Chief executive officer, Apple Computer, and chief executive officer and chairman of the board, Pixar Animation Studios
Born: February 24, 1955, in San Francisco, California.
Education: Attended Reed College, 1972.
Family: Adopted son of Paul (bill collector) and Clara (accountant) Jobs; married Laurene Powell; children: four.
Career: Atari, 1974, game designer; Apple Computer, 1975, co-founder; Apple Computer, 1975–1977, chairman of the board; 1977–1981, de facto chief executive officer; 1981–1984, chairman of the board; NeXT, 1985–1996, president and CEO; Pixar Animation Studios, 1986–, CEO and chairman of the board; Apple Computer, 1995–1997, consultant; 1997–2000, interim CEO; 2000–, CEO.
Awards: Technical Excellence Award and Lifetime Achievement, PC Magazine , 1997; Hall of Fame, Fortune , 2000.
Address: Apple, 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, California 95014; http://www.apple.com.
■ Steven Paul (Steve) Jobs was responsible for building Apple Computer twice, as well as for rescuing Pixar Animation Studios and turning it into one of the world's most successful motion picture studios. He also built NeXT, a good idea that did not catch on. He was a hands-on manager, who studied even the minutest details of his products, with the heart and eye of an artist. His insistence on high-quality, good-looking products struck a chord with many people who appreciated the beauty of Apple products, resulting in such fabulous successes as the Macintosh computer and the iPod portable music system. These successes often reshaped how consumers viewed technology and also reshaped the technology itself. Steve Jobs and Microsoft's Bill Gates are the two people most often credited with the development of the mass-market personal computer, perhaps decades before it might otherwise have evolved.
Jobs was adopted in February 1955 by Paul and Clara Jobs, who were indulgent parents. They were so focused on their son's needs that they even moved from Mountain View, California, to Los Altos, California, in 1968, to put Jobs in a new school because he said that he could not get along with the children in his old school. (One account says that he told his parents that he was not learning anything at his old school.) He was an odd student, out of step with both classmates and teachers, with a mind that looked at science from unusual angles. He preferred to spend his time with older students rather than ones his own age, including Stephen Wozniak, an electronics genius four years older than Jobs.
Jobs worked during the summers, spending one summer in an apple orchard; he was so happy there that he later named his first legitimate business "Apple." Even in grade school he had shown a great aptitude for electronics, and he had been fortunate to have an engineer for a neighbor, who answered his many questions about how electronic devices worked. While he was in high school, he built electronic devices. Once, he wanted for his projects some rare parts made by Hewlett-Packard; he wrote to William Hewlett, cofounder of Hewlett-Packard, and asked for the parts to be sent to him. Hewlett responded by giving Jobs a summer job in a Hewlett-Packard factory. Wozniak already worked there as an up-and-coming engineer.
In 1972 Jobs attended Reed College, in Portland, Oregon, dropping out after one semester. He hung around the school for about a year longer, before submitting a résumé that greatly inflated his electronics experience to Atari, a pioneer in video gaming. For part of 1974 he worked as a game designer, helping create Breakout . After saving up enough money to pay his way, he left Atari and journeyed with friends to India to search for enlightenment. He shaved his head and walked through what he saw to be appalling poverty. He soon left India believing that Thomas Edison had done more for the betterment of humanity than all the gurus in the world. Jobs lived briefly in a farm commune and then returned to his parents' home. In 1975 he joined the Homebrew computer club, which included Wozniak among its members. Wozniak had discovered that a toy in Cap'n Crunch cereal boxes made the same tones that telephone companies used for long-distance switching. Soon, with Jobs's help, he was making small blue boxes that could be used with telephones to circumvent the safeguards of telephone companies and make free long-distance calls. It was Jobs who turned this into a business venture by selling the boxes to college students.
Wozniak was an electronics enthusiast. He enjoyed making gadgets and then sharing his inventions with anyone who was interested, without concern for patents or profit. It was Jobs who soon saw the potential marketability of Wozniak's circuit board combined with the microprocessor chips. In 1975 he and Wozniak became partners, and Jobs gave their enterprise the name "Apple." They designed their simple computer in Jobs's bedroom. When more space was needed, Jobs's father cleared out his home's garage, where Jobs and Wozniak cobbled together their combination of a circuit board, a microprocessor, a video screen, and Jobs's most important contribution, a typewriter-style keyboard. The inventors called it the Apple I.
Jobs had already discovered a local electronics store owner who wanted 50 personal computers to sell to college students, who were the bulk of electronics enthusiasts. Jobs and Wozniak gave the Apple I the whimsical price of $666.66 and ended up selling more than 600 of them, making $774,000. The Apple I was a hobbyist's machine, a clumsy-looking beast of wires and boards that invited tinkering. The partners wanted to build something more sophisticated and easier to use—making technology easier to use would become essential to Jobs's views for building his companies. In 1977 the former Intel executive Mike Markkula, a venture capitalist, invested in Apple, becoming its chairman of the board and bringing in outsiders to help govern the company. Jobs persuaded a successful publicist, Regis McKenna, to join Apple. That year the Apple II was introduced. It took only about four hours for a purchaser to set it up and have it running, and it could run some business programs, reducing to minutes from hours certain accounting tasks. With a canny sales campaign created by McKenna, and Jobs's own magnetic personality helping persuade corporate buyers, the Apple II became the first successful mass-market personal computer.
Jobs had to have been a concern for McKenna: Jobs had long hair and a scruffy beard, and he usually wore jeans when meeting the conservatively dressed businessmen who had the power to order dozens of Apple IIs at a time. But Jobs was charismatic. When he spoke of what his machines could do and of the future the machines would shape, he created what came to be known as his "reality distortion field." His power to persuade was remarkable, and he often had potential customers vying for his attention. He was soon perceived to be a visionary genius who foresaw how to marry high-technology electronics and everyday business.
The Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, known as PARC, attracted some of the best engineers in the world. It was a secretive place, but after years of trying, in 1979 Jobs was allowed to visit PARC with a few of his Apple colleagues. Legend has it that he saw Xerox's graphical interface, featuring drop-down menus and pictures that could be clicked on with arrows to start programs, and he was gripped by the potential marketability to which Xerox's employees seemed oblivious. The truth is more complex: The interface at Xerox was one of several that various computer developers had been toying with for several years, and Jobs was already very familiar with them. What he may have picked up from PARC was the utility of a little handheld device called a "mouse."
In December 1980 Apple had its initial public offering of stock, becoming Apple Computer. Shares opened at $22 but rose to $29, making Apple's value $1.2 billion. Jobs was the company's leading shareholder, with 15 percent of the stock. His shares were soon worth $239 million. In 1980 the Apple III was introduced, but the first 14,000 units were recalled be cause of defects. The Apple II remained the machine preferred by customers. In 1981 IBM introduced a personal computer. Whereas Apple made all of its machines proprietary, not allowing anyone to even license the technology, IBM made its machine an open architecture, meaning that outsiders were welcome to write programs for it and to build their own variations of it.
Jobs set about waging war for personal computer supremacy. A striking feature of his work over the next five years was that he had no official corporate authority; he ruled by force of personality, making numerous enemies with his ridiculing of the ideas of others, his unwillingness to hear views contrary to his own, and his outbursts of bad temper. In 1982 he hired the executive John Sculley away from PepsiCo to become CEO of Apple. In 1982 Apple for the first time grossed $1 billion.
In 1983 the Lisa computer was introduced. It had a 32-bit microprocessor as well as an inexpensive mouse. Jobs had worked on Lisa obsessively, demanding that it be easy to use, attractive to look at, and more powerful than any other personal computer. In the process, he pushed Lisa's costs too high; the machine was too expensive and flopped. Still, Jobs and Sculley already had put Apple to work developing a machine that would be called the Macintosh. It would use much of Lisa's internal architecture, but it would be simpler. In 1984 the machine debuted with a spectacular television commercial during the Super Bowl, showing a gallant woman athlete defying a monolithic, oppressive government by hurling her hammer into a screen that represented, without actually saying so, IBM. The first Macintosh was small and beige, featuring the style of graphical interface that would become the world's standard. It sold for $2,495 and was a hit.
Jobs was great recruiter of talent, but he tended to belittle and mock employees after he recruited them; Sculley, for one, had had enough of Jobs's bizarre behavior. He persuaded the board of directors to make Jobs chairman of the board but without any authority over anything. Too many of his colleagues avoided him, and Jobs found himself with no work to do. In 1985 he quit Apple and sold all but one share of his Apple stock, losing about $500 million by selling shares when the stock was low but still leaving with about $250 million.
In 1986 Jobs founded NeXT in Redwood City, California, investing $15 million of his own money to start the company. He discovered that he was held in high regard by most of the high-technology businesses in California's Silicon Valley, and his charisma was still magical. After seeing Jobs in a PBS documentary, the billionaire H. Ross Perot offered to help fund NeXT. Major businesses soon followed. In a couple of years, Jobs had raised over $250 million, mostly on his word alone.
Also in 1986 Jobs bought a computer animation studio from the motion picture magnate George Lucas, saving it from dissolution. Named Pixar Animation Studios, the newly independent company found in Jobs a CEO and chairman of the board who understood the creative process very well and who could combine his artistic nature with a sound understanding of computers. Further, Jobs financed the company himself and gave his new employees freedom to explore what they could do. It was part of Jobs's evolving vision of computers: he became an advocate of the technology as enhancing creativity, telling people that computers were not important but that what could be done with them was important. By 1988 Pixar had done well enough to win an Oscar for its computeranimated short film Tin Toy .
In October 1989 the NeXT computer was introduced. It was beautiful, with careful attention paid to the looks of every detail inside and out. To meet FCC rules on electronic interference, Jobs had the entire case made of magnesium poured into a single mold and then carefully sanded to remove sharp edges. The magnesium was good at containing electronic emissions and was strong, but it was hard to work with and drove manufacturing costs up. Repeatedly, Jobs had made workers redo work, trying to incorporate great power into NeXT while making it easy to use. It cost $9,950, too much for the mass market that might have appreciated it best. From 1989 to 1992 only 50,000 were sold.
In 1989 Jobs gave a lecture at Stanford University. While there, he met Laurene Powell, an MBA student. In 1991 they married, and they would have three children over the next dozen years. In May 1991 Jobs negotiated a contract with Walt Disney Pictures, under the terms of which Disney would pay for half the production costs of three computer-animated feature films and would receive half the income plus distribution fees for each motion picture. Pixar began work on Toy Story .
By 1993 NeXT was doing badly. Jobs was harshly criticized for supposedly wasting money and for bad management, even though those who worked for NeXT still believed that he knew what he was doing. He had spent much of his career defying criticism and insisting that he knew better than anyone else which choices were the best, but in February 1993, he closed NeXT's Fremont factory, laid off half of NeXT's employees, and stopped making computers, focusing instead on software. NeXT's computer had dazzled with its programming, and Jobs put the company's future in the open programming of Unix and the object-based programming of NeXT, which made programming simple enough that consumers could write their own programs to work with NeXT. In 1994 Digital Equipment Corporation, Hewlett-Packard, and Sun Microsystems contracted with NeXT to put NeXT operating software in their workstations.
Meanwhile, Apple was ailing. In 1993 Apple's share of the personal computer market was 8 percent; it had fallen to the status of an also-ran, becoming almost irrelevant to the future of computers. Sculley was fired and replaced by Michael Spindler as CEO. In 1995 Spindler left Apple and was replaced by Gilbert F. Amelio, who also became chairman of the board. Amelio found a company in disarray; the corporate culture was one of indifference and depression. When he would call meetings, people would not show up; his orders were ignored; and employees refused to cooperate with each other. Apple's share of the market had fallen to 5.3 percent. It may have been desperation or exasperation that led Amelio to ask Jobs to join the board of directors and become a consultant to management.
The year 1995 was good for Jobs. For the first time, NeXT turned a profit. He and his antagonist Bill Gates contracted for NeXT and Microsoft to collaborate on the designing of object-oriented software for Windows NT. On November 22, 1995, Toy Story was released to acclaim; by then Jobs had invested $60 million in Pixar. In its first release, Toy Story grossed $360 million worldwide. On November 29, 1995, Pixar had its initial public offering. Shares were offered at $22 but rose to $39. Jobs owned 80 million shares and had become a billionaire. In December 1995 Apple bought NeXT for $400 million.
By 1996 Apple's sales were in free fall. That year it shipped 3.7 million computers, for a 5.2 percent market share; in 1997 it was 2.6 million units for a 3.2 percent share. In 1997 Jobs was named "interim" CEO, at a salary of $1 per year, and Amelio left Apple. Jobs dropped the NeXT operating system that Apple had purchased. On August 6, 1997, Apple and Microsoft announced that Microsoft would invest $150 million for a minority stake in Apple. Many in the audience at the MacWorld convention in Boston booed the announcement. Although he was still certain that his vision for Apple was the only right one, Jobs's management style had radically changed from what it had been in 1985; he seemed more relaxed and open to ideas. In fact, he seemed to relish other people's ideas; perhaps his work at Pixar had improved his ability to work with the creative people at Apple. He wisely surrounded himself with top-notch executives in all the key corporate positions, and he held on to them rather than driving them away. Almost by willing it, he transformed the corporate culture into one in which employees wanted to come to work and where they saw themselves as part of a great company that had a mission to change the world for the better. Moreover, Jobs, the hobbyist of old, brought the fun back into tinkering with electronics.
In August 1998 one of Jobs's big risks, the iMac was released. It was sleek, with elegant lines, and the "i" was for "Internet"—that is, it was designed to work well with the Internet. Selling 278,000 units in its first six weeks, the iMac at first did not seem to be enough to pull Apple out of the doldrums, but then it took off, selling six million units and making Apple an important player in computers again. In 1999 Jobs had the iMac released in a choice of several colors, which proved popular. In January 2000 he was made CEO without the "interim" addition to the title. In March 2000 Apple shares peaked at $75 each. Apple grossed $7.98 billion and netted $786 million for fiscal 2000.
In 2001 Jobs began opening a chain of Apple retail stores, where customers could try out the computers, making multimedia shows and playing with the software, with unobtrusive salespeople ready to help, if asked. It was a big risk, but the idea was that if people had the opportunity to use Apple's goods, they would find them worth a higher price than competing brands. In 2003 the stores began turning a profit. Another event in 2001 launched Apple into a broader world of consumer electronics: in October, Apple introduced the iPod. So shiny and attractive that owners delighted in showing it off, it downloaded and played thousands of MP3 files, at first only from Apple computers but, in a year, from IBM compatibles as well. The iPod was pricey at $399 and a risk, but Apple had a cash reserve of $4.1 billion to fall back on, up from $280 million at the time Jobs had returned to the company. Even so, Apple shares dropped to about $25 for 2001.
In what may have been the most brilliant salesmanship of his career, Jobs persuaded every major record company to sell Apple the rights to market their songs on the Internet, even though the companies were suspicious of the Internet, viewing it as a haven for thieves of their music. In April 2003 Apple opened the online store iTunes, at first only for Macintoshes but soon for Windows operating system computers as well. At 99 cents per song, with 65 cents going to the music companies, 25 cents to overhead, and only 10 cents to Apple, iTunes seemed fated to lose money. But as Jobs pointed out, the idea was to sell iPods, which could download music from iTunes. By 2004 iPod was the world's dominant portable music player, with iTunes owning 70 percent of the market of downloaded music.
See also entries on Apple Computer, Inc. and Pixar Animation Studios in International Directory of Company Histories .
Landrum, Gene N., "Steven Jobs (Apple)–Autocratic," Profiles of Genius: Thirteen Men Who Changed the World . Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1993.
Langer, Andy, "The God of Music? If Apple's Brash and Bold New Digital-Music Venture Works, That's Pretty Much What He'll Be: A Conversation with Steve Jobs," Esquire , July 2003, pp. 82–85.
Quittner, Josh, "Steve Jobs: The Fountain of Fresh Ideas," Time , April 26, 2004, p. 75.
Stross, Randall E., Steve Jobs and the NeXT Big Thing . New York: Atheneum, 1993.
—Kirk H. Beetz