‘Genius’ Apple founder dies after brilliant career

Steve Jobs, the visionary responsible for some of the world's best-loved gadgets, has died aged 56 after a long battle with cancer. He changed the way we view the digital world.

Most successful businessmen – like Conrad Hilton, or car manufacturer Henry Ford – are celebrated for changing one industry. At just 56, Steve Jobs, who died this week, had transformed four.

As the founder of tech giant Apple, Jobs was among the most visionary and influential people of his generation. From the first Apple desktops, to the CGI of Pixar‘s Toy Story, to the iPod and iPhone, his leadership revolutionised computing, film, music and mobile.

In just seven years Jobs transformed Apple from a glorified DIY project into a huge multinational venture. After 1997, when he returned to the company after an absence, Apple’s revenue rose from $7.1 billion to $65.2 billion per year.

When we look at Jobs’ later incarnation as a billionaire CEO, it’s difficult to imagine him as a college dropout, starting Apple with friend Steve Wozniak. But his bumpy journey to the top was fuelled by the same perfectionism and drive.

With an aggressive leadership style that made him notorious in the business world, Jobs was known for micro-managing Apple’s work down to the tiniest detail. Everything the company produced – from its radical marketing campaigns right down to the precise curve of a MacBook’s stylish casing – had to be okayed by Steve Jobs.

He demanded almost paranoid levels of secrecy, and would only speak to a narrow, handpicked group of reporters.

Those who worked with him say his charisma was inspiring – but was coupled with a willingness to deliver humiliating criticism that placed an overwhelming pressure on employees. His controlling style extended to Apple’s customers. He recently revealed, for example, that no market research went into the iPad, saying ‘it’s not the customers’ job to know what they want.’ Jobs knew what we wanted, it seems, before we knew ourselves.

And we have gladly eaten up Jobs’ vision of a digital lifestyle, as well as the legend of him as an individual. As the news of his death spread, the internet was saturated with praise for world-changing, inspirational Jobs, and with gratitude for his iconic legacy.

Man or legend

Obituaries are already elevating Steve Jobs to almost legendary status. But can one man really be responsible for the billion-dollar success of a global company? Apple, many argue, succeeded because of an army of designers, technicians and developers. Why should Jobs take all the credit?

But according to his legions of fans, the secret ingredient that made Apple succeed where so many rivals failed was precisely Job’s perfectionist vision, his unrelenting insistence that every detail of every product be finished to the highest possible standard, his refusal ever to accept second best.

You Decide

  1. Is perfectionism a good trait or a bad one? What are its advantages and disadvantages?
  2. Is an aggressive management style, that can make people feel stressed and fearful, justified if it produces enormous commercial success? Is it a good way to run a business?

Activities

  1. Write an obituary of Steve Jobs.
  2. Apple products are known for their amazing emphasis on good design. Do some research to find another product whose design has made a real impact and present your findings to your class.

Some People Say...

“Only perfection will do.”

What do you think?

Q & A

Has Jobs always been CEO of Apple?
No. Following a power struggle in 1985, Jobs was ousted from his role at the company. He later referred to this as a blessing in disguise – he bought Pixar, and oversaw Toy Story , A Bug’s Life and Finding Nemo . He then returned to Apple in 1997.
Has his leadership been affected by ill health?
Yes. Over the past few years he has stood down for several periods, including for a liver transplant. In August 2011, he resigned as CEO, to be replaced by Tim Cook.
What will the company do without him?
Many are sceptical that Apple can continue without Jobs’ strong leadership. But when Jobs resigned, Cook issued a statement: ‘Steve built a company and culture that is unlike any other in the world and we are going to stay true to that.’

Word Watch

Conrad Hilton
American businessman who founded Hilton Hotels – an international, and hugely successful, tourism chain – in the early 20th Century.
Pixar
A film studio, based in California, and responsible for films such as Toy Story and Finding Nemo. It specialises in CGI – computer generated imaging.
Steve Wozniak
An electronic hacker, who founded Apple with Steve Jobs. Initially, Wozniak was in charge of the new company's technology, while Jobs took control of marketing.

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