Monday, October 24, 2011

STEVE JOBS The Thomas Edison of our Era

The whole world grieves on the news of the death of Steve Jobs, who revolutionized the world of technology and also made the world realize that good simple technology is for everyone.

Steven Paul Jobs was born in San Francisco, California on February 24 1955. His biological parents, unwed college graduates Joanne Simpson and Abdulfattah Jandali, had him adopted by a lower-middle-class couple from south of the Bay Area, Paul and Clara Jobs.

Young Steve grew up in a valley of apricot orchards that was already turning into the world center of computer technology: Silicon Valley. It was not uncommon to see engineers fill their garages with all kind of electronic devices in that part of California. Steve Jobs was fascinated by these, and that’s why, in 1969, he met with a computer whiz kid who shared his interests in electronics: Stephen Wozniak — commonly known as Woz. Steve and Woz quickly became friends even though Woz was five years older.

When Steve Jobs reached college age, he decided he would go to Reed College in Oregon. It was an expensive liberal arts college, way too pricey for his modest parents; but they had to keep their promise to Steve’s biological mother, and therefore paid for the tuition. Steve only stayed at Reed for one semester though, after which he dropped out. He then spent a lot of time learning about Eastern mysticism and adopted strange diets, fasting or eating only fruits: it was his hippie period. He even traveled to India with a friend to seek enlightenment at age 19.

Apple’s first year in business consisted of assembling the boards in Steve’s garage and driving to local computer stores to try and sell them. Meanwhile, Woz worked on a new, much improved computer, the Apple II, which he basically finished in 1977. Both Woz and Steve knew the Apple II was a breakthrough computer, much more advanced than anything the market had ever seen. That’s why Steve set out to find venture capitalists to fund Apple’s expansion. After a while, he made a deal with Mike Markkula, an enthusiastic former Intel executive who invested $250,000 in their business and assured them their company would enter the Fortune 500 list in less than two years.

Yet Steve Jobs was soon thrown out of the Lisa project because he was considered too temperamental a manager. Deeply angry, he took revenge by taking over a small project called Macintosh, determined to make it a cheaper GUI computer that would cannibalize sales of Lisa. Macintosh was in development since 1979 and its concept was “a computer as easy to use as a toaster.” Steve Jobs recruited brilliant young engineers in his Mac team and invigorated them by insufflating a spirit of entrepreneurship and rebellion, calling them “pirates”, unlike the rest of the company, “the Navy.”

Steve was stunned. Apple was his life, and he was kicked out of it. He started traveling around looking for new ways to spend his energy. It was actually in that second half of 1985 that he was introduced to a small team of brilliant computer graphics experts that George Lucas was trying to sell. They all shared a common dream of making animated movies with computers. Steve was interested and he eventually bought the company for $10 million in 1986, incorporating it as Pixar.
Yet his main passion was still to make great computers. In September 1985, he announced to the Apple board that he was going to found a new company, called NeXT, to build an advanced computer for higher education and scientific research. He was going to take with him some of the best engineers and salesmen from the Mac team. Apple disapproved and threatened to sue him. It was at that point that Steve left his company for good and sold almost all of his stock in disgust.
Fortunately, as John Lasseter came back to Disney with an improved script for the feature film, called Toy Story, the project got back on track. The movie was to be released for Thanksgiving 1995. As the date approached, Steve Jobs realized what an incredible power the Disney brand was. He decided Pixar would go public the week after the release of Toy Story, cashing in on the media hype surrounding the first computer-generated animation movie of all time. It worked wonders: Toy Story’s box-office success was only surpassed by the Pixar stock’s success on Wall Street. Steve Jobs, who owned 80% of the company, saw his net worth rise to over $1.5 billion — five times the money he had ever made at Apple in the 1980s!

Speaking of Apple, the fruit company was in the midst of his worst year ever. After the release of Windows 95, the Mac, which had turned profitable but had failed to evolve for a decade while Steve Jobs was away, started losing market share at an alarming rate. By 1996, the company’s newly appointed CEO, Gil Amelio, was looking for new software to replace the old and bloated Mac OS. He eventually chose Steve’s NeXTSTEP. Apple paid $400 million to acquire NeXT, and Steve was back to the company that had thrown him out a decade earlier. His official title was that of “informal adviser to the CEO.”
Steve Jobs quickly gave confidence back to the Apple community. The company launched a revolutionary marketing campaign around a new slogan: Think Different, spreading the idea that people who used Macs were dreamers who could change the world. As the Apple brand grew stronger, the company launched a couple of new successful products, the Power Mac G3 and the PowerBook. Six months after he had come back, Steve Jobs had led the company to profitability.

Yet Apple’s resurgence really came a little later, when Steve introduced a new, amazing consumer desktop computer: iMac. Introduced in May 1998, it was Apple’s first really innovative product basically since the original Macintosh in 1984. The iMac’s stunning translucent design blew away the whole personal computer industry, which had failed to produce anything but black or beige boxes for over a decade. Moreover, iMac was a hot seller, and it was essential in bringing back tons of developers to the Mac platform. Design innovations continued throughout 1998 and 1999 with the colored iMacs and iBook, Apple’s consumer notebook. After three years in charge, Steve Jobs had brought Apple back to greatness. That’s why he finally accepted to become full-time CEO of Apple in January 2000 — the first time one man became CEO of two public companies at the same time.

iPod’s breakthrough features — its beautiful design, its brilliant user interface and click wheel, its fast FireWire connectivity and its ability to sync with iTunes seamlessly — made it a hot seller from the start. For the first time, people were buying Macs just so they could use this little music player the size of a cigarette box. Apple cashed in on that success and went further in the following years, first by making iPod Windows-compatible in 2002, then by opening the iTunes Music Store and developing a Windows version of iTunes in 2003.

Steve Jobs is undeniably an extraordinary man by any standard. He has left his mark on no less than five industries: personal computers with Apple II and Macintosh, music with iPod and iTunes, phone with iPhone, and animation with Pixar. The middle-class hippie kid with no college education that he was built a computer empire and became a multi-millionaire in a few years, was fired from his own company before coming back a decade later to save it and turn it into one of the world’s most influential corporations, with millions of fans around the world. He has also contributed to the creation of the new leader in animated movies for decades to come. He has been called a fluke for years, but is now widely acknowledged as one the world’s most eminent business executives and an unrivaled visionary. He has changed millions of lives by making technology easy-to-use, exciting and beautiful.… And you know what the best part is? He’s not done yet.

Jobs had never met his biological father, Abdulfattah "John" Jandali, 80, a Syrian-American Muslim and ex-political science professor, even after the latter's public request for a union. Jandali and Joanne Schieble, an American graduate student, were unmarried when Jobs was born in 1955. The baby was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs of Mountain View, Calif., who named him Steven Paul.

It is being speculated that Jobs' death may have a negative impact on Apple. But according to reports, Jobs had been working for over an year on future Apple products, which included preparing blueprints for next generation iPads, iPods, iPhones and MacBooks. Jobs was also working on the plan approval of spaceship-style Apple headquarters in California, big enough to accommodate 12,000 employees.

Steve Jobs died on Wednesday.He was 56. His death leaves Apple without its charismatic co-founder but his legacy lives on its products and technologies. While Steve Jobs' death in 2011 is shocking, it wasn't unexpected. Jobs had battled cancer for years.
Steve Jobs gave us a lesson on how to deal with death when he uttered these words during the Stanford commencement exercise in 2005. He shared a unique perspective in life, as he faces his mortality.

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