The Apple II and Macintosh
Who doesn’t remember Apple’s 1984 commercial?
The Apple II and the Macintosh computers literally changed the world of personal computing. Before Apple, computers were things that only large companies could afford. They were massive machines that costs tens of thousands of dollars. The first Apple II cost $1,300 in 1977. It would take four years for IBM to come up with the comparably priced 5150, but for a time Apple was it for color, home PC’s.
While Apple took a hit on the rather expensive Macintosh computer in 1984 (it retailed at $2,500), it changed the way computers were marketed and created an identity for the company that would sustain it through some difficult years.
Apple did not realize how important Steve Jobs was until they fired him in 1986. The company started a tailspin that it would not have recovered from had they not brought Jobs back as chairman and eventually as CEO.
The iPod and the iTunes Store
When Steve Jobs came back, he brought with him a number of ideas that he handed over to Jonathan Ive, his design guru. Ultimately, Ive would design the iMac, the unibody Macbook Pro and, of course, perhaps the biggest innovation in consumer electronics since the Apple II – the iPod.
After years of development, Jobs unveiled the iPod and the iTunes store in 2001. Today, it is hard to imagine just how innovative the iPod was. No one had seen portable digital media before. While people could copy their CD’s to their computer hard drive for years, the idea of taking that music with you was a revolutionary one.
Why hadn’t anyone thought of it? Others had. The problem was that it was just plain hard. The iPod by contrast was simple. And once Apple added Windows support in 2003, Apple owned the portable music scene. Three-quarters of all MP3 players are iPods or iPhones. Apple literally has no competitors.
Pixar and Computer Animation
Steve Jobs’ other contribution to our society is less known. In 1986, the recently fired Jobs purchased Industrial Light and Magic’s computer animation unit from George Lucas for $5 million. Between 1986 and 1995, the company was almost completely unknown. Their first feature film languished in development purgatory. Then, in 1995, Pixar released Toy Story, and in the twenty-six years since, they have released twelve other computer animated features. All together, they have grossed over $6.3 billion worldwide.
To say that Pixar and Toy Story changed the world of animation is like saying that talkies changed film-making. They did not simply change animation. They threw it in a glass, shook it up with about a hundred other things and then poured it out. Today, 2D animation is a small niche in the world dominated by computers. Pixar even expedited the revitalization of 3D filmmaking (although that trend is dying down), and helped drive the movie market to unbelievable heights.
Pixar was eventually purchased by Disney, and Steve Jobs became the largest stockholder in Disney. This little side gig has become very, VERY profitable for Jobs. His stock is valued at around $2 billion.
What Does All This Mean?
Most people are considered fortunate if they have one brilliant idea in a lifetime. Steve Jobs has had at least three.
But Steve Jobs does this with two major, major elements:
- Vision – Steve sees the future and makes it happen
- Community – Steve surrounds himself with exceptional people. If it weren’t for John Lasseter at Pixar-Disney, and Jonathan Ive and Tim Cook at Apple, Steve Jobs would not be as successful as he is. And the early days of Apple’s success would not have happened without Steve Wozniak.
The second fact was a hard one for Jobs to learn. He is notoriously a control freak and a micromanager; but he found men who worked with him, who clicked with his way of thinking. That made the vision a reality.
You can have all the vision in the world but without a community, a team that sees it too, you’ve got nothing.