On August 25 this year, co-founder Steven (Steve) P Jobs handed over the reins of the world’s most valuable technology company, Apple Inc, to Tim Cook. The new CEO unveiled the new iPhone4S just a couple of days back. Jobs was conspicuous by his absence at the much-anticipated event. Now, with pancreatic cancer getting the better of him at age 56, Jobs’ absence will be felt all the more at the company he co-founded, as well as by the millions of users who have been drooling over Apple products for nearly two decades.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday, in his condolence message, said he was saddened by the demise of Jobs, adding that he “...was truly an innovative man and taught us new ways to connect and communicate”. India Inc chiefs, too, mourned the loss of the visionary and paid rich tribute to the man who changed the daily habits of millions of users by reinventing computing, music and cellphones. Tata Sons Chairman Ratan Tata acknowledged: “Steve Jobs has been one of the greatest icons of the modern era. His untimely death is a huge loss to us all.”
“For me, Steve Jobs was an idea, and not just a person, that will live on and on and on,” tweeted HCL Technologies CEO Vineet Nayar.
“No one has shaped the technology revolution like Steve Jobs,” acknowledged Tata Consultancy Services CEO & MD,N Chandrasekaran.
There’s a good reason why the world fussed over Apple and its maverick founder, Jobs who, in his trademark uniform of black mock-turtleneck and blue jeans, was deemed the heart and soul of a company that rivals Exxon Mobil as the most valuable in America. Though Exxon regained its numero uno position, Apple continues to be a close second. Forbes estimates Jobs’ net worth at $7 billion. It was not immediately known how his estate would be handled.
Jobs’ health had been a controversial topic for years and a deep concern to Apple fans and investors. Even board members have in the past years confided to friends their concern that Jobs, in his quest for privacy, was not being forthcoming enough with directors about the true condition of his health. Jobs, a Buddhist, was born in San Francisco. He started Apple Computer with friend Steve Wozniak in his parents’ garage in 1976. Six years ago, Jobs had talked about how a sense of his mortality was a major driver behind that vision. “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life,” Jobs had said during a Stanford commencement ceremony in 2005.
The opening phase of Jobs’s professional ascent stretched from 1976 to 1984. He scored his first hit with the Apple-II computer, a device that resonated with schools and some consumers and small businesses, and made Apple an alluring alternative to IBM, then the world’s largest computer maker. Apple had its initial public offer in 1980 and the graphical Macintosh was born just over three years later. During the second phase, from 1984 to 1997, Jobs’ star dimmed a little. In 1985, he was fired after a power struggle with the Apple board. He started another computer company, NeXT Computer Inc, and bought a digital animation studio from filmmaker George Lucas. The company later assumed the name Pixar.
Apple’s purchase of NeXT in 1997 brought Jobs back to the computer maker he helped found and commenced his career’s third phase. The company was foundering. He ignited a flurry of innovations and growth and achieved what may be the greatest comeback in business history. Whether he was working on the Mac or the iPhone or backing the computer animation that yielded an unbroken string of Pixar hits, Jobs proved that complex technologies could be designed into simple, beautiful products that people would find irresistible. During the Standford address in 2005, Jobs (inter alia) outlined his philosophy: “....the only way to do great work is to love what you do”.
Apple products — Macbooks, iPods, iPhones and iPads — continue to cast a spell on users who are willing to wait for hours in serpentine queues to be the first to buy these products. In India, Apple iPhones may have slightly over 1 per cent marketshare, and only a few thousand iPads are sold in the country. Yet, Apple and Steve Jobs are almost household names here. Never has the exit of a global CEO generated such excitement, and seldom has a death been mourned as much.
Apple’s success story is linked with Jobs’ charisma and deep involvement with the company’s product designs. Jobs has 313 Apple patents (much more than those granted to other technology chiefs) to his credit, which demonstrates his eye for details. He is also considered an icon by many business leaders, a ‘designer of designers’, powerful speaker and brand guru.
Indian School of Business Dean Ajit Rangnekar said: “Jobs brought style and intuitive usability to technology products throughout his career. All of us who use a computer or a phone and will be eternally indebted to him for revolutionising product design thinking.” T K Kurien, CEO (IT business) and executive director, Wipro, said: “The Wizard of Cupertino, through his vision and quest for excellence, introduced a little magic into our lives... I am sure his great work will live on through the millions that he has inspired.”