Thursday, January 15, 2009

Jobs As the Public Face of Apple

Steve Jobs became a household name as the founder and chief executive of Apple Inc, marshaling his bravado and charisma to drive the innovation machine behind the iPod and iPhone.

Deemed irreplaceable by legions of Apple fans and investors alike, Jobs said on Wednesday he would take a medical leave of absence until the end of June because his health problems are "more complex" than he had thought.

Jobs, 53, turned around the once moribund Apple in large part due to the blockbuster success of the ubiquitous iPod digital music player.

A showman, he often unveiled the latest Apple products at trade shows and conferences amid cheers and applause from thousands of software developers, customers and employees.

In past months, however, questions about his health and his ability to lead the company he created have overshadowed his past achievements and clouded his future prospects.

Industry and investor fears about Jobs' health have not dimmed in more than a year, especially after he appeared dramatically thinner in public last summer. At the time, Apple said he was fighting a "common bug" and taking antibiotics.

Rumors abounded on blogs about whether Jobs, a pancreatic cancer survivor, was suffering from complications related to the disease. Then, nine days ago, Jobs sought to soothe concerns by saying his weight loss was caused by a hormone imbalance that was relatively simple to treat.

Now, some analysts bet that Jobs is getting ready to step down for good and hand Apple over to an unknown successor.

Jobs, a college dropout, started Apple Computer with his friend Steve Wozniak in the Jobs family garage in Silicon Valley more than 30 years ago. The company soon introduced the Apple 1 computer. But it was the Apple II that became a huge success and gave Apple its position as a critical player in the then-nascent PC industry.

Jobs, who became a multimillionaire after Apple's IPO in December 1980, in 1983 famously lured John Sculley, then CEO of Pepsi, to lead Apple with the question: "Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?"

In 1984 came the Macintosh, the first commercially successful computer that had an easy-to-use graphical user interface. Despite the success of the Mac, or perhaps partly because of it, the relationship between Jobs and Sculley soured, and in 1985 the board removed most of Jobs' powers and he left the company. Soon after, he sold all but one share of his Apple holdings.

Apple's purchase of NeXT -- the computer company Jobs founded after leaving Apple -- in 1997 brought Jobs back to Apple. Later that year he became interim CEO and in 2000 the company dropped "interim" from his title.

In 2001, Apple launched the iPod, whose elegant and simple design cemented Jobs' legacy as an innovator able to marry technology and media.

In addition to his Apple pursuits, Jobs co-founded the animation studio Pixar in 1986 with Edwin Catmull and Alvy Ray Smith, buying Lucasfilm's computer graphics division for $10 million. In 1995 came "Toy Story," the breakout computer animated film. Academy Award winners including "The Incredibles" and "Ratatouille" have followed.

Jobs became a board member and the largest individual shareholder of Walt Disney Co when Disney purchased Pixar, now known as Disney-Pixar, in 2006.

Source: Reuters

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