A Success Story Of Our Times
I love success stories. And I especially love success when it laughs in the face of failure.
We’ve been watching one of these stories develop over the last couple decades. Last week the final chapter was made public when Steve Jobs announced that he was stepping down as CEO of Apple, Inc.
It was not a big surprise that Jobs was ending his career at Apple. He’s been on medical leave since earlier this year and most everyone knew it was just a matter of time until he and Apple parted company, although he is continuing as Chairman of the Board. He’s battled pancreatic cancer and has undergone a liver transplant.
Jobs is being replaced by Tim Cook who was formerly Apple’s CEO. As an enticement for him to stick with Apple, Cook has been offered a million shares of Apple stock, the first 500,000 coming in 2016 and the balance in 2021, which means he’ll get the stock once he’s been at the helm of Apple for five and 10 years, respectively.
In his letter of resignation, Jobs left no doubt that his health is seriously failing. “I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO,” he wrote, “ I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.”
Jobs co-founded Apple in 1976, along with high school classmate Steve Wozniak and their friend Ron Wayne. With Wozniak, he helped develop the Apple I and Apple II, and, in 1984, introduced the Macintosh to the world. But in 1985 he clashed with the company’s CEO, John Sculley, and left Apple to found a new company, Next Computer. He also acquired animation company Pixar from filmmaker George Lucas in 1986, later selling it to Disney and becoming a member of the media conglomerate’s board of directors, as well as its largest individual shareholder.
Last week when Jobs announced that he was stepping down, Wozniak described Jobs as the “greatest technology business leader of our time.” I’d say that ranks Jobs up there with the likes of Thomas Edison and others who changed the way we live our lives.
If you have doubts about the validity of Wozniak’s statement, consider that back in the mid ‘90’s Apple was on the brink of failure. Its stock was selling at about $12 a share. I had considered buying some Apple stock back then but took the advice of a friend and didn’t. It was good advice at the time. Hardly anyone expected Apple to succeed.
But Steve Jobs changed everything. Today Apple is hugely profitable and one of wealthiest company’s in the world with cash reserves of over $76 billion. How’s that for a company that most everyone thought was going down the tubes?
During Jobs’s time at the helm, Apple released a number of groundbreaking products, including the iPod in 2001, the iPhone in 2007 and the iPad in 2010. Jobs also presided over a revitalization of the company’s Mac line: Apple introduced its iMac desktop computer in 1998, shortly after his return. The iMac was the first desktop computer to be delivered without a floppy disk drive, which was replaced with a CD Drive and later a DVD. The move was highly controversial, but Apple saw the future before other computer makers did. When’s the last time you saw a new computer that includes a floppy drive?
Among Jobs’s other accomplishments as CEO were the launch of the iTunes Music Store in 2003, which went on to become the top music retailer in the U.S. The store, combined with the iPod, popularized the selling of digital music, and later expanded its content to include movies, television shows, podcasts, audiobooks, ebooks, and, most recently, apps for Apple’s mobile iOS platform, which drives iPads and iPhones. Jobs also led Apple to open a worldwide network on brick and mortal retail stores that have become highly profitable and forced rival Microsoft into opening a similar chain of stores.
I’m sure Apple will continue to develop amazing new products without Steve Jobs at the helm. But it won’t be quite the same without seeing Jobs personally demonstrate Apple’s latest gadget. He just had a way of generating excitement about Apple products that I doubt can be duplicated.