How Steve Jobs, once cast out, returned to save Apple

It seems unthinkable today — but more than two decades ago, when personal computers were still new and everybody listened to music on a Walkman, Steve Jobs was cast out of Apple. The year was 1985… Jobs, the guiding force at Apple from the beginning, seemed not just expendable but a threat to the company he’d built. In West of Eden — a national best-seller when it was first published in 1989, now updated in a new edition available on Amazon — Wired contributing editor Frank Rose tells how it went down:

“Almost inadvertently, however, Amelio made one smart move: He bought NeXT, the computer company Jobs had started after Sculley showed him the door. NeXT was never terribly successful: Its hardware was gorgeous but far too expensive for the education market it was intended for, and by now it was focusing exclusively on software. But functioning software was something Amelio desperately needed, and for $425 million he got it—and Jobs in the bargain,” Rose writes.

“Seven months later, in July 1997, Amelio was sacked,” Rose writes. “The topmost exec left standing was the CFO, who announced that the board would conduct a search for a new chief executive, that Jobs would serve as an advisor to the board, and that no one should even think about the company becoming profitable again any time soon. At this point, Apple was running on momentum alone; the idea that anyone could turn it around seemed almost absurd.”

Read part one here.

In part two, Rose writes, “For Jobs, 1997 was shaping up to be a propitious year. Pixar, the little computer animation studio he’d bought a decade earlier, had had the second-highest-grossing film of 1995 with Toy Story, its first release. The year after that, Apple had bought NeXT, the computer startup he’d founded after John Sculley showed him the door, and brought him back as a special advisor. Now, with Apple’s latest CEO ousted and nobody left to challenge him there, he simply assumed power.”

“We live today in an Apple world. Whether or not we use a Mac — and more and more of us do, to the point that Apple entered 2009 with nearly 10 per cent of the US personal computer market — we work and play in the environment that Jobs and his team defined a quarter-century ago,” Rose writes.

Read part two here.

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