Perhaps buried in the headlines this month, with all the goings-on in Washington, throughout the country and around the world, is the fact that it’s been exactly 10 years since the world lost Steve Jobs to pancreatic cancer. Steve Jobs was America’s 21st-century visionary. Jobs was an exceptional entrepreneur and innovator, amongst the greatest in American history. His name goes down with Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Alexander Graham Bell.
Steve Jobs contributed mightily to the modern way of life. In fact, he changed the world. Jobs certainly changed life in America forever with the launch of the first iPhone. That was in 2007. Can you even imagine life without the iPhone now? He had the gift of seeing things before others. Think different he said. Think different he did. Steve Jobs dared to think different.
The name Steve Jobs is essentially synonymous with Apple. The company was his creation, with a guy named Woz. The 2 of them started something from nothing in Silicon Valley. Apple is undoubtedly one of the great American success stories.
Apple Computers was founded on April 1, 1976, by Jobs and his pal Steve Wozniak. They were both college dropouts. No matter. They had what they needed. They knew what they were doing. They had a vision of changing the way people viewed computers. Back then, computers were clunky. They were large in size but small in circulation. The Apple duo saw the opportunity for small and sleek.
Jobs and Wozniak wanted to make computers small enough for people to have in their homes. They worked out of Jobs’ garage at his parents’ house in Los Altos making it happen. On that Spring day in our nation’s bicentennial, the duo debuted the Apple 1. It was a desktop computer that came as a single motherboard. The other kicker; It came pre-assembled. That was unlike any other personal computer at the time. Apple was born.
There are various theories about how the name “Apple” came to be. Back in the ’70s, it was common to choose a company name which would appear near the front of the Phone Book. You read that right, the Phone Book. Try finding one now. Anyway, the theory went, if a customer was looking for a product, they started with the A’s. It’s just theory; One of many.
There are also theories that the Apple name represents Sir Isaac Newton. It was Newton who allegedly identified gravity after an apple fell on his head. The original Apple logo featured a picture of Isaac Newton sitting under that Apple tree. Steve Jobs designed that logo. It didn’t last long though. The Newton logo was quickly replaced by that famous, colorful Apple with a bite out of it.
The insider’s story: Steve Jobs said he was “on one of my fruitarian diets” when the name was selected. He said he had just come back from an apple farm, and thought the name sounded “fun, spirited and not intimidating.” This from Steve Wozniak: “I remember I was driving Steve Jobs back from the airport along Highway 85. Steve was coming back from a visit to Oregon to a place he called an “apple orchard.” It was actually some kind of commune. Steve suggested a name – Apple Computer.” The rest is history.
Steve Jobs’ vision didn’t stop with the PC. That was merely the beginning. He also revolutionized the music industry with the rollout of the iPod. Digital music became readily available, the design was innovative and artists got paid. It was an instant hit. Next came the iPhone, which completely changed global communications and commerce. Soon after, Apple rolled out a sleek tablet called the iPad. The Mac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad changed everything.
Did you know that Steve Jobs left Apple? After losing a boardroom battle, Jobs walked away from the company he co-founded on September 16, in 1985. He said he felt like he got run out. So Steve Jobs started another company called NeXT and some Apple colleagues followed. But Jobs saw another opportunity and he jumped on it.
Not everyone remembers, Steve Jobs bought Pixar from Lucas Films in 1986. Pixar was used to create animation software early on. But Jobs was convinced by a young John Lasseter, when he pitched the idea of a fully computer-generated animated feature. That idea became Toy Story.
Under Steve’s leadership, Pixar built the first modern computer animation studio. Jobs cut a historic deal with Disney in the 1990s, which completely changed the game for animation. Jobs considered Toy Story to be as revolutionary as any of his innovations at Apple. Over the course of the next decade, Pixar delivered iconic films like Cars, A Bug’s Life, The Incredibles, and Finding Nemo. Jobs stayed on as its CEO until 2006, when Disney bought it. Steve Jobs called Pixar’s impact on Hollywood a “breakthrough on the scale of Technicolor, Snow White and Star Wars. It is way beyond what we’ve seen in computer graphics special effects.”
Back to Apple: The company struggled in Steve’s absence. 12 years, to the day, after Steve Jobs left Apple, he returned as CEO after the company acquired NeXT. It was supposed to be temporary. The year was 1997. That day was also September 16. Steve Jobs took over the company on the verge of bankruptcy and turned it upside down. He brought back his keen insight and ability to push comfort levels to pursue greater achievements. He had a vision. He also had a plan.
Think different; The core of Steve Jobs’ legacy is tied to creating that culture of innovation at Apple. Jobs had an uncanny sense of what a consumer might want and drove Apple’s innovation in that direction. Steve Jobs believed that technology for technology’s sake is worthless unless it is also tied to elegant form, function, and ease-of-use. Jobs’ philosophy was grounded in his belief that the computing experience should be easy to use and intuitive. Going back to the 1980s and earlier, those bland IBM PCs were, in his mind, a failure. Jobs was driven to bring new designs and new thinking to the PC when he introduced the Mac. It was different. It worked. It still does.
Apple’s stock has soared 10X since Steve Jobs’ death. Few predicted that at the time. CEO Tim Cook took over and has done a masterful job of executing the vision and building on the company’s success, becoming the first-ever $2 Trillion American company. Steve handpicked Tim to be his successor.
Steve Jobs was not known to be the nicest person in the world. But he had passion for his craft and commitment to his customers. Apple’s sustainable success is one of the more important legacies of Steve Jobs. He left the company in very good hands to carry on the Apple Way. John Lasseter later said, “Steve saw the potential of what Pixar could be before the rest of us.” The same can be said at Apple. Steve Jobs saw what few did.
Apple reports earnings next week. At a now $2.5 Trillion market cap, Apple is the largest stock in the S&P 500. Whatever Apple does, or says, moves Markets. The Apple Way lives on. Steve Jobs’ Apple has blossomed perhaps beyond even his imagination. And what an imagination it was. You have to think it first. Then you have to do it.
“The things you most regret in life are things you didn’t do.”
– Steve Jobs
I also wanted to pay respect to Colin Powell, who we lost this week. General Powell was a Great American. I had the honor of meeting him and shaking his hand. He was a man of courage and integrity. He is missed.
Have a nice weekend. We’ll be back, dark and early on Monday.