Business, Economics and Jobs

Steve Jobs resigns from Apple: A round-up of the smartest observations (UPDATES)


Apple CEO Steve Jobs waves to the crowd after speaking during an Apple Special event to unveil the new iPad 2 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on March 2, 2011 in San Francisco, California.


Justin Sullivan

The news that Steve Jobs is stepping down as chief executive of Apple should come as no surprise.

The iconic Apple founder has been battling a variety of serious health issues since 2004, and he's been on a leave of absence from the company since January. 

Yet most Apple watchers felt at least a small jolt when they read the following sentence, shimmering from the screens of their iPads or iPhones: 

“I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know,” Jobs said in a statement released on Wednesday. “Unfortunately, that day has come.”

The departure of Jobs is a big moment for Apple, of course, which has recently become the most valuable company in America.

Under his forceful direction, Apple changed the way many of us consume music, books and magazines, news, games, TV and generally interact with today's digital world. 

But that wasn't everthing.

Clad in jeans and what must have been an endless supply of black turtlenecks, CEO Jobs was the ultimate marketer of new technology.

His new product announcements over the years were the perfect mix of cult-like fervor and showmanship — Bill Gates meets P.T. Barnum — and the world couldn't get enough of it.

Accordingly, the web is buzzing today with analysis, reports, observations and all sorts of speculation about what the resignation means for Apple, and the company's short and long-term futures.

Here's a quick rundown of some of the best stuff so far.

New Yorker writer Nicholas Thompson perfectly summed up the Jobs dichotomy:

As a technology journalist, I’ve often found Jobs utterly maddening. He’s controlling and manipulative. He doesn’t like the press, and, perhaps because of that, he has long had us under his big toe. (Criticize Apple too much and you and your colleagues can lose access to the company and its products.) His ethos has always been that he knows best, and that he, not you, should have maximum control of the products you buy. The ethos of software idealists has always been something of the opposite. 

And yet, the man is undoubtedly a genius. He built Apple, was forced out, and then, in 1997, returned to resuscitate it. He invented the iPhone and the iPad. I’ve often thought of Apple as something like Singapore. It’s closed, restrictive, and authoritarian. And there’d deserve to be insurrection if things just didn’t work so damn well.

Thompson has questions about whether chief operating officer Tim Cook can fill those shoes:

I’m sure he’s good, and the people around him are good too. But he won’t do as well, for at least one reason. Steve Jobs built a cult of personality that gave him power. Many of Apple’s future fights will be about content. Which tech companies will get the rights to show what things, in what ways, on their devices? Jobs had a power that Cook could not possibly have here, just because he was Jobs. He could summon anyone he wanted to meet with him; he could get journalists to write whatever he wanted them to write; and, if he and Apple threatened to screw you over, you had to believe them.

Over at Wired, Owen Linzmayer and Ryan Singel compiled some of the most memorable Jobs quotes over the years. Here are a few of the juiciest ones:

“Don’t be evil is a load of crap.”
— In January 2010 townhall with Apple employees, Jobs tore into Google for getting into the smartphone business, saying Google got into smartphones, and Apple didn’t get into search.

“Do we have what it takes to establish a third category of products? The bar is pretty high. It has to be far better at doing some key things. We think we have the goods. Our most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price.”
— In January 2010, Jobs showed off the iPad to a skeptical world, sparing no hyperbole, even though tablet computers had always been flops in the sales department for other companies.

“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.”
— Fortune, Nov. 9, 1998

The Atlantic's Derek Thompson makes the point that Jobs has the unique skill of taking other people's ideas and making them his own. He calls Jobs a modern day Thomas Edison:

Making ideas marketable and universal is what Jobs has done for most of his career. Steve Jobs has been called the Edison of our time. That's even truer than it seems. His genius (not unlike Edison, an infamous thief of other people's best ideas) is the mainstream application of existing ideas, rather than original invention.

-- Apple wasn't the first company to think of the elements that make up the personal computer. Xerox PARC was. But Apple put the pieces together with the right design touches to make the first marketable personal computer.

-- Apple didn't invent the mp3 player. Audio Highway did. But the iPod still dominated the market with more than 300 million units sold to date.

-- Apple didn't invent the online music store. Ivan J. Parron did. But seven years after iTunes launched, it has achieved more than 70 percent market share of legal music downloads and more by selling more than 10 billion songs.

-- Apple didn't invent the first PDA, mobile phone, or smartphone. IBM, Nokia and other companies were there first. But the iPhone redefined what a phone should be.

The lesson is that being first is overrated, Thompson writes. "It's better to be the best. If all art is theft, Jobs' genius came from being the smartest chisel, not just the first mallet on the block of marble," he adds.

For another interesting and more visual take, Time put together this slideshow of the seven times Jobs has appeared on its cover since 1982.

Of course, Apple's global business practices under Jobs have also come under criticism from labor rights groups, particularly over the way the company has managed its sprawling global supply chain.

GlobalPost has been on that case for much of the past two years. 

Check out the award-winning reporting series Silicon Sweatshops from Kathleen E. McLaughlin and Jonathan Adams, and its sequel

Editor's note: this story has been updated several times as new information comes in.