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“What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating,” Jobs said in his Stanford speech. “I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”

He got into two other companies: Next, a computer maker, and Pixar, a computer-animation studio that he bought from George Lucas for $10 million.

Pixar, ultimately the more successful venture, seemed at first a bottomless money pit. Then in 1995 came “Toy Story,” the first computer-animated full-length feature. Jobs used its success to negotiate a sweeter deal with Disney for Pixar’s next two films, “A Bug’s Life” and “Toy Story 2.” In 2006, Jobs sold Pixar to The Walt Disney Co. for $7.4 billion in stock, making him Disney’s largest individual shareholder and securing a seat on the board.

With Next, Jobs came up with a cube-shaped computer. He was said to be obsessive about the tiniest details, insisting on design perfection even for the machine’s guts. The machine cost a pricey $6,500 to $10,000, and he never managed to spark much demand for it.

Ultimately, he shifted the focus to software — a move that paid off later when Apple bought Next for its operating system technology, the basis for the software still used in Mac computers.

By 1996, when Apple bought Next, Apple was in dire financial straits. It had lost more than $800 million in a year, dragged its heels in licensing Mac software for other computers and surrendered most of its market share to PCs that ran Windows.

Larry Ellison, Jobs‘ close friend and fellow Silicon Valley billionaire and the CEO of Oracle Corp., publicly contemplated buying Apple in early 1997 and ousting its leadership. The idea fizzled, but Jobs stepped in as interim chief later that year.

He slashed unprofitable projects, narrowed the company’s focus and presided over a new marketing push to set the Mac apart from Windows, starting with a campaign encouraging computer users to “Think different.”

Apple’s first new product under his direction, the brightly colored, plastic iMac, launched in 1998 and sold about 2 million in its first year. Apple returned to profitability that year. Jobs dropped the “interim” from his title in 2000.

He changed his style, too, said Tim Bajarin, who met Jobs several times while covering the company for Creative Strategies.

“In the early days, he was in charge of every detail. The only way you could say it is, he was kind of a control freak,” he said. In his second stint, “he clearly was much more mellow and more mature.”

In the decade that followed, Jobs kept Apple profitable while pushing out an impressive roster of new products.

Apple’s popularity exploded in the 2000s. The iPod, smaller and sleeker with each generation, introduced many lifelong Windows users to their first Apple gadget.

The arrival of the iTunes music store in 2003 gave people a convenient way to buy music legally online, song by song. For the music industry, it was a mixed blessing. The industry got a way to reach Internet-savvy people who, in the age of Napster, were growing accustomed to downloading music free. But online sales also hastened the demise of CDs and established Apple as a gatekeeper, resulting in battles between Jobs and music executives over pricing and other issues.

Jobs‘ command over gadget lovers and pop culture swelled to the point that, on the eve of the iPhone’s launch in 2007, faithful followers slept on sidewalks outside posh Apple stores for the chance to buy one. Three years later, at the iPad’s debut, the lines snaked around blocks and out through parking lots, even though people had the option to order one in advance.

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