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What Steve Jobs Learned in the Wilderness

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Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs, after returning to Apple in 1999. Would Apple be what it is today had he never left?

Paul Sakuma / Associated Press

The saga of Steven P. Jobs is so well known that it has entered the nation’s mythology: he’s the prodigal who returned to Apple in 1997, righted a listing ship and built it into one of the most valuable companies in the world.

But the Jobs of the mid-1980s probably never could have made Apple what it is today if he hadn’t embarked on a torment-filled business odyssey.

Lawrence J. Ellison, the chief executive of Oracle, overlooks this. In August, after the ouster of Mark V. Hurd as the chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, Mr. Ellison said in an e-mail to The New York Times that the H.P. board had made “the worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple board fired Steve Jobs many years ago.”

Actually, the Apple co-founder wasn’t fired. Mr. Jobs was relieved of operating responsibilities in a company reorganization in May 1985. But he was still the company’s chairman. Apple was ailing: sales of the Macintosh, introduced the previous year, were falling well below expectations; inventory was piling up; and the company seemed headed for its first-ever loss. In September 1985, Mr. Jobs resigned from Apple to start a new computer company he called Next.

From The New York Times
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