Steve Jobs, tech visionary: 1955-2011

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Steve Jobs, founder, chairman, and twice CEO of Apple Inc., and a man variously regarded over his 30 years in the technology industry as a creative genius, a failure, and one of the most successful business executives in half a century has died, according to Apple. He was 56.

Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2004. He recovered, but the cancer reemerged and he received a liver transplant in 2009. His deteriorating health forced him to take a medical leave of absence from Apple in January 2011, which became permanent in August, when he officially stepped down as CEO and named longtime COO Tim Cook as his successor. Jobs chose to remain on the board as chairman.

The legacy Jobs leaves behind is immense. His storied history with Apple, its ups and downs, are by now well-known lore in the tech world: He founded the company in 1976 with Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne and introduced people to the modern concept of personal computing. He was kicked out of his own company in 1984, went on to build NeXT, which he then sold to Apple. Soon after retook the role of Apple CEO in 1997, where he found the company on the verge of bankruptcy.

Jobs kept everyone on their toes: his own employees, the press and competitors. He was a famously demanding boss, with as sharp an eye for design as his ability to predict what mainstream consumers wanted from their tech products. The result was selling millions of devices and turning the company he founded into a design, technologic and business powerhouse. He leaves the company as the world’s second most-valuable publicly traded company.

After his return to Apple in 1997, he introduced the iconic iMac desktop computer, which was the beginning of the company’s dramatic rise. He then turned his attention to consumer electronics, turning upside down three different industries: music, mobile phones and portable computing. The iPod, first introduced in 2001, reimagined how people bought and listened to music, while the iPhone arrived in 2007, upending the expectations of what a mobile phone could be.

The iPad was Jobs final contribution to the tech world, which fittingly is an intersection of Apple’s strengths: using a clean, simply designed form factor that gives users access to music, videos, games, productivity tools, and the web with a simple swipe of a finger.

Here’s a great reflection on Jobs is from something Om wrote in 2005 after Jobs shocked the tech world with the decision to move Macs from Power PC to Intel chips:

Some men dream the future. He built it.

Steve Jobs, the maverick who has architected one of the greatest comebacks in the history of Silicon Valley, continues to prove that he was a modern day Howard Hughes. Unpredictable, charming, loving, petulant, and deviously mysterious. But more than anything, brilliant.

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