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Jobs’s Apple dazzled both Wall St., Main St.

Innovative products launched firm into stratosphere - with cachet intact

By Michael Liedtke
Associated Press / August 26, 2011

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SAN FRANCISCO - It’s easy to forget now, but Apple’s magnetism was once confined to a cult-like following of geeks seduced by the elegance and simplicity of the company’s computers.

Over the past decade, though, Apple has emerged as a trendsetter and a wealth-making machine - the rare company that appeals to the cool cats hanging out in hip cafes and the fat cats looking to make another killing on Wall Street.

In the process, Apple has left an indelible mark that extends far beyond that first personal computer Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak introduced 35 years ago. Since then, Apple has transformed the music, retailing, marketing, and cellphone industries. Now, it’s engineering yet another evolution in computing with the increasingly popular iPad tablet.

Those achievements have endeared Apple to the masses, turning its product announcements into the technology industry’s latter-day version of a Beatles concert and turning its familiar logo into an emblem of exquisite taste.

Part visionary, showman, and uncompromising taskmaster, Jobs assembled a team that had an incredible knack for anticipating consumer trends and popularizing them by designing devices that were easy - and delightful - to use. Apple did not invent music players, smartphones, or tablet computers, but under Jobs’ leadership, the company convinced the masses that the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad were breakthroughs that they could not live without.

It seemed as if the second coming of Walt Disney and the rest of the “imagineers’’ who built Disneyland during the mid-1950s had come to Silicon Valley to lead the way into the 21st century.

In the past decade, Apple’s gadgets have transformed society, enabling people to bring along their favorite music, books, videos and websites almost everywhere they go.

In the process they inspired countless imitators and ensured that the 56-year-old Jobs, who resigned Wednesday, will be remembered as one of the most successful chief executive in American history.

None of it would have happened if Jobs had not returned to Apple in 1997 after being pushed out of the company in the mid-1980s by John Sculley, a chief executive that Jobs had lured away from Pepsico Inc. by asking, “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?’’

Jobs’ wizardry rescued a company on the precipice of bankruptcy and elevated it into the second most valuable business in America. It now has a market value of nearly $350 billion, behind only Exxon Mobil Corp.

Anyone who had the foresight to buy $100,000 worth of Apple stock on the day Jobs became the company’s chief executive in September 1997 would have an investment worth more than $6.8 million now.