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BLOG: How Steve Jobs' vision changed the world

Sean Ashcroft | Oct. 10, 2011
Apple is not just a company; it’s a vision that continues to change the way people interact with one another.

So, as Apple loses its dictator-cum-messiah? Will its brand suffer? The world may already know the answer to this, because Jobs and Apple have already parted company once.

Coup

In a 1985 boardroom coup, Jobs was forced out of his own firm by CEO John Sculley, whom Jobs himself had prised from Pepsi (with the words: "D'you wanna to sell sugared water for the rest of your life, or d'you wanna change the world?")

Jobs' big mistake was to forget Apple had shareholders. Sales of the first Macintosh computer in 1984 were catastrophically poor; while aesthetically wonderful, they were also underpowered, and no one had yet written any applications for them. Implored by Sculley to concentrate on the company's profitable Apple II line, Jobs refused, and the board sided with Sculley. Jobs was out.

"There was relief, as everyone had been terrorized by Jobs at some point," recalls Larry Tesler, a computer scientist at Apple for 17 years. "But we were worried what would happen to the company without its visionary and founder, and without his charisma."

"Apple never recovered from losing Steve," confirms Andy Hertzfeld, one of Apple's earliest employees. "He has a reality distortion field. In his presence, reality is malleable. He can convince anyone of practically anything, but it wears off when he's not around."

Without Jobs' maniacal striving for perfection, Apple drifted toward mediocrity, becoming a producer of beige boxes that, while popular with creatives, enthused few others.

Over time, and under a succession of CEOs, the Apple brand became almost homeopathically diluted. The low point came with the 'Mac clones' strategy of the mid-1990s, under which the company licensed its Mac OS operating system to third-party hardware vendors, who preceded to undercut Apple's own products, driving the company towards extinction.

And what of Jobs during this decade away from Apple? He kept pretty quiet, merely founding the Pixar animation studio in 1986, which he sold to Disney in 2006 for $7.4 billion, making him Disney's largest shareholder.

Jobs also started another technology company, NeXT, which sold super high-end computers to scientific and academic markets. It was to be his ticket back into Apple, after the company bought NeXT for $429 million in 1996.

Pefection

At that time, 'Apple' and 'beleaguered' rarely failed to appear in the same sentence, but this was before Jobs began injecting perfection back into the Apple brand.

The company's epic climb toward supremacy began when Jobs recognised that, in his enforced absence, a design genius had joined the Apple ranks. London-born industrial designer Jonathan Ive was duly tasked by Jobs with designing a computer that could change the world all over again. His creation was 1998's iconic transparent blue iMac. Within months, every electronic product - from irons to vibrators - were being designed using translucent blue plastic. Apple was back, because Jobs was back.

 

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