Steve Jobs was the most iconic inventor of our times. He was a visionary who told us what we needed even before we realized that we needed it. And he was a smart enough entrepreneur to sell it to us for a good price.
The story of Steve Jobs is really the story of Apple. A company which has become synonymous with gadgets which have become more than just consumer durables, they have become status symbols. Jobs’ creations have united Presidents and commoners, binding them together with technology and science.
The Apple that Jobs picked was not from out of a fruit basket, but quite literally the one which bounced off Newton’s head, for with it came divine knowledge. How else can one explain Jobs’ unparallel drive for path breaking gadgetry and technology?
So as the world bids adieu to Steve Jobs, the most obvious question is – What happens to Apple?
Apple is no ordinary company, it is at present the world’s most valuable company.
Steven Paul Jobs was born in 1955 to an unmarried student and was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs.
Jobs founded Apple on April 1, 1976 with his friend Steve Wozniak and Ron Wayne.
“Woz” as he came to be known, is a self taught engineer who stuck by Jobs through thick and thin. Ron Wayne though quit the Apple dream in less than two weeks of its existence. When Jobs started Apple, he had limited work experience. He had worked part time with Silicon Valley giants HP and Atari. But he had already accumulated quite a bit of “life-experience”. He had backpacked through India searching for spiritual Nirvana, and had taken to Buddhism.
In fact it was after his failed spiritual trip to India, that Steve Jobs realized that Nirvana for him lay in technology and not in any ‘Guru’s’ teachings.
Jobs and Woz’s first creation was Apple 1. It was really Woz’s creation. Jobs only wanted to sell it.
In 1977, Apple launched Apple II. Again it was a product of Wozniak’s genius but the design, the layout and the ease of use was Jobs’ contribution. It was a bestseller, Apple had arrived.
In 1979 Jobs saw an experimental computer with a graphical user interface and a mouse at Xerox’s PARC research lab in Palo Alto, California.
Soon enough, Jobs had incorporated Xerox’s design in a personal computer titled Lisa. The $10,000 worth PC flopped on the market, but not one to give up on his ideas Jobs worked on it and reintroduced it in the form of the Macintosh in 1984.
Priced at $2495, the Mac was described by Jobs as “insanely great”, but the truth is that it was a deeply flawed product.
It only had 128KB memory, with no external memory slots.
Until then Apple was a one man enterprise. Jobs was the undisputed leader and it was his vision which was realized by a team of gifted and talented engineers. But following the Mac’s sluggish sales and an internal power struggle with Apple’s President John Sculley, a man Jobs had hired, Jobs was stripped of all decision making powers in June 1985.
In September 1985, Steve Jobs quit Apple.
But an inventor rarely needs a company logo to build new products. Out of Apple, Jobs founded a computer company called NeXT.
Its first computer was a sleek black box priced at $6500. It was aimed at a market which didn’t exist and NeXT decided to focus on software instead.
It was around that time that Jobs founded Pixar, an animations company which made movies with computer generated animations and graphics.
But as Jobs was charting new creative paths for himself, Apple without Steve wasn’t faring very well. In 1997-97 Apple incurred $1.8 billion in losses and saw one President replace another even as it failed to sell itself to Computer giants IBM and Sun Microsystems.
It was Gil Amelio who, in 1996 paid Steve Jobs $430 million to merge NeXT with Apple.
Amelio wanted to use the software manufactured by NeXT as the operating system for Apple’s Macintosh.
And he was right. Every OS created by Apple since 2001, including the one running the iPhone and the iPad has been a direct descendent of the NeXT software.
The merger of Apple with NeXT brought Jobs back to the company, and he soon became the interim-CEO or the i-CEO. With a $150 million lifeline from Microsoft, Jobs embarked on an epic rebuilding exercise, dumping countless products and board members, while at the same time slashing costs to cut losses.
Steve Jobs second stint at Apple saw the release of the i.Mac. With its punchline “Think Different”, the new and improved Mac took America by storm, becoming the best selling computer in the country by 1998.
Then in 2001 two things happened, one: Apple launched its own chain of computer retail stores and two: it launched the i.POD.
The iPOD scaled unprecedented heights of popularity and as its sales soared Apple launche the iTunes in 2003. Apple was now not only making money selling a portable music player, but also making money selling the music tracks to play on it! It was a win-win situation really.
In 2007 Jobs said, “Every once in awhile, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything”, while introducing the iPhone. It was a personal computer that fit in your pocket and made phone calls.
While the iPhone’s hardware was really deficient to what its competitors were offering, in typical Steve Jobs style, its software was revolutionary. Consumers got hooked on to its jazzy yet simple user interface.
By 2011 Apple was selling more than 220,000 iPhones a day.
In 2010 Apple launched the iPad and in its first year sold 14.8 million pieces.
Today Apple stands at the pinnacle of the smartphone and tablet market, but its position is not undisputed.
Google’s android system is challenging the iOS like never before.
Samsung is within 1% of Apple’s smartphone market share and a bunch of low cost Android based tablets are ready to fight it out with the iPad for supremacy in the tablet market.
The road ahead for Apple looks like a bumpy one, it failed to launch the much touted iPhone 5 and fans had to settle for a less inspiring iPhone 4S (which may now, forever be knows as: iPhone-4-Steve)
Apple has also done the unthinkable by slashing rates of its existing iPhone models, a business move which has so far been alien to the consumer-electronics giant. A move which may mean that without its iconic inventor, Apple has decided to focus on its existing line of products than invent for the future.