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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.

Apple was right--Next's operating system became the basis for Mac OS X--but it's unlikely that Amelio predicted precisely 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.

That move kicked off an era of increasing--and, to date, unceasing--success for Apple and Jobs. In Jobs's August 1997 Macworld Expo keynote, Apple announced that it was ending the licensing program that allowed other companies to sell Mac-compatible 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 perhaps singularly kicked off Apple's rebound: the original iMac. Jobs had asked designer Jonathan Ive--whom he'd eventually promote to the role of senior vice president of industrial design--to create a colorful, easy-to-set-up, all-in-one computer. The result was a new Mac with a unique look that startled the industry. Its bold color, lack of a floppy drive, and embrace of the new USB connectivity standard were all considered shockers at the time; consumers, however, were delighted. 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 the part.

In March 2001, Apple released the first iteration of Mac OS X after a public beta that began in late 2000. The operating system was based on NextStep, the Unix-based OS devised by Jobs's 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, 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--making the transition from OS 9 to OS X significantly less painful than many people expected it to be. OS X was a towering achievement for Jobs and Apple, and a welcome respite from the years of promised but unrealized OS upgrades from Cupertino.

Jobs oversaw other massive software undertakings around this time, too. 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 "Final Cut"--still incorporated it. But Final Cut had been ignored and delayed by the Macromedia higher-ups in favor of development on its Flash software, and its future was thus largely uncertain.

 

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