Jobs, no ordinary CEO, leaves no ordinary company

October 6, 2011

By Robert Cyran and Richard Beales
The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The views expressed are their own.

Steve Jobs has died at 56. He was no ordinary chief executive, and he leaves no ordinary company. The force behind the iPod, iPhone and iPad not only co-founded and then rescued Apple, building it into the most valuable tech company on the planet, worth some $350 billion. He also changed the way people live. It’s a rare entrepreneur who leaves that legacy — and a company that can thrive without him.

Jobs dropped out of college. And he was forced out of Apple less than a decade after starting it with Steve Wozniak having lost his fight to promote new Macintosh computers instead of more profitable, less capable machines. But these moments of change proved central to his later success. In a 2005 Stanford commencement address, Jobs talked of how, for example, calligraphy classes he took after dropping out of college influenced the design of the Macintosh, arguably Apple’s first world-changing device.

He was always ready to move on. He called being fired from Apple “the best thing that could have ever happened to me.” It’s easy to forget that Jobs built Pixar, the astonishingly successful computer animation company, while in exile from Apple. Even before Pixar, he founded Next Computer, making devices with an operating system far ahead of its time. This played a role in Apple’s success after 1996 when it bought Next, bringing Jobs back into the fold.

Along with the vision, drive and perfectionism that led to a string of successful products, Jobs did bring a less desirable cult of secrecy to Apple after his return. In one sense, it served the company well — when the iPhone landed and showed the world the real potential of smartphones, it shocked the industry. It was, as an observer put it at the time, “like it dropped out of a wormhole from the future.” But in handling the boss’s health problems in recent years, Apple’s tight-lipped nature caused investors to get less information than they deserved.

Even so, the company’s greatest success, the iPhone, was developed after Jobs had survived the initial onslaught of cancer. And Apple just this year became the most valuable company in America for a time, and its market value now only just lags Exxon Mobil’s. By some measures, Jobs’ creation ought to be worth much more. The success of its latest category-creating product, the iPad, means its growth potential remains powerful. And the company has an impressive array of talent even without him.

“Don’t be trapped by dogma,” Jobs told that graduating Stanford class. “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.” Apple is a legacy in itself, but it’s the devices born of that philosophy that arguably matter most. Like all great inventors, Jobs created things that people didn’t even know they wanted — until millions of them just had to have them.

Comments

That was a breath of fresh air.
Mr. Cyran has painted a picture of a man who was a gifted entrepreneur as opposed to the number of pieces in print and video journalism whose authors are genuflecting before a god.
Apple has been around since 1976 but only recently has it soared in the market place due to the introduction of the iPhone and then the iPad.
Prior to that, the company never cracked 10% of the PC market. It built a niche product. It worked great for what I wanted to do but when it came to running business applications it was left in the dust.
Mr. Jobs was gifted in determining just what it was people needed. The line of “i” products are amazing.
But the man was human and he did have his setbacks and they were rather large. Such as the Apple Lisa. Retailing for $10,000 in 1983 dollars they only sold 10,000 units. I wonder how many companies which bought them are still in business today.
And then there was NeXT, and then Apple III. The III was another extortionately priced anchor. Looked great, but who could afford it? The Cube was the next thing that never caught on. Great design, but it was priced way to high. Oh how I wanted one of them.
Yet finally Mr. Jobs persistant paid off to the benefit of everyone one of us who now have iPods, iPhones and iPads. And, they are affordable for a larger portion of the buying public.
Rest well Mr. Jobs. You most certainly deserve it. And if anyone can come up with a communications tool to the next level of consciousness, it will be him.

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