Steve's Swan Song

PCQ Bureau
New Update

Think of this as an unusual obituary, for a man who's not just alive, but has just been elected chairman of the world's most valuable technology company.


Reading the outpouring on August 25 morning ('Internet mourns Steve Jobs' resignation', read a CNN headline), I had to keep checking if Jobs had resigned as Apple's CEO, or had passed away into the afterlife.

But, well. Jobs is the 21st-century technology's top icon, the man who came back to the company that fired him, and drove it from bit player to the coolest brand in the world, in the most spectacular turnaround in corporate history.

Jobs is also among the best showmen around.


Ask the crowd at Macworld, waiting for Jobs to pull rabbits out of pockets and envelopes: iPods, ultra-slim laptops, you never know what next. Behind him, a giant slide speaks five words that you don't forget. I still remember “1,000 songs in your pocket”, from the iPod launch in 2001. We were at the edge of our seats: my notebook fell and cracked its screen when Jobs pulled the iPod out, but it was a small price for a preview of the future of music.

Jobs started Apple with a high school friend in a Silicon Valley garage in 1976. Forced out of his own company a decade later, he returned as its savior after another decade, in 1996. In May 2010, Apple overtook Microsoft as the most valuable technology company in the world, with a market value of over $222 billion.


Apple now turns out sleek, sexy products one after the other, gadgets that transform how you live and work. Its products are category-defining. The iPad re-created the stagnant tablet, selling 15 million units in a year, and leaving PC giants to struggle to catch up or, as with HP, finally give up and dump unsold tablets at $99. The iPod overwhelmed the MP3 player category, becoming its generic name, much like Xerox.

It isn't just the sleek, elegant simplicity of the products, but oh, the marketing. The company is a recent, late entrant into cloud services, yet when I asked a gathering of Delhi's brightest science school kids “What's a cloud?” the most

audible response was: it's a kind of service from Apple.


Even with Apple's 50,000 employees including some really smart designers and developers, the man credited with the vision, design, execution and marketing behind those sensational products is Steve Jobs.

He's the guy who shook up the digital music industry with iTunes and the iPod in 2001, drove the smartphone craze with the

iPhone six years later, and reinvented tablets in 2010.

This charismatic tech guru is also famously erratic and a temperamental manager with zero tolerance for imperfection, and an over-driving, impatient taskmaster. He's been on

Fortune's list of America's toughest bosses, as "one of Silicon Valley's leading egomaniacs."

Despite his failing health, Jobs is still around: now as chairman. Freed of CEO responsibilities, Apple investors and fans hope he will still drive product direction and design, perhaps a generation beyond the iPhone 5 and iPad 3.

For Jobs has done most things right. Phone companies that once wanted to be Nokia (as well as Nokia and Google themselves) now want to be Apple. And when Google's Larry Page, after a recent big acquisition, was being described by many as the next Bill Gates, a veteran columnist pointed out that Page didn't care about being Gates. He wanted to be Steve Jobs.