revolution.
Up to this period in time, computers were only used by large companies and governmental bodies. The concept of personal computers was a novel idea and both Jobs and Wozniak believed that starting a company that sold computers to the masses would become a great success. They needed capital in order to really start their production so Jobs convinced former Intel executive, Mike Markkula, to invest $250,000 into Apple in January of 1977.
After VisiCalc — the first commercially used spreadsheet program — was introduced, the company quickly became a huge success. Hundreds of thousands of Americans — small business owners, accountants or those with lots of money all bought Apple computers in order to use VisiCalc. By the age of 25, Steve Jobs was worth $200 million.
During this time, IBM came out with its own personal computer, the PC. Apple’s Apple III was a flop and IBM used the shaky reputation that Apple was demonstrating in order to enter the market with a running start. Apple sales began to plummet. Then Jobs had the idea for a business computer called Lisa. While he was on a tour of the Xerox PARC research lab, he was introduced to a breakthrough technology that the scientists and engineers there had invented: the GUI (graphical user interface) that was paired up with a mouse.
Jobs fell in love with the GUI and the idea of the mouse, insisting that the new Lisa computer incorporate both technologies. However, because he was inexperienced in management and because he was hotheaded, he was thrown off the project. He was not happy with the decision and decided to get revenge by taking on another project: the Macintosh — a personal computer that was supposed to be “as easy to use as a toaster.” In 1981, Jobs became head of the project and made the decision to make it a smaller, less expensive version of Lisa.
He added the GUI and the mouse, as well as icons and drop-down menus. There was a lot of tension between the Macintosh team that Jobs put together and the other teams working on other Apple projects. By 1983, however, Lisa was clearly becoming a flop and Apple put the fate of the company on the Macintosh instead. This is the same year that John Sculley was hired as CEO in order to help run the company.
Unfortunately, by the year 1985, Apple sales were plummeting. Jobs, and his big ego, refused to acknowledge this fact and insisted that he had saved the company with the Macintosh. This created much tension between Jobs and Sculley; the two stopped speaking to each other. In May of 1985, Steve Jobs went to the board of directors and top executives of the company to try and convince them that Sculley should be kicked out of the company.
The board decided to side with Sculley instead. Steve Jobs was removed from all of his operational duties and remained only as a chairman of the board. Jobs could not believe what had just happened. Apple was his entire life and they simply kicked him to the curb. He sold all but one of his Apple shares and went on to start a new company called NeXt.
This was around the same time he purchased the computer graphics division of Lucasfilm from George Lucas himself. Lucas was going through a nasty divorce at the time. Jobs purchased the company with the money he had made from selling his shares in Apple and then renamed the company Pixar. The company’s vision was to one day create movies made entirely from computer animation.
Pixar was Jobs’s hobby — his main focus remained on NeXT. Steve’s goal with NeXT was to create a computer using the most cutting-edge technology available and to sell it to schools. So he did; he created a $10,000 computer called the NeXT Cube. Unfortunately, schools were only interested in buying a computer that would cost around $3,000, not $10,000. NeXt had to give up its entire hardware sect and focus on software instead — the Cube was bringing them to bankruptcy. Jobs had failed.
Thankfully, around the same time, Pixar had just landed a deal with Disney to make a full-length feature film solely using computer animation. You may have heard of it: Toy Story. With its huge success, Jobs’s net worth skyrocketed to $1.5 billion. His hobby turned into his greatest success. During this time, Apple was not doing very well and had hired Gil Amelio as the new CEO. Amelio decided that it would be more efficient to purchase an existing operating system rather than building one from scratch — Amelio ended up buying NeXT for $400 million and Steve Jobs ended up back at the company that he founded.
Amelio was not a great fit for the company and managed to lose $700 million in the first quarter — the board fired him and appointed Jobs as the interim CEO. The next few months, Jobs worked harder than he ever had — remember, he was still the CEO of Pixar. He would come home so tired that he wouldn’t have the strength to speak. Eventually, Jobs took on the position of fulltime CEO of Apple while staying on as the CEO of Pixar.
Throughout his career, Jobs made it his purpose to find trends before they happened. From the concept of computers that would be used by anyone and everyone (a concept we now take for granted), to consistently updating operating systems with the newest of innovations, the digital hub strategy (creating gadgets that would work only with Apple computers), to noticing the popularity of Napster and creating iTunes, Jobs was always ahead of the game. His designs for the original iMacs with clear, colorful plastic appealed to the masses — he realized the importance and appeal of great design.
When coming up with the idea of iTunes, he realized that MP3 players and the market weren’t of quality and were designed poorly — so he decided to create the iPod. He never even imagined how essential the iPod would be to the success of the company. He simply saw what the people needed and wanted before they even know they wanted it.
Jobs always followed his passions. He dropped out of college to become a hippie and grow apples on a farm. He only worked on projects that he believed in and put in all his energy until the project was either a success or a flop. When he failed, he didn’t give up, he kept going. He came up with new ideas and new concepts. He created products that weren’t simply good enough, but were the best.
He focused on quality and efficiency, simplicity of design. While he only started Pixar as a hobby and devoted all his time to NeXT, it was Pixar that brought him such amazing success—his hobby is what made him a billionaire. He then managed to take NeXT, which was obviously a flop, package it up nice and sell it for $400 million! To his old company!
He then came back and took over his old company and turned it into the most powerful and wealthy company in the world. He was able to relate to the consumer in a way no one else was. He combined technology with design. He worked himself to the bone, but worked on projects that he felt passionate about. Most importantly, he didn’t stop when most would have; he never gave up on his dreams and never stopped working on his passions. The man — for lack of a better word — was brilliant.
Photo credit: Wiki Commons, WENN