How Steve Jobs Saved Apple and Helped the World: The Short Version
Intro and Background
Apple Inc. was founded as Apple Computer in 1976, though it was not officially incorporated until 1977. At the beginning, Steve Jobs was the leader and public face of the company, though he largely depended on friend Steve Wozniak to look after the technical side. As the company grew, however, Wozniak became less involved, while Jobs's public profile rose exponentially. He appeared (in illustrated form) on the cover of TIME Magazine in 1982. After the initial Apple computers sold well to education markets, Apple launched the Macintosh with an iconic ad (directed by Alien's Ridley Scott) aired during the 1984 Super Bowl. Although initially successful, the Macintosh was eventually eclipsed by the more widely available and inexpensive “IBM Compatible” PCs and their clones.
As the company grew into a behemoth in the mid-1980s, Jobs sought out a CEO whom he could trust to run the business side of Apple. He found his man (or so he thought) in John Sculley, former CEO of PepsiCo. Ironically, Sculley would lead a push to oust Jobs in 1985, pushing him to the background as a glorified consultant. Jobs then quit and formed NeXT, Inc., a new computer company which was forced to cater exclusively to the business workstation market due to a non-compete clause in Jobs's contract.
The Floundering of Apple Computer (1985-1997)
Without Jobs's vision, Apple continued to lose its way throughout the late 1980s and into the mid-1990s. They continued to release updated models of the Macintosh, but sales continued to pale in comparison to PC clones, especially once Microsoft's Windows operating system released a major update (Windows95) in late 1995. Around this time, Apple dedicated many of its resources to releasing variations of the Performa line of Macs. As well, they tried to license the Mac OS to outside computer companies in an effort to compete with Windows, but these were aesthetically lacking beige boxes that managed to look even less attractive than Windows-based models offered by Compaq and HP, to name just two.
In mid-1993, John Sculley was ousted and replaced by Apple's former head of European operations, Michael Spindler. Spindler attempted to diversify Apple by initiating merger talks with IBM, Sun Microsystems, and Phillips, but talks were unsuccessful, leading to Spindler being replaced by Gil Amelio in early 1996.
As the 1990s wore on, Apple slumped behind in both stock value and technological development. Their efforts to redesign the Mac operating system were plagued with problems. Amelio canceled the main effort to redesign the system (code-named Copeland) and instead refocused the company on developing Mac OS 8, based on the same architecture as System 7.5, which had been in use since the early 1990s. Amelio then began to seek out an already-developed operating system that would help Apple compete better with the ever-evolving Windows platform, and in 1997 he found new hope... in Steve Jobs' NeXT.
The NeXT Savior
NeXT had made several technological advances in computer operating systems with its NeXTStep OS. But as the company was forced to limit itself to commercial workstations, and also because these systems were priced around the $25,000 mark, the company had not been as successful as Jobs had hoped. But Jobs had played it safe by not putting all of his eggs in one basket, instead diversifying with the purchase of computer animation company Pixar from George Lucas. He was still very wealthy and was made even more so when Apple purchased NeXT in 1997. Jobs then purchased enough further shares of Apple stock to dictate decisions to its board of directors. And in a coup that mirrored the ousting of Jobs himself twelve years earlier, the board removed Gil Amelio from the CEO post at Jobs's insistence, and Jobs was installed as “interim” CEO.
With Jobs back at the helm, the company finally began to evolve in a positive direction. The NeXTStep OS was used as the kernel for Mac OS X, the first revolutionary update of the Mac OS since the early 1990s. The colorful iMacs were released in 1998, and later iBooks and redesigned PowerBook laptops re-energized Apple's portable system sales. But it wasn't until the release of the iPod portable media players in late 2001 that Apple's fortunes began seriously to turn around. The iPod was a mega-success in the consumer market, and sales of iPods eventually outdid sales of Mac computers.
After the iPod, Apple turned its attention to the cell phone market, releasing the iPhone in 2007. The device has since become the standard for smart-phones worldwide. The development and release of the iPad in mid-2010 ensured that the company would dominate the tablet market. Although competitors have tried to step up, Apple's iPad has consistently stood its ground. With all of this dominance in specialized electronics markets, Apple is once again among the most profitable technology companies in the world.
Conclusion: The Legacy of Steve Jobs
The events chronicled above prove that it was Steve Jobs's vision that helped Apple become the company it is today. He had the charisma to be its public face in the early days, but corporate struggles cut his tenure short and plunged the company into a period of despair that lasted more than a decade. Undeterred, Jobs continued to lead technological advancements, directly resulting in his return to the company, which in turn led directly to the company's return to a major power of technological innovation and profitability.
The untimely death of Steve Jobs on October 5, 2011, was of course a huge blow to the technological industry, and even industry in general. But we have to be grateful that Jobs was able to lead so many advances through his vision and panache over the course of life. He has doubtlessly inspired millions of artists and developers, who will in turn continue to follow his example and lead the way for even more innovations as the human race continues to evolve.
Michael Spindler: The Peter Principle at Apple (http://lowendmac.com/orchard/06/michael-spindler-apple.html)
Carlton, Jim. Apple: The Inside Story of Intrigue, Egomania, and Business Blunders. Crown Business; 1st Ed., 1997.