Steve Jobs has a different operating system

Aug 25, 2011, 5:37 a.m.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs leaves the stage after unveiling the iPhone 4 during the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, June 7, 2010. REUTERS/Robert Galraith

By Poornima Gupta and Peter Henderson

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Hard to understand, difficult to work with and deemed irreplaceable by many Apple fans and investors, Steve Jobs has made a life defying conventions and expectations.

And despite years of signs of poor health, his resignation as chief executive of Apple Inc caused a global gasp as the world contemplated the future of an icon and the company he symbolizes.

"Steve Jobs is the most successful CEO in the U.S. of the last 25 years," said Google Inc Chairman Eric Schmidt, who used to sit on Apple's board but stepped down because of overlapping business interests.

"He uniquely combined an artist's touch and an engineer's vision to build an extraordinary company, one of the greatest American leaders in history," Schmidt said in a statement.

A college dropout, Jobs floated through India in search of spiritual guidance prior to founding Apple -- a name he suggested to his friend and co-founder Steve Wozniak after a visit to a commune in Oregon he referred to as an "apple orchard."

With his passion for minimalist design and marketing genius, Jobs changed the course of personal computing during two stints at Apple and transformed the mobile market.

The iconic iPod, the iPhone -- dubbed the "Jesus phone" for its quasi-religious following -- and the iPad are the creation of a man known for his near-obsessive control of the product development process.

"Most mere mortals cannot understand a person like Steve Jobs," Guy Kawasaki, a former Apple employee who considers Jobs "the greatest CEO in the history of man", said recently. "He's just got a different operating system."

Charismatic, visionary, ruthless, perfectionist, dictator - these are some of the words that people use to describe the larger-than-life figure of Jobs, who may be the biggest dreamer the technology world has ever known, but also a hard-edged businessman and negotiator through and through.

"Steve Jobs is the business genius of our generation," former eBay Inc chief Meg Whitman said recently. "His contributions to Apple, his contributions to technology, frankly his contributions to America, are unparalleled in the business world. He is amazing."

Former nemesis Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, has called Jobs the most inspiring person in the tech industry and President Barack Obama has held him up as the embodiment of the American Dream

It's hard to imagine a bigger success story than Steve Jobs, but rejection, failure and bad fate have been part and parcel of who he is. Jobs was given away at birth, driven out of Apple in the mid-80s and struck with cancer when he finally had regained the top of the mountain. His resignation as CEO on Wednesday comes at the relatively young age of 55.

"I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple's CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come," he said in a brief letter announcing his resignation.

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