Steve Jobs biography: The man in the black turtle neck who made technology cool.
Steve Jobs was an inspiration person who sadly passed away this week. In tribute to him and his legacy we have compiled this biography that only scratches the surface of Steve Jobs life.
If you would like to know more then we recommend a forthcoming book by Walter Isaacson Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography
Steve Jobs Biography: The Early Years
Steve Jobs was born in San Francisco in February 1955 to unwed parents who put him up for adoption. He was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs and was brought up in what would become the centre of the computing world, Silicon Valley.
Perhaps naturally growing up in that environment, Steve Jobs was fascinated by the fledgling electronics industry and spent time at companies such as HP and Atari. It was during this period that he met Steve Wozniak who would later join him in founding Apple Computers.
Steve Jobs is well known for dropping out of college and he only attended in Oregon for a short period. He did however, allude to the fact that his time there contained some great insights for him. For instance, he attributes the inspiration for Apples famously clear font styles and user interface (UI) designs to events such as attending calligraphy and typeface printing classes.
After dropping out Steve Jobs spent time on a spiritual journey, learning about Eastern mysticism and taking a journey to India to learn meditation and find out what he wanted out of life.
Steve Jobs Biography: Apple Computers
When he returned to Silicon Valley it seemed as though he had gained a clear perspective on what he wanted todo and a determination to achieve it. He teamed up with his friend and electronics wiz Steve Wozniak who had just designed and built his own computer board.
Meanwhile Wozniak had been working on what would become the most advanced personal computer of the time, the Apple II. It had color graphics and the worlds first commercial spreadsheet program.
After getting funding from an ex-Intel executive, the Apple II was a sensation and Apple Computers went public soon after in 1980. Steve Jobs assets were now valued at $200 million.
Increased competition, including IBM entering the market, meant that the early 80′s were tough on Steve Jobs and the Apple company.
They were still innovators though, they brought the first graphical user interface (GUI) to market and we saw the first Macintosh computer in 1984.
It was also a time of internal strife, Steve Jobs was considered by some in Apple as arrogant and temperamental. Poor sales meant that internal pressures could not be swept under the carpet as Apple began to look like a company in trouble.
Apple CEO John Sculley, whom Steve Jobs had brought in to help him run the company, fell out with Jobs and the resulting shakeup meant that Steve Jobs was sidelined at Apple and absolved of his responsibilities.
Steve Jobs Biography: Pixar & NeXT
Apple may have been his life up to that point, but the phrase “when one door closes another one opens” could have been written for Steve Jobs.
George Lucas had been working with a team of computer animators and for some reason (I can never find a satisfactory answer to this one), decided that he didn’t have the means to take them forward.
He introduced them to Steve Jobs who decided that he could. He turned them into another company you might know called Pixar, although it would be many years before they would become the company we know today.
Steve Jobs had also been working on another idea, he wanted to build high end computers for research projects and universities. He also wanted some of Apples best people to join his team. Another argument ensued prompting Steve Jobs to finally resign and sell most of his Apple stock in protest.
NeXT computers was finally born in 1986 with Steve Jobs at the helm after Apple dropped its threats of legal action. It wasn’t a great success and although they tried to expand into the business market the company was losing money.
With Pixar also struggling the early 90′s were a bleak and humbling time for Steve Jobs and his ambitions.
In his personal life things were better. He married Laurene in 1991 and had a young son, the up side of his current business circumstances meant that he could spend time at home with his young family.
Wiser men than me have suggested that mans greatest triumphs often come on the heals of their greatest defeats and so it proved with Steve Jobs.
Steve Jobs Biography: Zero to Hero
Never one to overlook perfect timing Steve Jobs took Pixar public a week after the Toy Story release in 1995, instantly seeing his net worth rocket to $1.5 billion.
His other major venture, NeXT, would also take a dramatic turn.
With the release of Windows 95 Microsoft had really turned up the heat on Apple computers. Since Steve Jobs had left they had failed to produce anything new or innovative and their market share was in freefall. Their once elegant operating system had become bloated and was no match for Microsofts new Windows 95 software.
As with Apple, Steve Jobs had always stayed true to his original vision of simple design and powerful features in whatever NeXT produced. This was true of their operating system called NeXTSTEP and it was this software that persuaded Gil Amelio, then CEO of Apple Computers, to buy NeXT and bring Steve Jobs back into the Apple fold.
Gil Amelio may have brought Steve Jobs back to Apple but he wouldn’t be shown any mercy by Jobs when he announced huge Apple losses in 1997. Steve Jobs showed his ruthless side and promptly took his job.
Steve Jobs undertook a complete review of the company from top to bottom and streamlined every area of operations.
He also started to undertake what would perhaps become the biggest achievement of his career, the branding of Apple, headed by the slogan ‘Think Different’.
He was telling people what he always believed, that you don’t have to be like everyone else, you can change the world and Apple are there to help you.
Within the year Apple were back in profit with products such as the Apple Powerbook (I used to support these by the way, their reliability was shall we say… debatable).
Steve Jobs Biography: The Modern Era
Something that Apple would do again and again over the coming years happened for the first time since the launch of the original Apple II, the challenging of conventional wisdom and assumptions through great design.
In the case of the iMac, a riot of colorful plastic, it was the assumption that computers had to be boring grey boxes. It was a massive success with the public and changed the personal computer industry almost overnight.
Steve Jobs began to formulate the plan that would sow the seeds of success for Apple over the next decade, he saw the future of the personal computer as a digital hub for the new digital age. Seamlessly linking to other digital devices and he wanted Apple to be at the heart of it all.
The first creations to come out of this strategy were the so called iApps such as iMovie and iTunes. It was the hardware though that would really change the game.
In the early 2000′s there was a music site called Napster that allowed the downloading of music from the internet in MP3 format and the attention it was getting didn’t pass Steve Jobs by.
He wasn’t going to restrict Apple to just building computers and with some outside help, he turned their attention to building their own MP3 player and launched the iPod in 2001.
Steve Jobs Biography: The iPod
They weren’t the first but with Apples trademark good design and simple interface, the iPod became the de-facto MP3 player in what would become a massive market. The iPod and iTunes combination changed the music industry almost overnight.
Steve Jobs also decided to sell the iPod and other Apple hardware through their own retail stores. With very low key selling going against the retail grain, original fittings and inhouse product classes and training, they were a continuation of the Apple branding and their massive success is still influencing how other retailers operate.
In 2003 Steve Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and underwent surgery in 2004. After the surgery people thought that he had beaten the disease but as we now know that was not going to be the case.
Revenues from the iPod range, which by now included several versions including the nano and shuffle, actually surpassed those of it’s computers in 2006 and they pretty much had the MP3 market sown up. Even today, iTunes is still the largest retailer of music in the world.
Also announced in 2006 was the merger of Pixar and Disney. The move made Steve Jobs the largest single shareholder of Disney stock, a fact that was still true when Steve Jobs passed away this week.
Steve Jobs Biography: iPhone
Still pursuing his digital hub strategy laid out at the start of the decade, Apple would go on to launch Apple TV and the next real step change in technology in 2007. The iPhone. It changed the mobile phone industry overnight.
When he launched it Steve Jobs said that the iPhone was light years ahead of the competition and I don’t think anyone at that time would have disagreed. Nothing else came close, only with the launch of Googles android software years later did that change.
What is interesting is that Steve Jobs was effectively sealing the fate of his iPod range with the launch of the iPhone. How many other CEO’s would sacrifice a product range that produced around half their revenue?
I think that fact and the iPhone itself sums up more than anything else why many are calling Steve Jobs a visionary, he always looked beyond the short term.
In 2009 Steve Jobs shocked the Apple community by finally admitting the rumoured health problems and taking 6 months off for another operation that would see him undergo a liver transplant.
Steve Jobs Biography: iPad
With Steve Jobs back as CEO in 2010 he announced another ground breaking product that would enhance his ‘visionary’ status and once again change the computer industry almost overnight. He launched the iPad.
Again, other manufacturers had tried tablet computers and failed miserably, so Apple were not the first. They were however, the first to get it right.
The same skilled design that made the iPhone so brilliant did the same for the iPad. A whole new market of the personal computer industry was created with the iPads launch.
In 2011 it was obvious when Steve Jobs resigned as Apple CEO that his health was deteriorating, but the news that he had died this week still came as a shock to many. He passed away peacefully surrounded by his family.
Steve Jobs Biography: Summary
Count how many times I have said “changed the …… industry almost overnight” and you will instantly gauge what Steve Jobs has brought to the technology industry that now rules every area of our lives in practically every country in the world.
He changed the computer industry with the Apple II, iMac and iPad.
He changed the music industry with iTunes and iPod.
He changed the phone industry with iPhone. He changed the movie industry with Pixar.
How many people can say they built a billion $ company? How many people can say that they did it on 3 different occasions in 2 different industries?
Of course he didn’t do it all on his own, he worked with other great people such as British design genius Jony Ive. But he set the tone, strategy and branding. He had the drive, the vision and the management skills to inspire his colleagues and his many customers.
The fact that the passing of Steve Jobs this week made front line news around the world, that people set up shrines for him as they might a pop star or movie actor, that Presidents paid tribute tells you alot about the man.
How many other business people around the world can say that they will get the same treatment when they pass away? It is difficult to name even one.