Jobs Has Been an Extraordinary Spokesman
Throughout his second tenure at Apple, Steve Jobs has been recognized as a master showman. Unfortunately, with today's announcement that Jobs will be temporarily stepping down for medical leave, it will be at least several months before we see Jobs heading up the company again. We wish him a speedy return to health, and we hope to see him onstage again soon.
Since his return in 1996, Jobs has turned Apple from a company near death and spiraling toward irrelevance to one with a booming PC business and some of the hottest gadgets on the market. Any move that Apple makes today grabs attention, not only from techies like us but also the mainstream press. Without Jobs at the helm, it's quite possible that this wouldn't be the case. While Apple is not a one-man show, and many competent, capable people work for the company, Jobs has led the way. And many product announcements have come out of Apple since he returned. Here are a few of the bigger ones, and what they've meant to Apple.
1997: Jobs Announces Alliance With Microsoft
It seemed like an impossible, unthinkable, unholy alliance: Apple and Microsoft. But in July 1997, during his keynote presentation at Macworld Expo Boston, Jobs announced that Microsoft had bought $150 million in Apple stock, that Internet Explorer would become the default browser on every new Mac, that Microsoft would continue selling Office for the Mac, and that the two companies had reached settlements on various patents.
1998: The iMac Premieres
In 1998, despite signs that it was turning its fortunes around, Apple was still in dire straits. Enter the iMac, the colorful, friendly, consumer-oriented Mac desktop that arguably saved the company. Starting at $1299, and presented in a manner somewhat reminiscent of the original Mac in 1984, the iMac captured people's imagination. And boy, did it sell: Apple sold over 6 million of the systems before retiring the original iMac line in 2003. The iMac name lives on to this day with Apple's current flat-panel iMac.
1999: Apple Introduces the iBook
As 1999 rolled in, Apple remained very much on the road to recovery after a period where it seemed on the brink of failure. Part of the company's strategy included a new consumer laptop: the iBook. Billed as "iMac to go," the iBook took the curvy, colorful styling of the original iMac and put it into a 12-inch portable. Part of Jobs's keynote presentation involved Apple vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller (who gave last week's Macworld keynote) jumping off a platform with an iBook to show off its durability.
2001: Say Hello to the iPod
The iPod's unveiling was a rather low-key affair--a small press gathering on Apple's campus in Cupertino, California. And at the time, the iPod seemed a relatively inconsequential product that was at first available only for Mac users. Tech-news site Slashdot infamously quipped, "No wireless. Less space than a nomad [sic]. Lame." Seven years and tens of millions of iPods later, Apple's digital music player is by far the most popular one on the market today, and it has spawned an entire cottage industry for cases and accessories.
2002: Apple Bids Farewell to Mac OS 9
For Apple, 2002 was a time of transition, of sorts. Mac OS X was brand-new, and the company was having some difficulty getting users and software developers to hop on the bandwagon. To drive home the point that Apple was moving on, Jobs staged a mock funeral at the year's Worldwide Developers Conference for the old operating system, Mac OS 9.
2005: Apple Moves to Intel
Speaking of transitions, at the Worldwide Developers Conference in 2005, Apple announced that it was switching from PowerPC processors to Intel processors. The news came as a shock to many Mac users, and some were worried about how well the transition would work. Apple's first Intel-based Macs shipped in January 2006. Three and a half years after Apple dropped the bombshell, the Mac is more popular than ever, due in part to its ability to run Windows.
2007: The iPhone Debuts
At Macworld Expo in San Francisco, Jobs stood onstage to showcase the iPhone, a device that he said at the time was years ahead of anything else--and one that has altered the smart-phone landscape ever since. This was arguably Jobs's finest keynote: He had a hot new product to demonstrate, and his charismatic aura was in overdrive.
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