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Remembering Steve Jobs, the man who saved Apple

Macworld Staff | Oct. 6, 2011
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs died Wednesday after a long illness. He was 56. Jobs, who reigned as Apple CEO for 14 years, resigned his post in August 2011 and was replaced by Tim Cook, who previously was the company's Chief Operating Officer. Jobs, in turn, was elected as chairman of Apple's board of directors.

At the end of 1980, Apple went public; its IPO created hundreds of millionaires at the company. 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). That visit led to the Apple Lisa--a Mac-like computer that sold for nearly $10,000, and was never a success--and then the Mac.

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. Jobs and his personally-recruited CEO John Sculley thought the iconic ad was excellent, and purchased 90 seconds of Super Bowl commercial time for the spot. Apple's board of directors was less convinced of the advertisement's greatness, and Apple's advertising agency Chiat/Day resold 30 of those seconds to another advertiser. The ad ran, and the Macintosh went on sale two days later.

Eventually, the Macintosh's increasingly sluggish sales performance strained the relationship between Jobs and Sculley. Sculley favored introducing more IBM compatibility; Jobs was opposed. Jobs and Sculley each went before Apple's board and lobbied for the other's removal. Eventually, on May 31, 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, Next.

Jobs Returns

In a commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005, Jobs said that his firing from Apple in the mid-1980s "was the best thing that could have ever happened to me." That may have been true for Jobs, who used his time away from Cupertino to not only found Next but also buy a fledgling animation studio that would become Pixar, but Apple racked up more than its share of stumbles. Under several post-Jobs CEOs, Apple tried repeatedly--and failed repeatedly--to release an updated successor to the aging 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.

In 1996, Apple decided to buy one of two companies that owned modern operating systems that could be the basis for a next-generation Mac operating system. Both were run by former Apple executives. One was Be, run by Jean-Louis Gasseé, which had an intriguing Unix-based OS that could already run on existing Mac hardware. The other was Next, still run by Steve Jobs.

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 an advisor to Amelio. At the time, Apple declared "the advanced technical underpinnings and rapid development environment of [what became Mac OS X] will allow developers to create new applications that leapfrog those of other 'modern' operating systems, such as Windows NT."


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