Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was announced dead today by the company at age 56. According to family, he died peacefully and “surrounded by his family”. He had been battling a rare form of pancreatic cancer since 2004.
Steve Jobs founded Apple in 1976, along with Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne, and proceeded to revolutionize the burgeoning personal computer market with the release of the Apple II and later the Macintosh computers. In 1985, Jobs lost an internal power struggle with John Sculley, the CEO he brought in to manage the company as it expanded, and he resigned. Within that timeframe, he would make two critical business decisions: he would launch NeXT, another computer company, and he would purchase the animation company Pixar in 1986 from George Lucas for $10 million. Apple would buy NeXT for $429m; not only did this bring Mr. Jobs back into the company he would soon take over as CEO, but the NeXT technology would end up becoming the foundation of Apple’s OS X operating system.
The year 2001 was another critical year for both Mr. Jobs and his company. First, they would launch OS X, along with the iMac, a computer that combined the classic monitor and computer tower design into one compact package, as well as the stability of FreeBSD and the usability of the NeXT foundation. In May of that year, they opened their first retail store, and in October, they debuted the iPod, a portable music player with a 5GB storage space. The iPod has since evolved into the multiple versions, including the iPhone. In 2002, Apple released iTunes, a music player and organizer which would quickly eclipse Winamp and other competitors, and in 2003, they opened the iTunes Music Store, which sold digital versions of music online for $.99 a song and $9.99 an album.
Mr. Jobs had been ill for quite some time. In 2004, he announced that he had been diagnosed with islet cell carcinoma, a form of pancreatic cancer. Since that time, both Apple and Mr. Jobs himself had battled numerous rumours about his health. In 2009, he was forced to take a six month leave of absence. during which time he received a liver transplant. In January of 2011, he announced a second leave of absence for medical reasons. Finally, on August 24th, he stepped down as CEO, appointing previously interim CEO Tim Cook as his successor.
Apple has provided an email for those who wish to “share their thoughts, memories, and condolences” with his surviving family and his friends.
Analysis: I think there’s less room for actual industry analysis as there is analysis on Jobs’ impact on the industry. This is mainly due to Jobs’ final opting to step down from the helm at Apple – he gave the reins of the company to Tim Cook in January of this past year. How Apple moves forward now is more in Cook’s hands than having died along with Jobs.
Though it’s a bit of a lofty claim to make, I maintain that modern computing would not be where it is now if not for Jobs and Wozniak tinkering with transistors in their garage in the early 1970s. If not for Jobs’ entrepreneurship and pushing of technology such as the iPod – which admittedly was an extension and evolution of Sony’s Walkman – we wouldn’t have the huge market for mobile gaming that we have now, given that the addition of new technology to cell phones and indeed the iPod and its later iterations was due to the wildfire-like spreading of the tech.
One might even claim that we wouldn’t have the level of hardware technology if not for Jobs’ constant pushing of the envelope – I’m thinking of how “cutting edge” computers like the original MacBook were back when they were initially introduced in the early 2000s. And of course, we can’t forget that the Apple IIe was one of the first ways people at home could have a machine that not only could help them with their homework, but could also play video games.
Perhaps I am putting too much emphasis on Jobs’ impact without much in terms of empirical evidence. But the fact of the matter is that the way our culture has evolved, the very fabric of what makes the modern technology age that way was accelerated and perhaps even pioneered by Steve Jobs. If it is true that every day you see someone with headphones in their ears listening to some form of MP3 player, or you look at one person working on a school paper while playing Minecraft in the background, that is empirical enough. We would not be where we are today if not for that tinkering 40 years ago.