Steve Jobs' extraordinary 35-year career at Apple has spanned world transformations that he has had no small role in creating. Steve Jobs, who announced his resignation as CEO of Apple Wednesday, founded the company April 1, 1976 along with Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne.
The company was founded to sell the Apple I personal computer kit, which was hand-built by Wozniak and was sold as a motherboard (with CPU, RAM, and basic textual-video chips).
Apple was incorporated Jan. 3, 1977, without Wayne, who sold his share of the company back to Jobs and Wozniak for $800. In 1978, Apple recruited Mike Scott from National Semiconductor to serve as CEO for what turned out to be several turbulent years.
Jobs and several Apple employees including Jef Raskin visited Xerox PARC in December 1979 to see the Xerox Alto. Xerox granted Apple engineers three days of access to the PARC facilities in return for the option to buy 100,000 shares (800,000 split-adjusted shares) of Apple at the pre-IPO price of $10 a share.
Jobs was immediately convinced that all future computers would use a graphical user interface, and development of a GUI began for the Apple Lisa.
In 1983, Jobs managed to lure John Sculley away from Pepsi-Cola to serve as Apple's CEO. It was reported Jobs laid it out to Sculley very simply, Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life or do you want to come with me and change the world?
The theory at the time was if you can differentiate a product in the cola game you can certainly do the same in personal computing, said Paul McWilliams of Indie Research LLC.
Before the Macintosh, personal computers came with Intel processors running on Microsoft Disk Operating System (DOS). At Apple's annual shareholders meeting in 1984, Jobs introduced the Macintosh to a wildly enthusiastic audience. Unlike DOS, the Mac operating system was intuitive.
As a matter of a fact, one of my more technical sales guys coined the saying, DOS machines are computers - Mac PCs are appliances. He would go on to say, they are about as simple to operate as a blender, said McWilliams.
The Macintosh became the first commercially successful small computer with a graphical user interface. The development of the Mac was started by Raskin, and eventually taken over by Jobs.
An industrywide sales slump towards the end of 1984 caused a deterioration in Jobs's working relationship with Sculley, and at the end of May 1985 -- following an internal power struggle and an announcement of significant layoffs -- Jobs resigned from Apple.
Jobs founded NeXT Computer, a platform development company specializing in the higher education and business markets. The NeXTcube was described by Jobs as an interpersonal computer, which he believed was the next step after personal computing.
In 1986, Jobs bought The Graphics Group (later renamed Pixar) from Lucasfilm's computer graphics division for the price of $10 million, $5 million of which was given to the company as capital.
In 1995, Microsoft released Windows 95, its own consumer-oriented graphical user interface-based operating system.
Apple most certainly went through its ups and downs during the decade that followed, but once Microsoft released Windows 95, the differentiation of having an intuitive graphical user interface was shattered and when the lawsuit against Microsoft was lost, so was Apple, said McWilliams.
In 1996, Apple announced that it would buy NeXT Computer for $429 million. The deal was finalized in late 1996, bringing Jobs back to the company he had co-founded.
Jobs was formally named interim chief executive in September 1997. In March 1998, Jobs terminated a number of projects, such as Newton, Cyberdog, and OpenDoc to concentrate Apple's efforts on returning to profitability.
Jobs also redrafted the rules for Macintosh clones, making it too costly for the manufacturers to continue making machines and rebuilt the tightly closed Apple strategy.
At the 2000 Macworld Expo, Jobs officially dropped the interim modifier from his title at Apple and became permanent CEO. Jobs quipped at the time that he would be using the title 'iCEO'.
With the purchase of NeXT, much of the company's technology found its way into Apple products, most notably NeXTSTEP, which evolved into Mac OS X -- Apple's new foundation.
At the core of Jobs' genius has been the fact he understands we don't like reading instruction manuals. We want things simple, intuitive, useful, and dependable. I remember vividly the flood of criticism the iPod received after it was introduced -- technical writers around the world termed it as a 'hard disk drive with a go button'. I didn't disagree with that statement, but added, 'exactly, that's why it will be successful', said McWilliams.
Apple didn't invent the mouse-driven GUI used since the introduction of the Mac in 1984, it didn't invent the MP3 player, nor did it invent the ubiquitous pinch gesture native to all touch-screen smartphones and tablets today. However, it did make all of these and many more technologies commercial successes.
One of my favorite Apple strategies was the way it rolled out the iPhone. All of the TV campaigns during the first months following its introduction focused on hardware. It was a new form-factor - the Hershey Bar as it's called - with a new, but intuitive touch screen interface. It was cool, simple and, to say the least, compelling, said McWilliams.
It was also easily copied, and Jobs knew that. He was ready for the clones and this time would successfully leverage them to help build on the iPhone's early success. As soon as the clones began to hit the market, the Apple ad campaign quickly switched from showing off the hardware to we've got an app for that.
In 2006, Disney agreed to purchase Pixar in an all-stock transaction worth $7.4 billion. Once the deal closed, Jobs became The Walt Disney Co.'s largest single shareholder with about 7 percent of the company's stock. Jobs joined Disney's board of directors upon completion of the merger.
In recent years, the company has branched out, introducing and improving upon other digital appliances. With the introduction of the iPod portable music player, iTunes digital music software, and the iTunes Store, the company made forays into consumer electronics and music distribution.
One of the lessons Jobs learned while on the outside looking in was even though Apple continually introduced better PCs, it could never crack the Win-Tel (Windows - Intel) hold on the market. The reason for this was apps are sticky.
One of Jobs' early moves after returning to run Apple was to cut a deal with his old archrival, Microsoft, to port its Office productivity software to the Apple platform.
Jobs then moved the Mac away from the PowerPC processor to the Intel x86 architecture, and even designed the machines to run either the Apple OS-X, or Microsoft's Vista or XP operating system. But with the iPhone, Apple stepped out in front of the curve by inventing the app store and, with that, created some very sticky differentiation, McWilliams said.
Jobs built upon the success of the iPhone with the release of the iPad. Ironically, when it was introduced the early reports criticized it by terming the iPad as being simply a big iPhone.
This one was simple to call -- Apple had already trained about 45 million people how to use an iPhone and it only made sense it would leverage that by giving its customers the one thing they couldn't get with the iPhone -- a bigger screen.
Through most of these successes, Tim Cook was in the background. Only when Steve needed to take some time off to fight his first bout against cancer was Cook brought to the foreground. We were understandably nervous then as we are again now, said McWilliams.
While no one can dispute Cook's brilliance in building out Apple's operational structure, but the question remains can he, or for that matter anyone else, duplicate Jobs' brilliance in seeing what it takes to change the world? My hope and prayer is we won't have to answer that question for a long time, McWilliams added.
As it stands today, Jobs will remain at Apple as its chairman, and in that role be there to add his wisdom and vision. But McWilliams' fear is his days might be numbered in much smaller digits than all would like to admit.
While Apple, possibly more than any other tech company today, is the embodiment of its founder Steve Jobs, I believe Jobs has carefully designed it, and cultivated its culture, to thrive long after he is gone. To that end, Steve Jobs has given us much more than iPods, iPhones, and iPads, he has shown us through hard work, determination, and yes genius and some lucky breaks, that the American Dream is alive and well, McWilliams concluded.
Jobs is listed as either primary inventor or co-inventor in more than 250 awarded patents or patent applications related to a range of technologies from actual computer and portable devices to user interfaces (including touch-based), speakers, keyboards, power adapters, staircases, clasps, sleeves, lanyards and packages, according to United States Patent and Trademark Office.