Today in History: Steve Jobs Exits (1985); Returns to Apple (1997)On September 16, 1985,
Steve Jobs resigned from Apple, after losing a power struggle with the board of directors. Steve had co-founded Apple in 1976 to produce the first wave of affordable personal computers. He strongly promoted the GUI (graphical user interface) design that helped popularize computers and led to Microsoft’s development of the Windows operating system, which copied much of Apple’s operating system’s GUI. Steve, especially in his early entrepreneurial years, was not always easy to work with and was becoming such a disruptive force within Apple that it became necessary for the board to diminish his power. After months with little executive power, although he remained as Chairman, Steve resigned 29 years ago today. He wrote the resignation letter this day and dated/sent it September 17.
Steve informed Apple that he wanted to build a breakthrough computer to revolutionize research and higher education and that he intended to start a new computer company with a small number of Apple employees. However, Apple chose to sue Steve for stealing company secrets, as he was launching this company, called NeXT. Apple withdrew the suit and quietly settled it out of court. Although NeXt was a commercial failure, its sophisticated workstation was used by Tim Berners-Lee in the creation of the web, and it did create a modern operating system. In fact, a decade after Steve launched NeXT, Apple bought NeXT for about $425 million to acquire its operating system to replace the ageing Mac OS. In the acquisition deal, Steve was hired by Apple as an adviser to Apple’s CEO Gil Amelio.On September 16, 1997
— just 17 years ago today and only within a few months of his return to Apple — Steve was made “interim” Apple CEO. (Much later, Steve would joke that he had been the “iCEO.”) Amelio had resigned in July, following a continual plunge of Apple stock, mostly as a result of huge quarterly losses and annual losses exceeding $1 billion (and partly manipulated by Steve Job’s selling of stock). And the rest is history, haha .... a brief overview of this history:
When Steve took over as “interim” CEO, Apple was approaching bankruptcy. Steve was now older and wiser; and he used his experience and wisdom to engineer one of the most incredible business turnarounds in U.S. history. First, Steve persuaded Bill Gates and Microsoft to make a $150 million investment in Apple. This was not a popular move among Apple fans, but Steve saw it as the most efficient way to set Apple on a course to prevail in the dawning war for digital media devices linked to the Internet and web resources. Second, Steve installed new G3 PowerPC microprocessors in Apple computers, making them faster than competing Pentium PCs. Third, he spearheaded the development of a new Mac, the “iMac,” designed as an affordable computer for the home desk. By the end of 1998, Apple was profitable again and sales were growing.
During the next decade before his death, Steve led Apple as it rolled out a series of revolutionary products:
(1) the “iPod” portable digital audio player in 2001;
(2) the online music download marketplace, the iTunes Store, in 2003;
(3) the “iPhone” smart device in 2007;
(4) the “iPad” tablet in 2010.
Apple sold hundreds of millions of these devices and billions of downloads at the iTunes Store. In addition, it opened the most successful retail stores in the history of business. In the process, Apple’s market capitalization went from $3 billion at the start of 1997 to over $600 billion today.