20 People Who Changed Tech: Steve Jobs

Apple co-founder, more artist than engineer, blew up the status quo in multiple industries.

Howard Anderson, Senior Lecturer, Harvard Business School

June 28, 2013

3 Min Read

When John Sculley drove Jobs from the Apple temple and he wandered in the desert for 10 years, Jobs went on to build NeXT, a computer way ahead of its time. And it was the NeXT operating system, which Apple acquired, that brought Jobs back to Apple. (Moses wandered in the desert for 40 years because he didn't have GPS and because, as a man, he refused to ask for directions.)

Jobs gave directions. He would tell everyone where to put the unasked-for advice he provided. Jobs often said that the period after he was fired from Apple until he returned may have been the most creative in his life. He craved going against the conventional wisdom and proving it wrong. Think iMac, iTunes, iPod, iPhone, iPad, iTunes Store, App Store, Apple Store.

That awesome stubbornness may have caused his premature death, from complications of pancreatic cancer. He too long believed that homeopathic methods were better than conventional medicine.

Jobs was a showman in a way no one else in the history of the computer industry was. Not Watson. Not Gates. Not Bob Metcalfe. His sense of timing was impeccable. The press covered his every newscast and the loyal Apple-lovers genuflected and kissed his ring.

In the end, he would be one helluva venture capitalist and an even better negotiator. He bought part of George Lucas's Industrial Light & Magic for $10 million, dropped a bunch more money in, changed its name to Pixar, and ended up selling it to Disney for $8 billion. Thanks for Toy Story and everything that followed.

Global CIO Global CIOs: A Site Just For You Visit InformationWeek's Global CIO -- our online community and information resource for CIOs operating in the global economy.

Jobs started out making illegal blue boxes, which let people make illegal telephone calls, and he ended up creating the iPhone, the stalwart upon which AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and other carriers rely. Today, the electronics world is smartphones and computer pads and music devices, all of which are contributing to the inevitable decline of the personal computer and making life a living hell for HP, Lenovo and Dell. So it was Jobs, who was there at the conception of the personal computer, who led the charge to make it obsolete. Of course, who else?

Larry Ellison said at the Steve Jobs memorial service: "They say that no one is irreplaceable. I don't believe that, not anymore. Steve Jobs is irreplaceable ... the irreplaceable genius of our generation ... an intensely focused singularity who translated ideas into things that worked. In doing so, he reinvented entire industries -- computing and communication, music and movies. All done in one, too short, lifetime."

Winston Churchill once said he knew that history would be kind to him because he intended to write it himself. Steve Jobs knew that the future would be kind to him and his companies because he created it.

About the Author(s)

Howard Anderson

Senior Lecturer, Harvard Business School

Howard Anderson is on the faculty of the Harvard Business School. He was the founder of the Yankee Group and co-founder of Battery Ventures. He attempts to keep his rampant skepticism from morphing into galloping cynicism, a battle he seems to be losing.

Never Miss a Beat: Get a snapshot of the issues affecting the IT industry straight to your inbox.

You May Also Like

More Insights