Achievements With Steve Jobs’ passing, we have lost one of the greatest technological innovators of our time. Jobs wasn’t just a savvy businessman, he was a visionary who made it his mission to humanize personal computing, rewriting the rules of user experience design, hardware design and software design. His actions reverberated across industry lines: He shook up the music business, dragged the wireless carriers into the boxing ring, changed the way software and hardware are sold and forever altered the language of computer interfaces.
Along the way, he built Apple up into one of the most valuable corporations in the world. Macintosh, 1984 The Macintosh arrived in 1984, and it was the first computer to successfully integrate two things that are now commonplace: a graphical user interface and a mouse. Little pictures of folders, the piece of paper denoting a file, the trash can — most of us learned how all of these things worked when we sat down at the Mac. Drag-and-drop, too.
Apple launched the Macintosh with a massive media campaign spearheaded by a minute-long TV commercial (riffing on Orwell’s 1984) that aired during the Super Bowl.
Apple IIc, 1984 It was one of the first small-form-factor PCs to hit the market, signaling the industry-wide move toward compact, integrated designs that would come later. Also, its diminutive size and unassuming looks were far less intimidating than the hulking machines common in the mid-1980s. It was an era when computers beginning to creep into middle-class homes, and first-time buyers found the IIc a “friendly” and appealing option. It looked equally attractive in the family room as it did in the office. Pixar, 1986 Steve Jobs bought Pixar in 1986.
At the time, it was a small group of engineers spun off from the computer graphics department at Lucasfilm. Jobs paid $5 million to George Lucas and sank $5 million of his own money into the company. His original vision for Pixar was to develop graphics-rendering hardware and software, but the business eventually evolved into an animation studio. Jobs signed a distribution deal with Disney and Pixar began cranking out a string of hit family films, all of them computer-animated. 1995’s Toy Story was the first blockbuster. Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc. , Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars, WALL-E and Upfollowed.
Accolades and Oscars came rolling in, along with massive mountains of cash. In 2006, Jobs flipped his original $10 million investment, selling Pixar to Disney for $7. 4 billion in stock. That’s one hell of an exit. iMac, 1998 After NeXT failed to gain traction, Jobs sold the company to Apple and came back into the fold in 1996. Two years later, the company released a complete rewrite of the desktop PC — the candy-colored iMac. It kicked the boring beige PC box to the curb, and it marked the return of the revolutionary all-in-one design first introduced by the original Macintosh.
The first iMac was a runaway hit, and the all-in-one design is still used by today’s iMac (and widely copied by other PC manufacturers). iPod, 2001 The first iPod was a $400 MP3 player with a 5-gigabyte hard drive and a mechanical scroll wheel that didn’t sync to Windows machines. Not a very likely candidate for the device that would completely change the music industry. But it did, pouring fuel on the fire of online mayhem lit by Napster and creating a mindset among music device buyers where ease-of-use, convenience and sex appeal trump all other features.
The iPod’s all-white design was minimalist compared to other players that came before and, more importantly, the user interface was remarkably easy for anyone who picked it up to figure out. The hardware had its quirks — if you got sand in the scroll wheel, you’d get stuck listening to Spin Doctors all day — but it was quickly refined to incorporate further innovations: the touch-wheel, a color screen for watching videos and eventually, the industry-standard touchscreen. Mac OS X, 2001 When Steve Jobs returned to Apple, he ordered a rethink of the Mac’s native operating system.
Of course, he pushed for NeXTSTEP — the Unix-based OS he developed independently and sold to Apple in 1996 — to serve as the blueprint. Eventually surfacing in 2001, Mac OS X was a complete departure from earlier Mac operating systems and, as Jobs had promised, a true “next generation” OS. It appealed to novices fluent in Windows (enabling the craze of “switching”) but it retained enough of its Unix guts and enough of Apple’s well-established interface conventions to keep the Apple geeks interested.
Apple Stores, 2001 Jobs understood purchasing decisions are made on the sales floor, and he didn’t want Apple’s appeal to get lost in the quagmire of somebody else’s retail failure. His solution? Build your own house. Apple retail stores began popping up in 2001. Everything about their environment is tightly controlled. Only Apple computers are displayed and accessories are thoughtfully curated. Employees are approachable and well-trained, and they carry hand-held point-of-sales devices. Every store has a Genius Bar, the retail-level customer support help desk, and most have a classroom where you can learn how to use your Mac.
There are now over 300 Apple Stores worldwide. Even more phenomenal than the boost they provide to Apple sales is the way they fuel the Apple culture. On regular days, the stores buzz with the excitement of a crowded nightclub. On product launch days, eager customers queue up for hours, even days. iTunes Store, 2003 iTunes was the first hint at Jobs’ vision to turn the home PC into a “digital lifestyle hub. ” That plan was cemented in 2003 by the debut of the iTunes Store. Suddenly, it wasn’t just about creating or collecting media, but purchasing it, too.
And because it was directly plugged into the iPods everyone already owned, the iTunes Store was a huge hit. With it came the era of the digital single, easily downloadable for $0. 99 and offering instant satisfaction. Of course, the record companies weren’t happy to see their monopoly on distribution challenged. But traditional retail tapered while iTunes exploded. Tower Records folded. Virgin Megastores were boarded up. By 2007, Apple was selling 5 million songs a day. Intel MacBook Pro, 2006In 2006, Jobs announced that Apple would be switching from PowerPC processors to Intel’s Core Duo chips.
The MacBook Pro, released soon after the announcement, was Apple’s first laptop with an Intel CPU. The whole Apple line was transitioned to Intel before the end of the year, an astonishingly short period of time. Jobs said he and the Apple engineers felt the PowerPC architecture had hit a ceiling and wasn’t improving fast enough. By switching to Intel, the average clock speeds of Macs were drastically improved, especially in laptops. Sales soared, too, as Apple laptops could finally compete on both price and performance with Windows-based machines (and they could even run Windows). Phone, 2007During his keynote address at Macworld 2007, Jobs said Apple would announce three things: “A widescreen iPod with touch controls, a revolutionary mobile phone and a breakthrough internet communications device. An iPod, a phone and an internet communicator. ” Of course, it was all three of those things in one — the iPhone. Years on, Apple’s phone has not only completely changed our expectations of how a smartphone should look, feel and behave, but Jobs’ famous wrangling with the wireless carriers has toppled the long-standing power structure in the industry.
Before Apple, carriers insisted on controlling the hardware and software on their phones. Now, if they want the hottest phones, the carriers have to play ball. MacBook Air, 2008 When it showed up in 2008, the MacBook Air was touted as “the world’s thinnest notebook. “Thin and light have always been sexy, but this one was weird. It shipped without an optical drive. You could buy an external DVD drive if you really needed one, or you could simply “borrow” another computer’s DVD drive and beam the data over Wi-Fi.
Even though many laughed at the notion, the Air was Exhibit A to those predicting the death of the optical drive. Close to four years later, disks and drives are still around, but they are disappearing quickly as software increasingly moves into the browser and into cloud-based app stores. Also, Windows laptop manufacturers are now competing in an entirely new category: “ultrabooks. ” These super-portable laptops cost a little more, but they are thin, very light, use SSDs, ship without optical drives and are fitted into brushed metal cases — just like the MacBook Air. Pad, 2010It’s the device everyone wanted Apple to create, even though most of us weren’t sure how it was going to fit into our lives once it got here. But Jobs got sentimental when showing off the first iPad in 2010. He said it was a culmination of years of work, starting with OS X, then iTunes, then the iPhone, then the App Store. The shockwaves are still evident more than a year later as manufacturers race to catch up, pumping out their own tablets. But they can’t match Apple’s success. The iPad 2 was Steve’s swan song. We all felt it, but few chose to accept it.
What nobody can argue is that the man went out on top, crossing the finish line well ahead of everyone else. Of the two, the late Steve Jobs was always the quick, live-for-the-moment hare, while Bill Gates was the dispassionate, lawyerly, bide-your-time tortoise. In the last 12 years of his life, Jobs reinvented himself and his business not once but several times, and finished far ahead of his rival. He built the most valuable business in the world—creating more than half again as much wealth for his shareholders as Microsoft.
Microsoft reached its all-time peak in market capitalization in September of 2000, when the stock was worth $642 billion. Today it is worth only about a third as much—at $229 billion (as of Oct. 25). By contrast, Apple’s market cap has climbed from a mere $6 billion at the end of 1998 to $364 billion today (again, Oct. 25)—a 60-fold increase. Jobs “revolutionized six industries”—personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing—and he “reimagined a seventh”—in creating the stores thatbecame shrines to his memory in the days and weeks following his death from pancreatic cancer on October 5.
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