Steven P. Jobs, the visionary co-founder and former chief executive of the technology company Apple Inc., died on Oct. 5, 2011. He was 56.
Apple said in a press release that it was “deeply saddened” to announce that Mr. Jobs had died. “Steve’s brilliance, passion and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives,” the company said. “The world is immeasurably better because of Steve.”
In August, the company announced that Mr. Jobs, who had battled cancer for several years, was stepping down as chief executive but would serve as chairman. Apple named Timothy D. Cook, its chief operating officer, to succeed Mr. Jobs as chief executive. Mr. Jobs became chairman, a position that did not exist previously.
In January, Mr. Jobs took a medical leave of absence from Apple, his third. Mr. Jobs had seemed to recover from pancreatic cancer after surgery in 2004, and received a liver transplant in 2009.
He made a surprise appearance in March to introduce the company’s new version of the iPad. After he was greeted by a standing ovation, Mr. Jobs alluded to his leave but did not say whether he was planning to return to the company. “We’ve been working on this product for a while and I didn’t want to miss today,” he said.
In June, in his last public appearance before stepping down, Mr. Jobs presented the company’s new online storage and syncing service
Perhaps more than any other chief executive, Mr. Jobs was seen as inseparable from his company’s success. The company has outflanked most of its rivals in the technology industry with the iPhone which have been blockbuster hits with consumers.
At Apple, a creativity factory, there was a strong link between the ultimate design-team leader, Mr. Jobs, and the products. From computers to smartphones, Apple products are known for being stylish, powerful and pleasing to use. They are edited products that cut through complexity, by consciously leaving things out — not cramming every feature that came into an engineer’s head, an affliction known as “featuritis” that burdens so many technology products.
That restraint was evident in Mr. Jobs’s personal taste. His black turtleneck, beltless blue jeans and running shoes gave him a signature look. In his Palo Alto, Calif., home years ago, he said that he preferred uncluttered, spare interiors and explained the elegant craftsmanship of the simple wooden chairs in his living room, made by George Nakashima, the 20th-century furniture designer and father of the American craft movement.
Great products, Mr. Jobs said, are triumphs of “taste.” And taste, he said, is a byproduct of study, observation and being steeped in the culture of the past and present, of “trying to expose yourself to the best things humans have done and then bring those things into what you are doing.”
His product-design philosophy was not steered by committee or determined by market research. The Jobs formula, according to colleagues, relied heavily on tenacity, patience, belief and instinct. He became deeply involved in hardware and software design choices, which awaited his personal nod or veto.
Mr. Jobs, of course, was one member of a large team at Apple, even if he was the leader. Indeed, he often described his role as a team leader. In choosing key members of his team, he looked for the multiplier factor of excellence. Truly outstanding designers, engineers and managers, he said, are not just 10 percent, 20 percent or 30 percent better than merely very good ones, but 10 times better. Their contributions, he added, are the raw material of “aha” products, which make users rethink their notions of, say, a music player or cellphone.
Mr. Jobs undeniably proved himself a gifted marketer and showman, but also a skilled listener to the technology. He called this “tracking vectors in technology over time,” to judge when an intriguing innovation is ready for the marketplace. Technical progress, affordable pricing and consumer demand all must jell to produce a blockbuster product.
The Early Years
Mr. Jobs founded Apple in Cupertino, Calif., in 1976 with Steve Wozniak, and built an early reputation for the company with the Apple II computer. After the Macintosh was introduced in 1984, the company’s business stalled, and Mr. Jobs’s relationship with John Sculley, then Apple’s chief executive, soured. Their conflict ended with Mr. Jobs’s departure from Apple in 1985. The following year, with a small group of Apple employees, he founded NeXt Computer, which ultimately focused on the corporate computing market, without notable success. In 1986, he bought the computer graphics division of Lucasfilm Inc. and re-established it as the independent animation studio Pixar.
A decade later he sold the NeXt operating system to Apple and returned to the company. In short order he was again at the helm and set out to modernize the company’s computers.
After he returned to Apple in late 1996, Mr. Jobs became the product team leader, taste arbiter and public face of a company that has been a stylish breath of fresh air in the personal computer business. With the introduction of the iPod, iTunes, iPhone and iPad, Apple has shaken up the music and cellphone industries. Mr. Jobs was long known for his intense focus on product design and marketing, but after Apple introduced the iPod digital music player in 2001, he also came to exemplify what is hip across many American and international cultures, in areas from business to music.
Following His Own Path
Mr. Jobs’ instinct to heed his own counsel did not always serve him well. When he was diagnosed with a rare form of pancreatic cancer in October 2003, his early decision to put off surgery and rely instead on fruit juices, acupuncture, herbal remedies and other treatments — some of which he found on the Internet — (“Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson; Simon & Schuster; $35). By the time Mr. Jobs underwent surgery in July 2004, the cancer had spread beyond the pancreas.
When he did take the path of surgery and science, Mr. Jobs did so with passion and curiosity, sparing no expense, pushing the frontiers of new treatments. Mr. Isaacson said that once Mr. Jobs decided on the surgery and medical science, he became an expert — studying, guiding and deciding on each treatment.
According to Mr. Isaacson, Mr. Jobs was one of 20 people in the world to have all the genes of his cancer tumor and his normal DNA sequenced. The price tag at the time: $100,000.
The DNA sequencing that Mr. Jobs ultimately went through was done by a collaboration of teams at Stanford, Johns Hopkins, Harvard and the Broad Institute of MIT. The sequencing, Mr. Isaacson wrote, allowed doctors to better tailor drugs and target them to the defective molecular pathways.