"Steve passed away earlier today," CEO Tim Cook broke the news to Apple employees. They had lost their hero. "We are planning a celebration of Steve's extraordinary life for Apple employees that will take place soon," Cook added. In true Apple style, the company plans to celebrate the life of their beloved icon, and not give in to the black grief that must be looming large over the company at the moment.
But then, it was business as usual for Apple at the launch of its latest iPhones at their Cupertino campus, and not one word about the failing health of Jobs, even though they had to know by then that the inevitable end was nearing. In many many years, Apple hosted a key product launch in their company 'townhall room', perhaps hoping against hope that Jobs may be able to make an appearance at the occasion for a few brief moments; but the legendary jeans and turtleneck-clad figure failed to show up.
It is rarely that CEOs and industrialists become icons in popular culture worldwide. It is even more rare for a man to command the awe of fans and enthusiasts all over the world, a digital native of Apple, or not. But then, Steve Jobs was not your average run of the mill Fortune 100 company CEO either.
Born in California in 1955, Jobs was given for adoption by his birth parents, a pair of unmarried graduate students within a week of his birth. He was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs, a blue-collar couple who migrated to Mountain View soon after. Jobs's birth parents had stipulated in the adoption agreement that the boy attend college, but Jobs decided to drop out of Reed College in Oregon after the first semester. It was not his first act or rebellion; and it would definitely not be his last.
Those were interesting days for Jobs, and shaped him in many ways as the man he was to later become. He had dropped out of college, but attended random lectures as a dropout for the next 18 months or so, on subjects that interested him, feeding his myriad fascination with seemingly disconnected areas of interest (like calligraphy for one; which would help Jobs when he was working on the Macintosh computer, the world's first successful personal computer with a graphical interface and mouse). He was penniless, and thrived on meals at the local Hare Krishna temple, or by what he could earn recycling used soda bottles.
Jobs took a job in Atari in the Fall of 1974 because he wanted to come to India, and needed desperately to save for the trip. Soon after, he came to India to visit the holy man Neem Karoli Baba in Vrindavan, with a college buddy (Daniel Kottke, who would later become Apple's first employee).
He came back to California a Buddhist pescadarian (a vegetarian who eats fish). A lifestyle was not the thing that had changed for Jobs. On his return, he teamed up with a friend, another 'Steve', Steve Wozniak, and soon they were assembling computers by hand on Jobs's bedroom and his parents garage. The universe was about to get its first ding.
Apple entered the Fortune 500 at the 411th position in 1983, the fastest ascent of any company in the history of the rankings. "I was worth about over a million dollars when I was 23, and over ten million dollars when I was 24, and over a hundred million dollars when I was 25", Jobs said. Two years later, he was ousted from the company he had help built by former Pepsi executive John Sculley, a man he himself had hired for the CEO role.
Never one to give up, Jobs decided to merely rewrite the course of history, this time with NeXT, a company that would sell higher end computers, and hopefully eventually put Apple out of business. Around this time, George Lucas (yes, he of the Star Wars fame) was going through a bad divorce and needed money. Jobs took a struggling computer graphics outfit 'The Graphics Group' out of his hand, paying him $10 million for the company, and subsequently renaming it Pixar.
Over the years, Jobs would keep injecting Pixar with money from his own pocket, some $60 million in all. Pixar tried to be among other things a high-end graphics hardware developer, and kept bleeding money, till in 1995, the company partnered with Disney to produce the animated film 'Toy Story.' Toy Story would be the first in a string of hits the partnership would produce.
Apple bought NeXT for $429 million in late 1996. The company had been struggling in the absence of Steve Jobs, making one product mistake after another, and was now on the brink of bankruptcy, which loomed merely six months away. Morale was low all around, and Jobs himself encashed a part of his stock holdings in June 1997 (1.5 million shares he had received as part of the NeXT deal).
The board decided they had to bring Steve Jobs back, as interim CEO, to begin with. On July 1997, Steve Jobs walked into the company's boardroom wearing shorts and sneakers. He was setting foot inside the premises after eleven years.
The rest, as they say, is history. Jobs turned the ailing company to a point where it has more cash reserves than the American government. In the process, Apple has disrupted the way we listen to music with the advent of its iPods, removed keypads from mobile handsets with the iPhones, and changed the face of computing with iPads. That is, on top of assembling the world's first successful personal computers with graphical interface.
Steve Jobs himself is listed as either primary inventor or co-inventor in 338 US patents or patent applications related to a range of technologies from actual computer and portable devices to user interfaces (including touch-based), speakers, keyboards, power adapters, staircases, clasps, sleeves, lanyards and packages.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO APPLE NOW?
Steve Jobs had passed on the CEO mantle to compatriot Tim Cook on August 24th. this year, himself taking on a lighter non-executive role as chairman of the company's board. In an open letter to the Apple community and the company's board of directors, Jobs wrote, "I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple's CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come."
Cook spent six months at Compaq as VP for Corporate Materials before he was hired by Steve Jobs to join Apple. He initially served as Senior Vice President for Worldwide Operations. That was around thirteen years ago. Since then, Cook has risen through the Apple ranks, serving as Apple CEO for two months in 2004, when Jobs was recovering from pancreatic cancer surgery. Five years later, he would again serve as the company's CEO as Jobs took a leave of absence for a liver transplant. Earlier this year, Apple's board granted a third medical leave of absence requested by Jobs. Since then Cook has been handling Apple's daily operations, deferring to Jobs for the larger strategic decisions.
It has been just over a month since he has become the new CEO. If Apple's iPhone 4S launch is any indicator, than Cook is more than up to the task of steering Apple. His greatest plus point is he has been groomed for the CEO job by none other than Steve Jobs himself. Now all he will have to do is get over the handicap of not being born as him.
STEVE JOBS AND INDIA
Was Steve Jobs disillusioned with India? It is difficult to say. Apple as a company does not seem to have a strategy road map for the Indian subcontinent, unless its strategy was to implicitly not have a explicit strategy.
Steve Jobs did have close personal ties with India. When Jobs dropped out of Reed College as a student in Oregon, money was tight, and Jobs frequented the local Hare Krishna temple for free food to keep body and soul together (Read more on this in 'Inside Steve's Brain', by Leander Kahney. Talking of books, Steve Jobs official biography (Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson) is due later next month. He would later take a job in Atari, one of the pioneering game companies, to save money for a trip to India.
In India, the Internet is overwhelmed with messages mourning the loss of Jobs. Tweets, Facebook status message updates and the like, are not just coming from the tech community in isolated pockets in Bangalore, Hyderabad or Pune â€“ but from housewives in Calcutta and students in Delhi schools. Someone talks about his first Apple computer. A business executive writes he did not know about Jobs' involvement with Pixar.
"No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there," Steve Jobs told the crowd at the commencement address in Stanford University, 2005. Too bad heaven has no favorites.
We will miss you Steve. Rest in peace.