Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The decade of Steve Jobs

I had a rare and memorable opportunity to meet Steve Jobs in person on stage of Kodak Theater, Los Angeles during the preview of 'Toy Story' movie. Then I visited the Apple HQ in Cupertino to see the world's leading computer company in action.

Steve Jobs will remain one of my youth's icons since the day I was introduced to Apple IIc for my Grade 7's computer class at Wainuiomata College, New Zealand. Been following his remarkable corporate, ups and downs as a brilliant innovator that has changed the world and our lives.


How Apple's imperious, brilliant CEO transformed American business.


(Fortune magazine) -- How's this for a gripping corporate story line: Youthful founder gets booted from his company in the 1980s, returns in the 1990s, and in the following decade survives two brushes with death, one securities-law scandal, an also-ran product lineup, and his own often unpleasant demeanor to become the dominant personality in four distinct industries, a billionaire many times over, and CEO of the most valuable company in Silicon Valley.

Sound too far-fetched to be true? Perhaps. Yet it happens to be the real-life story of Steve Jobs and his outsize impact on everything he touches.

The past decade in business belongs to Jobs. What makes that simple statement even more remarkable is that barely a year ago it seemed likely that any review of his accomplishments would be valedictory. But by deeds and accounts, Jobs is back.

It's as if his signature "one more thing" line now applies to him as well. After a six-month leave of absence in the early part of this year, during which he received a liver transplant, he is once again commanding a 34,000-strong corporate army that is as powerful, awe-inspiring, creative, secretive, bullying, arrogant -- and yes, profitable -- as at any time since he and his chum Steve Wozniak founded Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500) in 1976.

Superlatives have attached themselves to Jobs since he was a young man. Now that he's 54, merely listing his achievements is sufficient explanation of why he's Fortune's CEO of the Decade (though the superlatives continue). In the past 10 years alone he has radically and lucratively reordered three markets -- music, movies, and mobile telephones -- and his impact on his original industry, computing, has only grown.

Remaking any one business is a career-defining achievement; four is unheard-of. Think about that for a moment. Henry Ford altered the course of the nascent auto industry. PanAm's Juan Trippe invented the global airline. Conrad Hilton internationalized American hospitality.

In all instances, and many more like them, these entrepreneurs turned captains of industry defined a single market that had previously not been dominated by anyone. The industries that Jobs has turned topsy-turvy already existed when he focused on them.

He is the rare businessman with legitimate worldwide celebrity. (His quirks and predilections are such common knowledge that they were knowingly parodied on an episode of "The Simpsons.") He pals around with U2's Bono.

Consumers who have never picked up an annual report or even a business magazine gush about his design taste, his elegant retail stores, and his outside-the-box approach to advertising. ("Think different," indeed.)

It's often noted that he's a showman, a born salesman, a magician who creates a famed reality-distortion field, a tyrannical perfectionist. It's totally accurate, of course, and the descriptions contribute to his legend.

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