When I think Steve Jobs, I think of one humble product: the original iMac.
It is easy to forget how dire the situation was in 1997 when Apple purchased Jobs’s failed NeXT computer company and he stepped in as interim CEO. Apple was on the verge of being an after thought in an industry with no patience for nostalgia. In 1996 the company shocked analysts by turning a $25 million profit in the 4th quarter, but ultimately lost over $800 million on the year.
In 1997, Apple’s software stack was based on the dated MacOS 9. Most popular software was written for Microsoft Windows, and their market share was quickly dwindling to an unsustainable 2%.
As the new interim CEO, what could he do to save the company? There wasn’t time to release a new operating system – a boost that the company desperately needed. But there was time to repackage the technology they had, and that’s literally what they did. First in translucent Bondi Blue, and then in the colors of the rainbow. The iMac was simple and fun – something that couldn’t be said about the generic beige boxes being turned in mass by their competitors.
The iMac capitalized on the growth of the internet which was platform independent. And even without the software support of Windows, MacOS and the iMac was useful for people who wanted browse the web and write email. And it worked. The iMac made Apple relevant again, and ultimately saved the company.
I believe what makes Steve Jobs an icon, was not just his visionary leadership, which he will be remembered for, but his brilliant business savvy. If you are going to be something great, you must first continue to be. The iMac kept Apple alive long enough to see them through the release of OS X and onto the iPod which ultimately allowed them to create the revolutionary iPhone and iPad.
And that’s the lesson I learned from Steve Jobs. To realize your vision, you must first conquer the problems that lie in front of you.
I thank Steve Jobs for making the impossible seem possible.