x

Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Steve Jobs found what he loved during roller-coaster ride at Apple

While investors worry about the impact of Steve Jobs's departure, rivals and customers pay tribute to the man who started a computing revolution out of a garage.
A redesigned iPod Nano was introduced in 2009. EPA
A redesigned iPod Nano was introduced in 2009. EPA

"Unfortunately, that day has come."

With those carefully chosen words written in a brief letter, Steve Jobs announced his resignation as chief executive of Apple, the world's second most valuable company.

The news immediately deflated many diehard gadget fans, along with Apple's share price, which dropped as much as 7 per cent in after-hours trading and wiped out US$17.7 billion (Dh65bn) of its stock value, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News. Even executives at rival high-tech companies offered Mr Jobs credit for helping to innovate the global consumer electronics industry. "Obviously, he's been very instrumental," says Samer Abu-Ltaif, the general manager for the Gulf region at Microsoft.

Mr Jobs's decision hardly comes as a surprise to anyone in or out of Silicon Valley.

In recent years, the spotlight on Mr Jobs has closely followed his health issues, which many have speculated are related to his resignation this week. The popular, albeit at times combative, executive has famously survived a rare disease that accounts for less than 5 per cent of all pancreatic cancer cases.

Mr Jobs has also undergone a liver transplant and taken medical leaves three times in the past seven years, which has often led to sudden drops in Apple's shares upon news of his departures. That is how closely intertwined the man and the company he co-founded 35 years ago were.

In some ways, his ups and downs with his physical health have paralleled his roIler-coaster ride at Apple. The young man, who was adopted soon after birth, showed an interest in the emerging field of personal computing while in high school, but he lasted only a semester at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, before dropping out.

"You've got to find what you love," Mr Jobs told a sea of graduates at Stanford University in 2005. "Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work."

Mr Jobs got his own start after school in the technology industry by working for the videogame maker Atari. After pairing up with his buddy, Steve Wozniak, the two budding entrepreneurs sold some prize belongings, including a Volkswagen minibus and programmable HP calculator, to raise enough capital for their own venture.

On April's Fool Day, 1976, they co-founded Apple Computer. Back then, Mr Jobs was just a 21-year-old with a business in his family's California garage. Yet he and Mr Wozniak managed to sell Apple's first computer, for $666.66, then eventually raised enough interest to take the company public in 1980.

But after Mr Jobs lured John Sculley away from Pepsi to head Apple, the two clashed in a power struggle, leading Mr Jobs to hand in his resignation in 1985. It would take a further 12 years before Mr Jobs would return to Apple, first as an adviser, then eventually chief executive.

Regardless of the products that Apple was working on, employees of the company have said that Mr Jobs has kept a close eye on detail - sometimes too close - they have said.

Known for being a micromanager at times, Mr Jobs oversaw small design elements and features of many Apple gadgets during their creation phase. "It's not about pop culture, and it's not about fooling people, and it's not about convincing people that they want something they don't. We figure out what we want," Mr Jobs said about the company's success a few years ago.

"And I think we're pretty good at having the right discipline to think through whether a lot of other people are going to want it, too. That's what we get paid to do."

His strategy, sales figures have shown, has clearly worked.

Many times Mr Jobs has taken to the stage in his signature blue jeans and black turtleneck to unveil products that go on to sell millions of models, whether it has been the music-playing iPod, iPhone mobile or iPad tablet.

Since his return 14 years ago, Mr Jobs has helped Apple to grow its share value from $2.08bn to $348.7bn, according to Bloomberg. Apple's stock has surged ahead more than 9,000 per cent during that time.

"People like Steve Jobs have made us ask questions a lot more," says Ashish Panjabi, the chief operating officer of Jacky's Electronics. "Who would have thought a one-button mouse was enough, when all of us were used to a three-button mouse then a two-button mouse?"

Over the years rivals in the technology manufacturing space have seen Apple grow from a niche player to a legitimate threat.

"We're always looking at Apple as a formidable competitor," says Jack Lee, the general manager for the Middle East and Africa region of Lenovo, the world's third-largest PC maker.

"When you have a competitor, you want it to be somebody who's worth for you to compete against. Apple has always been that."

nparmar@thenational.ae