Back in black

When you are an iconic company CEO who is equivalent to a rock star, you don’t just get voted CEO of the year; you get voted CEO of the decade.

On Tuesday, MarketWatch.com announced it’s biggest no brainer decision of the decade by selecting Apple CEO Steve Jobs as CEO of the Decade. Few can dispute that Jobs, 55, has singlehandedly executed one of the most spectacular corporate turnarounds in American business and has once again established Apple as one of the most valued technology companies on the planet.

If you think about Apple’s present success, it’s not complete rocket science. Apple has always belonged to Steve Jobs. It is the company he co-built from the ground up with his own hands and ideas. At his core, Jobs is a brilliant visionary. He embraces product aesthetics while focusing on technology people fall in love with and consume with passion. He surrounds himself with talented engineers who can decode his visions and produce user-friendly products. In my opinion, the mistakes made by Apple over its 34 year history are very few under the leadership of Steve Jobs. Since his triumphant return in 1997, Apple has been on hitting on all financial cylinders.

Without a doubt, Steve Jobs has paid his corporate dues and has earned CEO of the Decade. Here is a brief look back at his historic career and his return to prominence as an industry leader.

Atari, Inc. 1974-1976

After dropping out of Reed College in 1972, Steve Jobs accepts a technician position at Atari, Inc. in 1974 where he is tasked with building a circuit board for the arcade video game Breakout. It is at Atari where Jobs becomes inspired by the legendary technologist Nolan Bushnell (the founder of Atari). During this time, Jobs begins attending meetings at the Homebrew Computer Club with best buddy and co-worker Steve Wozniak whom he met in 1971.

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in 1974

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in 1974

Atari offers a $100 cash bonus for each chip eliminated from Breakout’s electronics. Jobs cuts a deal with Wozniak to split the total bonus if Wozniak can eliminate the chips. Wozniak astonishes Atari’s engineers by eliminating a total of 50 chips thus producing a board design so tight it becomes un-manufacturable in the factory.

Apple Computer-The Beginnings 1976-1985

After the Atari gig concludes for Wozniak, he accepts a position at Hewlett-Packard to work with other experienced engineers. During this time, Wozniak also experiments with building his own computers. Jobs is impressed with Wozniak’s technical efforts and the two begin envisioning a company of their own. Jobs (not much the engineer) assumes the role of visionary and salesman while Wozniak continues in the role of geek. The two continue to tinker at Jobs’ parent’s house and work on a business plan.

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in 1977

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in 1977

The $1000 capital for building the first computer boards requires some personal sacrifice from Jobs and Wozniak. Jobs agrees to sell his VW van and Wozniak agrees to sell his prized HP model 65 calculator. The friends further agree they will need a third more experienced partner before they incorporate and invite former Atari co-worker Ronald Wayne to join them. On April 1, 1976, Apple Computer is born. In July of 1976, Apple introduces the Apple I, selling it for $666.66. On December 12, 1980, Apple becomes a publicly traded company.

Through the late 1970s and early 1980s, Apple grows into a premier technology company and eventually introduces a revolutionary personal computer named the Macintosh in 1984 with tremendous fanfare including a stunning Super Bowl ad.

Jobs with the Macintosh Computer in 1984

Jobs with the Macintosh Computer in 1984

In 1983, Jobs personally recruits John Scully from Pepsi to serve as Apple Computer’s next CEO by bluntly asking him: “Do you want to sell sugar-water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?” Over the next two years, the working relationship between Scully and Jobs rapidly deteriorates. In May of 1985 (with the complete backing of Apple’s board of directors), Scully officially relieves Jobs of his duties as head of the Macintosh Division marking one of the stupidest executive decisions in the history of American business.  After being completely marginalized from the company he co-founded, Steve Jobs resigns from Apple Computer on September 13, 1985.

NeXT Computer 1985-1996

After leaving Apple, Steve Jobs envisions a company that could produce and sell high-end workstations to serve the academic and business markets and starts NeXT Computer in 1985. Jobs recruits several former Apple employees and scores critical financial backing from Texas millionaire Ross Perot.

Jobs introduces the NeXT Computer in 1988

Jobs introduces the NeXT Computer in 1988

The company introduces two workstation products: the NeXT Computer in 1988 and the NeXT Station in 1990. In 1993, NeXT completely exits its failed hardware business becoming exclusively a software company. In 1996, Apple Computer acquires NeXT for $429 million.

Pixar Animation Studios 1986-2006

In 1986, Jobs purchases a small computer graphics division from filmmaker George Lucas’s Lucasfilm Company for $10 million. Jobs proceeds to build Pixar Animation Studios into a lucrative animation film company producing a series of full length Oscar nominated films including: “Toy Story”, “Toy Story 2”, “Monsters Inc”, “Finding Nemo”, “Cars”, and “Up”.

On January 24, 2006, The Walt Disney Company purchases Pixar for $7.4 billion making Jobs the largest Disney shareholder with a whopping 7% share of the company. Next to Apple present success, Pixar Animation remains one of Steve Jobs brightest business ventures.

Apple Computer-The Comeback 1997-Present

After the failed leadership of several CEOs in the 1990s, Apple Computer is on the verge of financial collapse. In 1997, Steve Jobs triumphantly returns to Apple as interim CEO and begins immediate damage control and company/product restructuring. On January 5, 2000 at the Macworld Expo, Steve Jobs drops the interim name from his title and once again becomes CEO of the company he co-founded.

Macworld Expo January 5, 2000

Macworld Expo January 5, 2000

The “i” Series of Products

Beginning in 1998, Apple introduces a series of revolutionary products that eventually turn the company’s fortunes around. Each of these products becomes an enormous success and continue to fuel Apple’s stunning profitability.

The iMac

First introduced in 1998, the iMac represents a complete revamp of the original Macintosh computer first introduced in 1984. This latest version, however, is completely redesigned and simplified by moving all the components into the back of the monitor thus eliminating the CPU box. The machine is marketed as an elegant and simplified computer and becomes a resounding success.

The iBook and MacBook

First introduced in 1999, the iBook represents a revamp of Apple’s antiquated line of laptop computers. In 2006, the iBook is discontinued and replaced with the sleeker MacBook line of computers.

The iPod and iTunes

First introduced in 2001, the iPod is a revolutionary portable music player that allows massive storage of music files downloaded from Apple’s iTunes music store. The iPod has a sleek sexy design with simplified controls setting it apart from other clunkier mp3 players. 

The iPhone

First introduced in 2007, the iPhone is Apple’s debut into the smartphone market. The iPhone becomes an instant success with people camping out in front of Apple Stores to receive the first ones. In 2008, Apple launches its App Store for the iPhone delivering over 300,000 apps that run on the iPhone.

The iPad

First introduced in 2010, the iPad is Apple’s first tablet computer device. Like the iPhone, the device is an instant success and can run the same type of apps as the iPhone. The iPad has similar functionality as a laptop computer and could one day cannibalize MacBook sales.

Today, Apple, Inc is a technology company with $65 billion in revenues and a stock trading at $320 a share.

Well done Steve.

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One Response to Back in black

  1. David, wrong Atari. Atari Corporation didn’t exist yet, that was Atari Inc. Atari Corporation (1984-1996) is the company created by Jack Tramiel when he bought the Atari Consumer Division from Atari Inc. and folded it in to his company TTL, which he in turn renamed Atari Corporation.

    Atari Inc. (1972-1984) was the company that Jobs worked at, and it was co-founded by Bushnell with Ted Dabney. I.E. Bushnell was co-founder, not just founder.

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