Steve Jobs's fierce reign and legacy

The Apple co-founder who has just resigned as CEO was a polarizing force that reshaped the tech industry several times

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The Jobs pirate culture nearly destroys Apple

At that time -- six years after Jobs's forced departure from Apple -- the Mac community was very much split between the old-time Mac cultists and the new breed of agnostic users (such as myself) who saw it as a great niche tool. Steve Jobs was greatly missed by the cultist crowd, and they closely followed his (failed) effort to reinvent networking computing with his NextStep operating system and Next Cube server and then his (successful) effort as cofounder of Pixar.

During the Next period, Jobs was at his most accessible, toning down his famous arrogance (though it never went away). When Pixar was acquired by Disney, Jobs very much disappeared from media circles. What he was doing was learning how to work in the shark-filled waters of the entertainment industry. He learned well, as years later he became a major Disney shareholder and used his influence there to push the music industry into digital music via iTunes, changing the very nature of music business. (The music industry still hates what happens, though at the time the music-sharing cites like Napster were killing its sales, and all its copy-protection schemes were easily defeated. So they did a deal with the devil who would at least keep them alive.)

But the iTunes deal happened after Jobs returned to Apple in 1996. In the mid-1990s, Jobs was largely absent from the Mac universe, and Apple's internal warfare intensified. During a succession of CEOs who tried to make Apple like every other PC maker -- John Sculley, Michael Spindler, and Gil Amelio -- the Apple engineers started to fight with management, not just each other. It became vicious. Sculley was forced out, the former Pepsi exec dismissed as too much centered on image than substance. Spindler took over as CEO, after having worked through the ranks of Apple's European arm. He made the decision to drop the Motorola 680x0 line of processors in favor of IBM's then-new PowerPC, which gave Apple a new boost of enthusiasm among both the engineers and the user base.

But the war over the "PC-fication" of the Mac got worse under Spindler's regime, and he soon lost control. Apple brought in Amelio, a respected exec from National Semiconductor who tried to bring in adult supervision such as former IBM exec Ellen Hancock. Amelio authorized Motorola and the IBM-backed Power Computing to make the first Mac clones, a move that was meant to place the Mac crown jewel in hands other than Apple's, as Apple's warfare had hit a point where the company's very viability was in question. At the same time, the efforts to create a replacement OS for the Mac's System 8 were failing, leaving Apple without a long-term platform.

The engineers essentially closed ranks and shut Amelio out, making him and his lieutenants leaders in name only. Amelio then did something surprisingly canny: He turned to Jobs as an adviser, then bought Jobs' NextStep OS as the basis for a new Mac OS. Jobs's public return to Apple in early 1997 caused near-messianic waves of fervor and hope among the user community.

Jobs takes over and undoes the pirate culture he set in motion

Amelio's reward for bringing Jobs back was to lose his job in a coup that Jobs led six months later.

I remember those times vividly, as I was a leading proponent of the clone effort, given my fears that Apple would die and take the Mac with it. I reworked the Macworld Expo program for August 1997 to showcase the major clone makers in the keynote address -- a slot that had been historically reserved for Apple. We made the keynote a two-part affair: Macworld columnist David Pogue (now at the New York Times) and I presented the first half of the opening keynote about the clones and gave Apple the second half.

During that spring period of preparation, Jobs had been moving to take over Apple. I didn't know that, but I did know that Jobs would do the Apple presentation at the Expo. And I knew he hated the clone idea passionately -- he had been complaining by phone to Macworld's CEO for much of the spring about it in his very direct way. In the hours before the presentation, all of us were in the same room getting ready to go on stage. Jobs very deliberately stayed at the opposite side of the room as I greeted people, with one IBM exec remarking on that fact and suggesting this was Jobs's way of making his displeasure over my views known.

Before the week was out, Jobs had taken over Apple and sealed a deal with his longtime business foe, Microsoft's then-CEO Bill Gates, for a cash infusion and a commitment to keeping Office on the Mac (that deal quieted the investor fears about Apple's survival while also giving Microsoft some cover for the antitrust issues the Justice Department was then investigating). Jobs also let Macworld's CEO know that my continued presence would cause Apple to damage Macworld's business, so I decamped to Computerworld as its West Coast bureau chief. Jobs also banned Apple employees from communicating with me and one of my key editors, Alliyson Bates.

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