Wednesday, August 24, 2011

End of the Jobs II era

Steve Jobs resigned as CEO today, marking the end of the 3rd and final act of a career that transformed the the computer, consumer electronics, mobile phone and entertainment industries:

  • Apple (Jobs I): 1976-1985
  • NeXT: 1985-1996
  • Apple (Jobs II): 1997-2011 (continuing as non-executive chairman)
In between, he also bought control of Pixar in 1986 for $10 million, making his personal fortune 20 years later by selling the company for a cool $7 billion.

As Walt Mossberg notes, it’s hard to think of a single individual who had as much impact on the business world across the last 30 years. Steve brought us the Apple II, Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad and even a new campus for Apple. Steve Jobs has had better years (e.g. 2007 or 2010) than most IT industry CEOs have had careers.

Apple has been central to half my life. I was late to the Apple II, not using one until I shared an apartment with a fellow newspaper reporter with an Apple II+. However, I bought my Mac the first week they went on sale in 1984 and have owned one in some form or another for the next 27 years. I also ran a Mac-only software company from 1987-2002, wrote for Mac trade magazines and did my PhD dissertation on the tail end of Apple’s sad decline during the dark ages between the two eras of Steve Jobs.

Despite these long ties to Apple, I didn’t buy Apple stock when Steve returned to Apple. Big mistake: if I’d put in $10,000 — my standard IRA side bet — it would be worth $1.7 million today.

Aged 56, Steve Jobs still isn’t dead, and perhaps he will remain an active chairman for a few years. Apparently he’s remaining on the Disney board as its largest shareholder, monitoring the $4.5b (7.4%) stake that will provide an ample college fund for his three youngest kids. (His out-of-wedlock daughter Lisa graduated from Harvard 11 years ago). He also has 5.5 million Apple shares worth nearly $2b.

As we pundits predicted years ago, the efficient but unexciting Tim Cook gets to be CEO, and the market was not happy. It’s even big news in South Korea. But in 2013 or 2014, Cook will become chairman/CEO and Steve will surrender what is clearly his most precious child, which recently was the world’s most valuable company.

His youngest kids are (approximately) aged 13-20, so they got a few more years with their famous dad. Jobs’ news came on my late father’s birthday, so I’m reminded that even adult children will miss their father and cherish the time that have with him during his final days.

Beyond that, what else can the man do? His first authorized biography is coming out in November, so does he need to write his own memoirs? Set up for Laurene a charitable foundation to rival that run by Melissa Gates?

Whatever it is — and however much time he has — Steve Jobs the man has certainly earned his retirement, and he seems strategic enough in his thinking to figure out how to spend it wisely now that he has nothing left to prove.

Update: YouTube now has video of Steve’s original January 1984 introduction of the Macintosh.

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