An incredible but true story of how a company fired its creator, went to the brink of extinction, hired him back, and is now worth a market value of more than two trillion dollars.
An American story about how entrepreneurial spirits planted a seed for a company that grew to become the world’s most significant information technology company.
Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak co-founded a fledgling computer company named Apple in 1977. The unique name came from Jobs returning from an apple farm when on a fruitarian diet and thought the name sounded fun and non-intimidating.
Jobs and Wozniak sold all their worthy possessions in 1976 to fund their new company and began selling printed circuit boards with the Apple name. Then, parlaying the $1,000 they raised, they started a company in 1977 that grew to become the world’s highest capitalized information technology company.
The path was not easy, and there were many successes and failures along the way until Apple found its way to leading the information technology world. Jobs was the marketing visionary behind the new company, and Wozniak was the computer engineer expert behind the technological development.
Both were young and considered “risky” in the investment world, so they had to fight to get financial credence. Jobs was an energetic and charismatic leader, but investors wanted an older, more seasoned leader. Enter the Apple players to advance the company and at the same time remove the founding partner Steve Jobs from Apple.
Steve Jobs, the marketing visionary, and Steve Wozniak, the engineering wizard, were perfect compliments to establish a computer company on a new concept. After creating some profitable products, or kits, to create a computer, they finally made a home run product, the Apple II.
In their wisdom, they created a product that encouraged the creation of new programs to run on the Apple II. This forward-looking strategy was a stroke of brilliance. Apple did not profit directly from the apps created to run on the Apple II, but it did make a vast market for ready buyers for the new system.
One of the initial investors in Apple, Mike Markkula, decided that 22-year-old Jobs and Wozniak were not ready to run a fast burgeoning company like Apple. So instead, he chose to bring in friend and experienced executive Michael Scott.
Markkula convinced his friend, Scott, Director of Manufacturing for National Semiconductor, to lead Apple because he feared the young Jobs and Wozniak were not ready to show such a dynamic company as Apple. Scott assumed the CEO position from 1977, and in 1981, Mike Markkula replaced him as CEO.
In 1983, Jobs hired John Sculley, the successful CEO of PepsiCo, with the legendary pitch asking if he wanted to sell sugared water or change the world?
Jobs secretly wanted to be CEO, but gaining a difficult-to-work reputation, the Apple Board of Directors did not think he was ready. The reign of Sculley as CEO ultimately led to Jobs’s dismissal from the company he founded, Apple.
In 1985, Jobs introduced the Lisa, a technical marvel for a computer with the first GUI (Graphical User Interface). A technological innovation, Lisa never produced the number of sales expected by Apple.
The follow-up product, the MacIntosh, fared much better but still could not make any sizable dent in the sales of IBM PCs. Finally, Sculley decided to reign in the influence of Jobs at Apple and removed him from the Macintosh product group.
The removal from the Macintosh group infuriated Jobs, so in 1985 he presented his case to the Board of Directors for a decision on his status. Unfortunately, the Board sided with Sculley and, based on different versions of the story, Jobs was either fired or resigned at Apple.
Sculley was the “golden boy” for a time, introducing new Apple innovations. But he began to miss sales goals, and a new, technologically advanced product, Newton MessagePad, was introduced. But, again, conceptually brilliant, functionally less so, and sales were disappointing.
Sculley also tied Apple to the PowerPC processor chip, a substantial financial burden for Apple. As a result, the competitive Intel x86 processor became much less expensive and kept the Macintosh’s cost artificially high. This wrong move cost Sculley his position, and he was dismissed as CEO of Apple in 1993.
Mike Spindler, a long-term Apple employee, replaced Sculley as CEO. He had a three-year run as a CEO until merger talks with IBM Sun Microsystems and Phillips fell through. The Apple Board of Directors then dismissed him in 1996.
In 1996, Gil Amelio became CEO and became the next “golden boy” when he convinced the Board to purchase Steve Jobs’s new computer company, NeXT. He developed NeXT to utilize the UNIX operating system with the closest GUI interface for UNIX ever. In addition, the World Wide Web founder developed the internet on a NeXT computer.
The $429 million NeXT acquisition brought a much-needed infusion of new technology Apple badly needed, along with getting Steve Jobs back to the Apple family. Unfortunately for Amelio, bringing Jobs back to Apple was also his downfall.
With the acquisition of NeXT, Jobs finally became a power player again at Apple. He still had aspirations of becoming CEO and created a masterful yet devious plan to unseat Amelio. Job secretly and anonymously sold 1.5 million shares of Apple in one transaction.
This single, huge transaction caused Apple’s stock to dip to a 12-year low and made Amelio’s reign as CEO tenuous. Jobs convinced the Board on July 4th weekend in 1997 to remove Amelio as CEO for poor performance and seat him as interim CEO. Amelio eventually resigned and left Apple.
By August, Jobs was already shaking things up at Apple, replacing the Board of Directors. He then makes one of his most controversial yet beneficial moves, making peace with Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
Gates made a live-stream video appearance at the 1997 Macworld conference to a lukewarm reception. He announced Microsoft investing $150 million in Apple to boos but was a much-needed shot in the arm for Apple.
Jobs had returned to Apple with a new, easier-to-work-with attitude, a fresh infusion of capital from Microsoft, and a vision to guide Apple to unprecedented success.
1998 was a banner year for Steve Jobs and Apple. First, the hugely successful iMac was introduced, and Jobs was named permanent Apple CEO, even though he was still highly engaged at Pixar. The self-contained iMac was a tremendous hit for Apple and brought much badly needed success and a significant revenue stream.
That same year, the Board removed the interim term and made Jobs the permanent Apple CEO. Jobs remained with Apple until he died in 2011.
The entrepreneurial spirit and vision of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak created what would become the world’s biggest company with a market valuation estimated in 2021 at 2.4 trillion.
The marketing visionary Steve Jobs and an engineer to design a more effective computer platform, Steve Wozniak, led to many Apple innovations.
A quick timeline of the technological revolutions and successes for Apple:
Steve Jobs remained loyal to Apple until he succumbed to pancreatic cancer at 56 on October 5, 2011. Jobs' entrepreneurial spirit led to many successes and some failures for Apple.
However, his legacy will remain forever to have the vision to start a company, lose it, and then come back and direct the company until Apple became one of the most successful companies in the world.