Forget about the turnaround. Forget about the Macintosh, and the iPod, and the iPhone, and the iPad. And whatever Apple is about to announce next. The story of Apple co-founder Steven Paul Jobs’ life has been quite a tale. Awesome, as the man himself might say. That tale ended Wednesday. Jobs was 56.
“Steve died peacefully today surrounded by his family,” Jobs’ family said in a statement released through Apple Wednesday. “In his public life, Steve was known as a visionary; in his private life, he cherished his family.”
Jobs was born in San Francisco on February 24, 1955, to Joanne Schieble and Abdulfattah Jandali and adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs. The couple would later move with their son to San Mateo County.
Jobs didn’t take the traditional route to riches. After a semester at Oregon’s Reed College, Jobs dropped out and returned to California, where he and another college dropout, Steve Wozniak, built the first Apple computer in a Los Altos, Calif., garage in 1976.
The pair’s next computer would be the company’s first hit. In 1980, Apple sold shares to the public. It wasn’t until four years later, however, that Jobs would unveil the product he would become best known for, the Macintosh computer, the first mass market computer to make use of a graphical user interface and a mouse.
Clashes with Apple’s management team led to Jobs ouster in 1985. In the years after Jobs’ departure, competition from a pack of companies building computers based on Microsoft’s Windows operating system would take a nearly crippling toll as Apple struggled to find its way. Jobs returned to Apple in 1996 when it acquired NeXT, the workstation company Jobs founded in 1985.
“They were in pretty dismal straights, they didn’t have cash, they had wasted a lot of money on products like Newton, they had gone through a few different chief executives, they were largely in disarray,” Van Baker, a research vice president at tech tracker Gartner says.
Jobs went on to transform Apple in a drama that began with a desperate deal with arch-rival Microsoft in 1997 for a $150 million investment and ended with Apple assuming the mantle of the world’s most valuable technology company. Along the way Jobs introduced the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad, and fresh iterations of the Macintosh computer he first introduced in 1984. ”It’s just astounding,” Baker says.
At the same time, Jobs was leading Pixar Animation Studios, the digital animation studio that he acquired in 1986 to a string of hits. Under Jobs and co-founders Ed Catmull and Alvy Ray Smith, the studio reinvented animation for a digital era, cranking out a string of films that have become modern classics, including Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, WALL-E, Up, and three Toy Story movies. Pixar was acquired by Disney in 2006 in a deal worth $7.4 billion.
Through it all, Jobs evolved, too, from mercurial outsider into a turtleneck clad icon who seemed as interested in molding Apple — and its product pipeline — as pitching its next product. It was a process that was spurred by Jobs diagnosis with pancreatic cancer in 2004 and a series of medical leaves that paralleled a dramatic — and very public — drop in the Apple visionary’s weight.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking,” Jobs said at a commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005. “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary,”
Over the next six years, Jobs wouldn’t waste a moment. Jobs would introduce the iPhone in 2007 and the iPad in 2010, a pair of products that have redefined the company. Apple is now the world’s most valuable technology company.
Through it all, however, Jobs health appeared to wane. Jobs, of course, has been out on medical leave since January, promising only to “return as soon as I can.” (See “The Medical Mismeasure Of Steve Jobs“) The medical leave was Jobs’ third since 2004.
While Jobs surprised the company’s fans by introducing the company’s new iPad, March 2, and a new suite of online services dubbed ‘iCloud,’ at Apple’s annual developer’s conference June 6, he never made the return to active duty many had hoped for.
On August 24, he resigned as Chief Executive, handing over his duties to longtime Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook, while assuming the role of Chairman of Apple’s board of directors.
Jobs is survived by his wife, Laurene Powell Jobs, and four children.