Steve Jobs is a man who revolutionised six different industries (PCs, Animated films, Music, Phones, Tablets and digital publishing). This is the story of his life and how he achieved that remarkable feat.
Steven Paul Jobs was born on the 24th February 1955 in San Francisco. He was adopted and this was something he was aware of from a young age. Jobs claimed this made him feel independent but not abandoned. He treated his adoptive parents as his “real” parents.
Jobs realised at a young age that he was brighter than his parents but also became aware that they knew this and adapted their lives for him to accommodate him and give him opportunities. As well as a feeling of abandonment, he also felt “special”.
Jobs learnt to read before he went to school and often found himself bored. He would play pranks until he was moved to an advanced class which kept his attention and kept him enthused. He skipped a year and went to a different school but he was bullied so his parents moved house so that he could attend yet another school. It was in the garage of this house that his father tinkered with cars and Jobs experimented with electronics.
The Hewlett-Packard Explorers Club was a group of students that gathered and listened to an engineer from an HP lab that would talk to them each week on what he or she was working on. Jobs was fascinated and wanted to get some parts to work on things himself, so he got the number of Bill Hewlett the CEO and spoke to him for about 20 minutes. Hewlett got him the parts but also offered him a job.
While still a student, Jobs became friends with a former student five years his elder, Stephen Wozniak or “Woz” as he was known. Woz was interested in electronics from a young age, inspired by his father who worked as a rocket scientist. Both Jobs and Woz shared an appreciation of electronics, as well as music and practical jokes. They also made a good partnership when it came to work. Woz had the engineering skills and Jobs had the vision.
Jobs went to Reed college, which was a liberal arts school in Portland, Oregon. He lived a hippie lifestyle while he was there, reading about Zen Buddhism, experimenting with his diet and taking psychedelic drugs. Jobs got bored at college, specifically he didn’t enjoy going to the classes he was required to go to. He dropped out of college but did still attend classes that interested him. One such class was a calligraphy course that Jobs said influenced him to create the Mac computer with multiple typefaces and proportionally spaced fonts.
After 18 months, Jobs returned to his parents’ house and got a job working for Atari, the video game company who developed the famous arcade game, Pong. The simplicity of Atari’s games and lack of need for any sort of manual influenced Jobs in his later endeavours.
Jobs’ interest in spirituality continued and he travelled to India for most of 1974. When he returned to work at Atari, he was set a challenge to design a one-player version of pong, receiving a financial bonus for each computer chip fewer than 50 he would use. Jobs brought in Wozniak to help him engineer the game and after four days they got the work done using only 45 chips.
In his spare time, Woz was building a personal computer. In 1975 he became the first person to type a character on a keyboard and have it display on the monitor in front of them. Jobs was impressed and convinced Woz to start a company with him to sell the computer’s circuit boards. Jobs came up with the name “Apple” as he was on a fruit based diet and had just visited an apple farm. It would also appear before Atari in the phonebook.
After a demo, a computer shop owner offered to pay for 50 fully assembled circuit boards at $500 each. More orders followed and eventually they created the Apple I personal computer, including a case with a sleek design that set Apple apart from the other machines around. The Apple I would go on to be sold for the next 16 years and register six million sales. Apple as a company had grown to a dozen employees and moved out of the Jobses’ family garage into a rented office.
For the previous five years, Jobs had been in an on-off relationship with Chrisann Brennan. She got pregnant and gave birth to their daughter Lisa in 1978. Jobs did not deal with the pregnancy well, either ignoring it or denying he was the father. A year after Lisa was born, Jobs took a paternity test and was forced to start paying child support. He didn’t exercise his visitation rights for a long time. His behaviour regarding his daughter is one of the few things he is remorseful about. After the court case, Jobs changed. He stopped taking drugs, dressed smarter and cut back on his Zen interests. One of the next projects Apple took on was a computer Jobs called “Lisa”.
Once the court case was finished, Jobs took Apple public. Its valuation went from $5,309 in January 1977 to $1.79 billion in December 1980. Over 300 people involved in the company became instant millionaires. Now in his mid-twenties, Jobs had fame and fortune, appearing on the cover of TIME magazine among many others.
In the early ‘80s, Jobs was put in charge of the Macintosh project, named after the previous manager’s favourite type of apple (but spelt differently). Jobs not only created, but successfully marketed a machine that transformed personal computing.
One of the greatest traits that Jobs possessed was his ability to convince people of nearly anything. His powers of persuasion were described as a “reality distortion field”. A combination of his charisma, willpower and eagerness led people to get caught in this distortion field and allowed Jobs to be able to actually change reality. It made people do the impossible, because they didn’t realise it was impossible.
Jobs applied his distortion field to his Mac team which resulted in unrealistic timeframes and expectations. Whilst his behaviour was not necessary or justified and could be demoralising at times, it could also be motivating and inspiring, which resulted in the Mac team achieving some really great results.
Ever since Jobs started Apple he was a firm believer in great design. He knew a simple logo and sleek casing would set apart his company and products from the rest. Apple’s first office was in a building shared with Sony and Jobs used to study their marketing material and dark, industrial style. Then he attended a design conference and was exposed to the Bauhaus movement, which merged art with manufacturing, creating a bright, simple and clean look. This is the look he implemented on his Apple products.
With the launch of the Macintosh significantly delayed due to Jobs’ insistence on not compromising, IBM had increased its share of the PC market by 26% in the previous two years. There was pressure on the Mac launch in January 1984, with the machine being initially priced at $2,495. A lot more than the $1000 originally proposed and $500 more than Jobs wanted due to additional marketing costs.
When planning the launch, Jobs asked for a revolutionary commercial that matched the product it was selling in terms of astonishing the audience. Ridley Scott was hired as the ad director and it was filmed in London with a budget of $750,000. The ad was based on the George Orwell novel 1984 but with a different ending with a sledgehammer smashing the screen, vaporising big brother and announcing the new Macintosh. It first played during the Super Bowl and won various awards for the greatest commercial of all time.
Jobs became a master of product launches from the Mac in 1984 to the iPad in 2010. He combined captivating adverts with comprehensive media coverage, appearing on the covers of publications such as Time and Newsweek. The final piece of the puzzle was a launch event with a public unveiling of the product by Jobs himself.
After the successful launch, sales for the Mac slowed down in the second half of 1984. Woz left his role in the company as an Apple I engineer, citing Jobs not being appreciative of the Apple I as his reason, despite its accounting for 70% of sales at Christmas 1984. The relationship between Jobs and the Apple CEO also deteriorated to a point where a him or me ultimatum was issued at a board meeting. The board sided with the CEO and Jobs was removed as head of the Mac team.
Jobs resigned from his position as chairman of the company soon after and he left Apple completely. He sold all his Apple shares bar one, so he could still attend shareholder meetings. At 30 years of age, he started a new venture called NeXT. NeXT would develop and manufacture computers for the higher education market.
Unfortunately, despite an appealing design and the usual hype created around its launch, the first NeXT computer was ultimately a disappointment for many people. The $6,500 price tag was higher than expected and despite having a factory that could produce 10,000 of these machines a month, they only sold 400 a month and the company lost a lot of money.
At the same time, Jobs had struck a deal with George Lucas to buy his Lucasfilm computer division. Jobs paid Lucas $5 million with the promise of a further $5 million investment into what would become a standalone company. In return, Jobs owned 70% of the newly formed company, called Pixar, named after one of its computers. Pixar made hardware and software for rendering digital images but it also had a group of animators, who made short films.
While the hardware and software wings of the company didn’t do well, the animation side did. Walt Disney’s nephew Roy wanted to revive Disney’s animation department and Pixar won the contract to computerise the development. In 1988, the first film they worked on was The Little Mermaid. In the same year, Pixar won an academy award for one of their shorts called Tin Toy.
In October 1989, Jobs gave a lecture at Stanford Business School and before he was introduced to the stage, was sat next to a graduate student called Laurene Powell. The two hit it off straight away and Jobs proposed on New Year’s Day in 1990. They got married the following year and Jobs’ daughter Lisa (now aged 14) moved in with them in their new home in Palo Alto, California. A few months after they were married, Laurene Powell gave birth to Jobs’ second child – Reed Paul Jobs. They had a second child together in 1995, a daughter called Erin and another daughter in 1998 called Eve.
Back at Pixar a deal was struck between them and Disney to produce the film Toy Story together. The film was a tremendous box office success and week after it opened in the cinemas, Pixar went public. It meant the shares Jobs owned were worth $1.2 billion, about five times the amount he’d made when Apple went public. The Disney and Pixar deal was renegotiated to consist of producing five films over the next ten years, with equal branding on the films.
Since his departure from Apple, the company had nose-dived. There was little innovation and the Mac had hardly improved and its market share had fallen to just 4%. The share price of the company had gone from $70 in 1991 to just $14 in 1996. Apple needed a new operating system as the latest one they had produced was not good enough. They agreed to purchase NeXT to be able to use its operating system software. As part of the deal Jobs returned to Apple in a part-time role as advisor to the chairman.
When the Apple board decided to sack the current CEO, Jobs took a more active role getting involved in all aspects of the business and joined the board. When it became public knowledge that Jobs was heavily involved, the stock rose to $20. Jobs announced a new partnership with Microsoft which meant Microsoft would invest $150 million into Apple and continue to develop Microsoft Office for the Mac. Apple’s stock rose to $26 after the day of the announcement.
Eventually, Jobs took on the role of interim CEO, or iCEO as it became known. He was back in charge despite not receiving a salary or signing any formal contract. It was the most gruelling time of his life, being CEO of two companies and having a young family took its toll on his health.
Jobs ability to focus helped Apple succeed again. The previous CEO had approved dozens of different products and Jobs got rid of 70% of them, resulting in over 3,000 staff losing their jobs. It meant the remaining staff were now more focused on a smaller range of four products: a professional desktop (Power Macintosh G3), a professional portable (PowerBook G3), a consumer desktop (iMac) and a consumer portable (iBook). This strategy resulted in Apple going from making a loss of $1.04 billion in 1997 to a profit of $309 million in 1998.
In May 1998, Apple released a desktop computer called the iMac. The ‘i’ on this and many future products refers to the internet, which the product seamlessly integrates with. The teardrop shaped design was unlike anything seen before. The casing was a translucent blue colour that allowed you to see inside the computer. The colour was named “Bondi blue” after the colour of the water of an Australian beach. It included a handle – not because many people wanted to move around a desktop, but because it let people feel comfortable touching the machine. At this time many people were still scared of technology and didn’t touch anything they were scared of.
The iconic product epitomised Apple’s “Think different” slogan. The iMac became the fastest selling computer in Apple’s history with 32% of sales from first time buyers of a computer. Jobs announced his role as CEO was permanent in January 2000. The Apple board were thrilled and he was given a private jet from them in celebration.
Jobs liked to control the entire process at Apple but one aspect he didn’t have control of was the customer experience of buying an Apple product at a store. He began developing Apple stores in 1999. He decided the stores should have only one entrance to control the experience more easily, they shouldn’t be long and narrow so customers can intuitively work out the layout when entering and they should be in main streets and shopping centres to attract a lot of foot traffic.
Inside the stores they would be minimalistic and provide people with the ability to try out the products. Many people not familiar with Apple thought of it as a cult but this would help change their view of the company as “something cool”.
The first store opened in May 2001 and in the first year the stores had taken $1.2 billion in revenue. A decade later there were over 326 stores worldwide averaging revenue of $34 million per store every year but their presence also helps create a buzz for product launches and they increase brand awareness.
The next aim for Jobs was to create a strategy to transform the personal computer into a “digital hub” and in turn evolve Apple into a technology company rather than just a computer company. Apple started producing software focusing on people working with art and technology (Final Cut Pro, for editing digital video; iMovie, a simpler video editor; iDVD, for burning video or music onto a disc; iPhoto, to edit images; GarageBand, for creating and mixing music; iTunes, for managing your songs; iTunes Store, for buying songs). This meant that Apple could control the full user experience as they now produced software, hardware and digital devices allowing them to be tightly integrated, something no other company could do at the time.
After creating iTunes, the next stage of the strategy was to make a portable music player. The aim was to make the device as simple to use as possible, while the complex tasks can be carried out on the computer (in iTunes). In fact the iPod was so simple, it didn’t even have an on/off button – the device would just become dormant when not in use. The device could hold 1,000 songs and fit in your pocket. The television adverts showed dancing silhouettes with pure white headphones, which were themselves iconic due to almost all other headphones being black at the time.
Now Apple provided the means to manage all elements of your own music collection, the next step was to provide a way for consumers to purchase new music through the company. Jobs created the iTunes store and sold songs individually as well as full albums, saying it was the only way to compete with piracy that was rife at the time, facilitated by software such as Napster and Kazaa. The main challenge though was to get all the music labels on board to provide a big library. Luckily for Jobs, the major music companies were upset about piracy and impressed with Apple’s solution making it easy for the consumer and safe for the record labels. It was announced in April 2003, starting with 200,000 tracks and increased each day. In the first six days after launch, it sold 1 million songs.
As rival devices were released by competitors, Apple launched new iterations of the iPod to increase their market lead. The iPod mini came out in January 2004. Its small size proved ideal to use during exercise and increased Apple’s market share from 31% to 74% in the 18 months after it launched. The iPod shuffle played songs randomly and was simplified further by not even having a screen. By February 2006 the iTunes store had sold a billion songs.
Also in 2006, Disney agreed to purchase Pixar in a deal worth $7.4 billion. Jobs became the largest individual shareholder owning 7% of the stock. As part of the deal, Pixar still retained its individual identity with Disney’s animation department being placed under Pixar.
Back in October 2003 a routine scan of his kidneys revealed that Jobs had a tumour on his pancreas. He kept his cancer diagnosis secret until the day after he had surgery in June 2004. Unfortunately the operation to remove part of his pancreas revealed the cancer had spread to his liver. Despite the illness, he returned to work and continued to run Apple.
In 2005, the digital camera market was being decimated by the fact that mobile phones could now take photos. Jobs realised the same could happen to the iPod, which accounted for 45% of the revenue for Apple that year. If a phone could play music, the iPod would be unnecessary.
Apple developed a screen that could process multiple inputs at the same time, allowing people to type by touching the screen with their fingers. They hired a company to produce incredibly tough glass that was resistant to scratches. Combining these two elements with a design that was thin and tightly sealed, they produced the iPhone which was unveiled in January 2007. Jobs dubbed the device as three products in one: a widescreen iPod with touch controls, a revolutionary mobile phone and a breakthrough Internet communications device. By the end of 2010, 90 million iPhones had been sold.
In 2008, Jobs’ cancer had spread further and his health issues became more obvious due to his severe weight loss and withered look. He was receiving drug therapy for the cancer but was very sick and in excruciating pain. In January 2009 he went on medical leave from Apple. In March, Jobs had a liver transplant and was back at work again by the end of June. The following year would become one of his most productive at Apple, ever.
Apple used the same multi-touch screen technology to build a tablet. The iPad was announced in January 2010, but the initial reaction was mixed. People had many complaints ranging from the name to the lack of a camera or USB port. This soon subsided when the iPad went on sale in April. In under a month, they sold one million, less than half the time it took the iPhone to reach that target.
Jobs initially didn’t want outside developers creating apps for the iPhone and iPad but he later allowed outsiders to create apps as long as they adhered to Apple’s standard and were sold in an Apple App Store. The App Store produced a new industry instantly. Three years after the App Store was launched there were 500,000 apps that had been downloaded 15 billion times.
Jobs had to fight battles with competitors in this period of his reign at Apple. Google had produced the Android operating system for phones and Jobs felt that they had ripped off many of Apple’s user designs. It didn’t help that Eric Schmidt the Google CEO was on the board at Apple when they developed the iPhone and iPad. Apple sued Google for infringement of its patents.
He also battled Adobe refusing to run Flash, Adobe’s multimedia software for websites, on the iPhone or iPad. He cited high battery use, security holes and bugs as his justification.
In 2001 Jobs had a vision of the personal computer being a digital hub, but he now knew that the hub was going to move from the computer into the cloud. A decade later, Apple created a new service called iCloud, which would be free and allowed apps, photos, music, films, documents and more to sync across all apple devices, making them available anywhere.
Jobs began suffering another downturn in health around November 2010, losing his appetite completely and experiencing an increase in pain. At the start of 2011 doctors discovered signs of new tumours and Jobs took another medical leave of absence from Apple. Despite constant monitoring and drug treatment, by July the cancer had spread further and into his bones. With his health deteriorating, Jobs knew he wouldn’t return as CEO of Apple and resigned.
Steve Jobs’ personality was reflected in the products he produced at Apple. His intensity and ability to focus helped create great, innovative products that provided a simple yet seamless experience for the user. He built a start up from his parents’ garage into the most valuable company in the world and will be remembered as a visionary and a genius.