Apple is the most valuable company in the world, thanks in huge part to the vision of the company’s late co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs. But if you only saw the movie, you got less than half of the story. Once upon a time, Apple was a disaster, chewing through CEOs and delivering one bad quarter of financial results after another. In 1996, knowing he had to do something dramatic, Apple’s CEO at the time Gil Amelio negotiated a deal to buy NeXT, the computer company owned by an exiled Jobs, in hopes that he would bring some much-needed direction to the company.
Instead, Jobs manipulated the board into getting Amelio fired and decided that if Apple were to be saved, he would be the one to do it — even if it meant getting help from the company’s rivals at Microsoft.
Here’s what happened next.
Steve Jobs sells Next to Apple
In late 1996, Apple announced plans to bring cofounder Steve Jobs back into the fold 11 years after he left the company by acquiring his startup NeXT for $429 million — just in time for Jobs to join then-Apple CEO Gil Amelio on stage at January 1997’s Macworld Expo, a convention for Mac enthusiasts, as a keynote speaker.
Apple stocks hit 12-year low under CEO Gil Amelio
Steve Jobs‘ NeXT found its niche selling graphically intensive PCs with cutting-edge screens to universities and banks. Apple hoped that Jobs would revitalize the Mac maker, whose stock had hit a 12-year low under Amelio’s leadership and experienced crippling losses.
Steve Jobs gets CEO Amelio fired
On July 4, 1997, Jobs persuaded Apple’s board to oust Amelio and make Jobs the interim, and then permanent, CEO.
In August 1997, Jobs took the stage at another Macworld Expo to announce that Apple had taken a $150 million investment from its long-time rivals at Microsoft. “We need all the help we can get,” Jobs said, to boost from the audience.
Steve Jobs hires Tim Cook
Also in 1998, Jobs hired an executive named Tim Cook to head up Apple’s worldwide operations.
Cook would stay with the company, eventually becoming CEO.
Pets get barred at Apple campus; Jobs want focus on Apple
Behind the scenes, Jobs was making some big changes for Apple employees, too: Under Jobs, the Apple cafeteria got much better food, and employees were barred from bringing their pets to the campus. He wanted everybody focused on Apple.
Apple launches candy coloured iMacs
Almost exactly a year after that Microsoft cash came in, in August 1998, Apple would release the iMac, an all-in-one, high-performance computer co-designed by Jobs and new talent Jonathan Ive.
The iMac came in multiple colors, the first time the world would get a taste of Ive’s computer design sensibilities. This first iMac was a much-needed hit, selling 800,000 units in its first five months.
2001: Steve Jobs launches Mac OS X
But Apple’s next really dramatic move would come in 2001, when Mac OS X was released.
Where Apple had been treading water with Mac OS 8 and 9, OS X was a drastic redesign, based largely on the Unix and BSD technology at the core of Jobs’ NeXT Computers.
Apple launches first retail store in the US
From here, things started moving fast and furious for Apple. Later in 2001 Apple would open its first retail stores, in Virginia and California.
Steve Jobs revolutionises music industry with the launch of iPods in 2001
In October, Jobs’ Apple would take its first steps beyond the Mac with the iPod, a digital music player that promised “1,000 songs in your pocket.”
The iPod actually got off to a slow start, largely because it started at a pricey $399 and worked only on Macs.
Apple launches iTunes Music store
In 2003, Apple opened up the iTunes Music Store, with its novel pricing model of $0.99 per song, to turn the iPod into the centre of a digital media universe.
Around the same time, both iTunes and the iPod hit Windows, jump-starting Apple’s music play.
Steve Jobs ‘designs’ Project Purple
Over the years, Jobs’ Apple had been asked to extend its design expertise to creating a new touch-screen device.
In 2004, Jobs convened Project Purple, under his supervision with Ive in charge, to develop a touch-screen device. Originally, Jobs was envisioning a tablet, but it eventually turned into a concept for a cell phone.
iPod lineup grows
The iPod lineup slowly grew, too. By 2005, there was the iPod, the iPod Mini, the iPad Nano, and the iPod Shuffle, in descending size order. That same year also saw the introduction of the first iPod with video, alongside the ability to buy movies and videos on iTunes.
Motorola launches phone in partnership with Apple
In 2005, Motorola introduced the ROKR, a phone that it made in partnership with Apple.
It was the first phone that could play music from the iTunes Music Store. But it was limited to being able to store only 100 songs because of a limit in its software.
Apple joins hands with Intel
In 2006, Jobs made a big move that probably saved the Mac. Former CEO John Sculley had banked Apple’s future on the pricey PowerPC processor, while the major Windows PC manufacturers stuck with Intel. It meant Macs were both more expensive to buy and harder to develop software for. But in 2006, Apple introduced the first MacBook Pro alongside a new iMac, both of which came with Intel processors.
It also meant that for the first time you could install Windows on a Mac.
2006: Apple becomes bigger than Dell
Still, 2006 also marked a personal victory for Jobs. He got to send this email to every Apple employee:
“Team, it turned out that Michael Dell wasn’t perfect at predicting the future. Based on today’s stock market close, Apple is worth more than Dell. Stocks go up and down, and things may be different tomorrow, but I thought it was worth a moment of reflection today. Steve.”
Steve Jobs unveils iPhone in January 2007
It combined the music features of the iPod with a slick, responsive touch screen that didn’t need a stylus, unlike most mobile devices at the time. And the iPhone‘s Safari was the first full-featured web browser on a phone.
An excited media dubbed it the “Jesus Phone.” Excited fans camped out in front of Apple Stores nationwide.
Apple iPhone becomes a massive hit
The iPhone was a massive hit, taking only 74 days from its August 2007 launch to sell a million units.
Steve Jobs picks Tim Cook as interim CEO in 2009
In 2009, Tim Cook was tapped as interim CEO while Jobs took the first of three extended medical leaves.
Even on Jobs’ return, Cook became a regular at Apple keynotes. When Jobs returned, his prognosis was listed as “excellent.”
Steve Jobs launches iPad in 2010
In 2010, Jobs finally introduced the Apple iPad, the tablet he had been wanting since the early 2000s.
Founder Steve Jobs goes on medical leave
In early 2011, during the last of his medical leaves, Jobs would give his final two product-announcement presentations: one in March for the iPad 2, and one in June for the iCloud service.
Jobs made his last public appearance in June 2011. He proposed a new Apple Campus to the Cupertino City Council. After years of construction, Apple is planning to move into the “spaceship campus” in early 2017.
October 5, 2011: Steve Jobs is no more
Jobs stepped down as Apple CEO on August 24, 2011, accepting a role as chairman, after his pancreatic cancer relapsed.
Not long after, Jobs died on October 5, 2011, working for Apple until the day before his death. That night, the flags at Apple flew at half-mast.