- Associated Press - Thursday, August 25, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Steve Jobs‘ resignation as Apple Inc.’s CEO on Wednesday was freighted with sentimental significance, the curtain call on a dramatic 14-year performance in which he rescued one of the world’s most beloved brands from the brink of technological irrelevance.

As second chances go, Jobs‘ stewardship of Apple since returning in 1997 to the company he created with a high school friend in a Silicon Valley garage in the 1970s is widely seen as nothing short of first-class. And his job isn’t done; he’s staying on as chairman, where it remains to be seen how meaningfully his role in product design will change.

As mercurial as many employees and suppliers and business partners have found Jobs, few can deny how deeply his ideas have transformed the consumer technology world.

Jobs’ contributions to the world of technology are numerous. He led a fierce battle against Microsoft’s Windows stronghold on the front lines of the personal computer revolution; he changed the way people listen to music; he essentially created the consumer smartphone market and turned tablets from objects of derision into lusted-after luxury items. The innovation attached to the Steve Jobs brand is something that might be impossible to replace.

Investors expressed their concerns with a selloff that knocked Apple’s stock down $19.08, or 5.1 percent, to $355.58 in extended trading Thursday, following the announcement that Tim Cook, Apple’s chief operating officer, would be assuming full-time CEO duties.

Apple is Steve Jobs, Steve Jobs is Apple, and Steve Jobs is innovation,” said Trip Chowdhry, an analyst with Global Equities Research. “You can teach people how to be operationally efficient, you can hire consultants to tell you how to do that, but God creates innovation. … Apple without Steve Jobs is nothing.”

Jobs has now stepped down twice as Apple’s leader, both times under unfavorable circumstances.

Whereas unmatched technical innovation and single-mindedness defined Apple’s early years, and unchecked hubris and micromanaging helped doom Jobs‘ first go-around as CEO, he has redeemed himself, pulling off one of the most remarkable turnarounds in corporate history.

Like many Silicon Valley companies, Apple traces its roots to a garage where two tinkerers came up with an idea that would change technology forever. But perhaps more than any other technology icon who has risen from the scrum of Silicon Valley entrepreneurialism, Jobs has been as much of a polarizing figure as he has been an inspirational one.

He has invented and masterfully marketed ever-sleeker gadgets that have transformed everyday technology, from the personal computer to the iPod and iPhone. Cultivating Apple’s countercultural sensibility and a minimalist design ethic, in his second go-around as CEO he has rolled out one hit product after another, even in the face of the late-2000s recession and his own failing health.

Jobs helped change computers from a geeky hobbyist’s obsession to a necessity of modern life at work and home, and in the process he upended not just personal technology but the cellphone and music industries.

Perhaps most influentially, he launched the iPod in 2001, which offered “1,000 songs in your pocket.” Over the next 10 years, its white earphones and thumb-dial control seemed to become as ubiquitous as the wristwatch.

In 2007 came the touch-screen iPhone, and later its miniature “apps,” which made the phone a device not just for making calls but for managing money, storing photos, playing games and browsing the Web.

And in 2010, Jobs introduced the iPad, a tablet-sized, all-touch computer that took off even though market analysts said no one really needed one.

Investors have become enraptured. “Fanboys” follow Jobs‘ words with almost religious fervor, and shareholders have cast big bets on Apple’s prospects.

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