Steve Jobs: The iCEO

In the wake of the resignation of Steve Jobs, the Internet community is acting as though they are at a funeral.  Steve Jobs is not dead. He merely resigned as CEO of Apple and has been voted Chairman of the Board of Directors.  I certainly understand why there is an outpouring of grief considering the circumstances surrounding his resignation and medical leave, but lets save the obituaries for when they are necessary.  Instead, we should celebrate what Steve Jobs was able to accomplish as CEO of Apple.

Steve returned to Apple in 1997 when the company purchased his tech firm NExT.  He had been absent from Apple since 1985 and the company was failing.  Steve was named interim CEO and convinced the Board of Directors to resign.  This allowed Steve to build a new Board.

Steve announced his return at MacWorld in 1997

Apple’s major issue in 1997 was that it offered too many product lines (computers, printers, cameras, etc.) and Steve decided it should trim them down.  In fact, at the time, Apple offered nine different variations of its computers.  After employees were unable to explain the differences between the models, it was clear they should be eliminated.  He quickly sent the Macintosh team back to the drawing board to create a new computer, one that could be used by professionals and novices alike.

Before Steve was able to accomplish this, however, there was one major obstacle standing in his way…cash.  Apple did not have any.  He was forced to look for partners, and in a move that surprised and angered many in the Apple community, he turned to Microsoft.  Bill Gates invested in Apple and they created a temporary partnership that would allow them to share specific patents.  In return, Microsoft bought Apple stock with the stipulation they would not sell it for two years.  This gave Apple the cash it needed to create the products that would shape my generation.

Steve and the iMac

Apple struck first in 1998 with the introduction of the iMac.  The all in one desktop device gave Apple the boost it needed, in capital and in stock value.  Apple was quiet for a few years, but in 2000, Steve was no longer considered the “interim” CEO of Apple.

The iPod

In 2001, Apple unveiled its newest device, one that would change how the world listens to music, the iPod.  At first, the iPod is simply a device for loading your CDs too, but Apple vision went much further and in 2003 they released the iTunes music store.  For the first time, the consumer could buy ONE song instead of an entire album.  This also allowed independent artists to distribute their music directly to the public.

In August 2004, Steve was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that is deemed to be operable.  He recovered from surgery and returned to work in September of the same year.  In his 2005 Stanford Commencement address, Steve briefly talked about his diagnosis and how the doctor had originally given him three months to live, before performing a biopsy.

The first iPhone

Apple’s innovation hit a new high when Steve unveiled the iPhone in 2007.  The phone was the first to have content that was not controlled by the cell phone carrier.  Apple took the iPhone to the next level when they unveiled the App Store.  This gave developers a place to distribute their applications to the owners of iPhones.

In 2009, Steve’s health made headlines again when he announced he would be taking medical leave in January.  When he returned to work in July, he revealed he had undergone a liver transplant earlier that year.  Steve’s return was greatly welcomed, but since this event, Steve has never looked as strong.

Unveiling the iPad

In January 2010, Steve was on stage yet again to unveil another Apple device, the iPad.  The iPad continues to dominate the tablet market almost two years later.

In January 2011, Steve announced that he was once again taking an indefinite medial leave to focus on his health.  Despite being on medical leave, Steve was present for the iPad 2 event in January and WWDC in June.  Many saw this as a sign that Steve’s health was improving that his medical leave would soon end.  Yesterday’s announcement of Steve’s resignation as CEO came as a surprise as many, and has left the Apple community concerned over his health.

Steve at WWDC in June 2011

Over the past fourteen years, Steve has led Apple from the brink of bankruptcy to being the most valuable tech company in the world.  There are critics of Apple’s strategies and, at times, bullying of it competitors, but there is no denying that Apple would not be what it has become if it were not for Steve Jobs.

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