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Steve Jobs told us what we needed before we knew
Question of the Day
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.
The decade was not without its glitches. In the mid-2000s, Apple was swept up in a Securities and Exchange Commission inquiry into stock options backdating, a practice that artificially raised the value of options grants. But Jobs and Apple emerged unscathed after two former executives took the fall and eventually settled with the SEC.
Jobs’ personal ethos _ a natural food lover who embraced Buddhism and New Age philosophy _ was closely linked to the public persona he shaped for Apple. Apple itself became a statement against the commoditization of technology _ a cynical view, to be sure, from a company whose computers can cost three or more times as much as those of its rivals.
For technology lovers, buying Apple products has meant gaining entrance to an exclusive club. At the top was a complicated and contradictory figure who was endlessly fascinating _ even to his detractors, of which Jobs had many. Jobs was a hero to techno-geeks and a villain to partners he bullied and to workers whose projects he unceremoniously killed or claimed as his own.
Unauthorized biographer Alan Deutschman described him as “deeply moody and maddeningly erratic.” In his personal life, Jobs denied for two years that he was the father of Lisa, the baby born to his longtime girlfriend Chrisann Brennan in 1978.
Few seemed immune to Jobs’ charisma and will. He could adeptly convince those in his presence of just about anything _ even if they disagreed again when he left the room and his magic wore off.
“He always has an aura around his persona,” said Bajarin, who met Jobs several times while covering the company for more than 20 years as a Creative Strategies analyst. “When you talk to him, you know you’re really talking to a brilliant mind.”
But Bajarin also remembers Jobs lashing out with profanity at an employee who interrupted their meeting. Jobs, the perfectionist, demanded greatness from everyone at Apple.
Jobs valued his privacy, but some details of his romantic and family life have been uncovered. In the early 1980s, Jobs dated the folk singer Joan Baez, according to Deutschman.
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