It was 1997 and Apple was in dire straits. The company, under the leadership of Gil Amelio was looking like an also-ran. In a failed attempt to gain market share, the company began licensing the hardware and OS to third parties, creating a line of PowerPC-based models that were cheaper and, in a way, better than the machines Apple was producing. Windows PCs were king. Windows 95 became the de facto operating system for millions of businesses and the consumers at home were starting to see bargain basement PCs that cost considerably less than most Macs.
Jobs left the company much earlier to found a number of start-ups including Pixar and NeXT but his employees found that his heart wasn’t in either venture. After producing excellent products – the NeXTSTEP operating system was absolutely amazing for the time – Jobs felt restless.
Amelio purchased NeXT and NeXTSTEP in December 1996, essentially bringing Steve Jobs back into the company. The goal was to fold NeXTSTEP into the new Mac operating system. Apple’s board ousted Amelio on July 9 and on September 16, 1997, Steve Jobs took the post of interim CEO (iCEO) and took an axe to most of the Apple product line. A year later Apple launched the iMac, a computer that heralded Apple’s triumphant return to the industry and a million fanbois bloomed.
F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that there are no second acts in American lives. Steve Jobs, it seems, proved that axiom to be patently false.
Image from Apple History.