Love him or hate him, Steve Jobs will always be Apple. A visionary? A marketing genius? A control freak? What will happen to Apple in the future without him?
Whether you read the countless books or watch the numerous films on the early days of Apple, they all point to Steve Wozniak being the technical brains, while Steve Jobs having the vision, drive, and marketing prowess to push ideas and find people to make them come true. This, however, led to him having a reputation of being egotistical and arrogant. He knew he was smart. He knew what he wanted. It often created ripples with those he worked with, Wozniak included.
But as a businessman, he was successful. Apple went from strength to strength. The Apple II was a commercial success and the Macintosh catapulted them even further. The Macintosh showcased Jobs’ love of locked down computing, giving Apple control and the user having to succumb to it – something that would be a love or hate feature of Apple products to follow.
The late 80s saw Steve Jobs forced out of Apple by John Sculley and the rest of the team who felt Steve wasn’t going in the right direction.
Leaving Apple, Steve formed his own computer company, namely NeXT Inc – offering NeXT workstations and NeXTcube running the NeXTSTEP operating system. These were sophisticated superior machines offering a new system at the forefront of technology, offering a multitasking operating system based on UNIX, but it just wasn’t a success. While a commercial failure – partly down to their thousand dollar price tags – it’s legacy would live on.
Whilst away from Apple, Steve Jobs would also invest in Pixar, which would go on to produce CGI films such as Toy Story and Finding Nemo.
With Gil Amelio at the helm (taking over from Michael Spindler in 1996, who had replaced John Scully in 1993) Apple were looking for a replacement for their aging Mac OS, which was falling behind its competitors. Originally looking at BeOS, Apple eventually went with NeXTSTEP instead, because it was more advanced and more polished. The acquisition of NeXT Inc in 1997 brought Steve Jobs back to Apple. NeXTSTEP would go on to form the basis of Mac OS X – and iOS later on.
Steve Jobs returned to a crumbling company offering too many product lines and poor sales. His first step to was clean up product lines. He culled lots of failing computers as well as the ill fated Newton. With a major investment from Microsoft for a deal on Office for Macintosh, Apple were able to keep afloat.
1997 would prove a seminal year in Apple’s history and cement Jobs as the saviour of Apple, with the introduction of the iMac, a bold and powerful new computer that would become iconic in the tech world. It would also pave the way for a simpler product range – the 2×2 approach – a professional desktop (the Power Mac), a consumer desktop (the iMac), a professional laptop (the PowerBook), and a consumer laptop (the iBook). These would make up the strong four products – that further increased Apple’s sales and reputation.
This was the first time Steve Jobs saved Apple. Without him being drafted in, we would certainly have no Apple as we know it today, if at all.
The company would go from strength to strength under Steve Jobs. The PowerPC era would be a great one, and the iPod would be a run away success, leading to the development of the iPhone and the iPad. The Intel age would see a product name change for its computers, the iMac would still be called the iMac, but the Power Mac would become the Mac Pro, iBook would become the MacBook, PowerBook would become the MacBook Pro.
However, 2011 would be a sad year for Apple, its fans, and the tech world in general. On the 5 October, Steve Jobs passed away from ongoing health issues with pancreatic cancer resulting in respiratory arrest.
Tim Cook had been standing in for Jobs before his death, taking over day-to-day roles, and would step up to become CEO. Jonathan Ive had worked with Apple way back on the Newton, but it wasn’t until Steve Jobs returned in 1997 that Ive’s talents came to full flourish when the iMac was released, and later he would be responsible for the iPod, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, MacBook Air and Mac mini, to name a few.
Cook and Ive would become the dynamic duo post Steve Jobs. But what would Apple become after the passing of their beloved leader and co-founder? Without the possibility of a return, the fate of Apple would once again rest on others.
Since 2011, Apple’s product lines have once again spiraled.
The iPad has burst into many variations, often confusing consumers about which is the best to buy, the iPhone gained siblings, the MacBook range had grown, evolved, and then upset long standing fans, and some felt that the Mac, the product that had saved Apple in the late 90s, the product that Apple was based around, was being pushed aside and the professional market were not wanted anymore. The 2013 Mac Pro caused controversy because of its drastic new design, lack of expandability compared to its predecessor and high price. It also hasn’t been updated in four years.
Apple are pushing non-standards and losing expandability or even repairability, adopting non-standard ports, losing old favourite,s and most controversially offering logic boards with RAM and storage prebuilt in, leaving no possibility for upgrades. A company who took an approach to gain more of the budget market in the mid 2000s and lower prices, now seem to be hiking them to ridiculous levels.
Is this a sign Apple have once again lost their way without Steve Jobs, or would his closed architecture ‘my way is the best’ beliefs be proud of a laptop without only one port?
Apple have always pushed the envelope in the past, dropping the floppy drive, dropping legacy ports in favour of the then relatively new USB, alienating nearly all previously available accessories, and dropping the optical drive.
With product lines bloating and innovation a thing of the past, how long can Apple live off the halo effect of the past. Where are they going?
I asked a friend what he thought the title of the article meant, and aside from the NeXT pun he added ‘I think I wonder how long Apple can go on’. It’s something a lot of Apple fans and the tech world have been asking for a while.
Since the loss of Jobs, what exactly have Apple created? Nothing. They have expanded on their current products – things that he instigated, pushing release after release of updated kit. Is the way all tech is going? Is there anything left to invent, has the tech world hit the wall.
Would things be different if Steve Jobs were still with us? Would he pull the company around?
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