Helen Whalen Cohen
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Some sad news tonight. Steve Jobs, the co-founder and CEO of Apple, died at age 56. Apple released a brief statement on their website:

Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.

The company homepage currently shows only a picture of Jobs under the navigation bar. He will be remembered as a creative genius and industry pioneer. The Wall Street Journal has an article which chronicles Jobs' life and accomplishments, and is worth a read in full:

 

"Despite all he accomplished, it feels like he was just getting started," Disney CEO Robert Iger said in a statement Wednesday.

 

Mr. Jobs also pulled off one of the most remarkable comebacks in modern business history, returning to Apple after an 11-year absence during which he was largely written off as a has-been and then reviving the then-struggling company by introducing products such as the iMac all-in-one computer, iPod music player and iTunes digital music store.

 

The company produces $65.2 billion a year in revenue compared with $7.1 billion in its business year ending September 1997. Apple has become one of the world's premier designers of consumer-electronics devices, dropping the "computer" in its name in January 2007 to underscore its expansion beyond PCs.

 

Although Mr. Jobs officially handed over the reins of the company to Mr. Cook, his long-time deputy, in August, his death nevertheless raises a high-stakes question for Apple of how the company—which has been in the vanguard of technological creativity for most of the past decade—will sustain its success without his vision and guidance. Other icons of American capitalism, including Walt Disney, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and International Business Machines Corp., experienced some transitional woes but eventually managed to thrive after their charismatic founders passed on.

 

But few companies of that stature have shown such an acute dependence on their founder, or lost the founder at the peak of his career. Several years after Mr. Jobs was fired from Apple in 1985, the company began a steady decline that saw it drift to the margins of the computer industry. That slide was reversed only after Mr. Jobs returned to Apple in 1997.

 

Mr. Jobs also leaves behind innumerable tales about his mercurial management style, such as his habit of calling employees or their ideas "dumb" when he didn't like something. He was even more combative against foes like Microsoft Corp., Google Inc., and Amazon.com Inc. When Adobe Systems Inc. waged a campaign against Apple for not supporting Adobe's Flash video format on its iPhones and iPads in April 2010, Mr. Jobs wrote a 1,600 word essay about why the software was outdated and inadequate for mobile devices.

 

The CEO maintained uncompromising standards about the company's hardware and software, demanding "insanely great" aesthetics and ease of use from the moment a consumer walked into one of Apple's stylish stores. His attention to the smallest details in the development and design process were instrumental in shaping some of the most distinctive features of Apple's products, while his meticulously planned onstage demonstrations helped fuel excitement that was unmatched by his peers.

Rest in peace, Steve Jobs. You will be missed.

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Helen Whalen Cohen

Helen Whalen Cohen is Associate Editor and Community Manager at Townhall.com.