Written By Keshav Mohta (Grade 8)


Towards the end of 2003, Steve Jobs underwent a CT Scan for a suspect case of kidney stones. Instead, doctors found a shadow around his pancreas which they realized was cancer. Luckily the cancer that Jobs had was a slow-growing one and could have been easily cured by surgery. But for the next nine months, Jobs refused any surgical treatment. He preferred dietary treatments and other natural methods to get rid of the cancer. 

Jobs did not want surgery because he did not want his body to be opened and violated in any way. His wife, Laurene Powell, and the rest of his family urged him to undergo surgery and get rid of the cancer but he refused. As per Walter Isaacson, his biographer, Jobs felt that if he ignored the cancer and believed it didn’t exist, he could think better. In August 2004, he finally agreed to get the cancer surgically removed. He later realized that not undergoing surgery was a stupid decision and regretted that he did not get operated upon sooner.

In January 2004, despite his cancer, Jobs hosted the Macworld Expo. Apple launched the iLife Suite of apps which made the Mac the go-to device for creative people. It also introduced the iPod Mini, which would go on to become the best-selling MP3 player. 

A year later, Apple launched the Mac Mini which was basically a CPU without a display or a keyboard. Professional content creators could connect it to a larger high-resolution display and create a desktop set up.  

Despite the new apps and better operating system, the Mac still lacked a good processor and hence was not as fast as many other PCs. In June 2005, Jobs announced the transition of the Mac from PowerPC chips to the new Intel chips based on a different x86 architecture. Apple was changing the entire CPU in their computers making their computers much faster than before. However, app developers now had to optimize their apps for the new CPU. Many people believed this was unnecessary. Jobs justified the move by saying that the earlier processor transition from the Motorola 68000 to PowerPC had helped Apple get through the previous decade, and that the new Intel chips would help the Mac get through the coming decade. These new Intel chips made the Mac a powerhouse with a much longer battery life and a much faster processor.[1]

However, these hardware changes still didn’t help improve the Mac sales. Apple already had a fan-following amongst existing users but was unable to convert PC users to the Mac. Most of them did not really appreciate why the Mac was so much more expensive than the PC. 

To educate the PC users, Apple launched the “Mac vs PC” campaign to demonstrate how the Mac was far superior to the PC. It was a hilarious campaign that ran for 4 years with a total of 66 different advertisements. The advertisement had two people, one pretending to be a Mac and one a PC. The PC was arrogant, slow, unreasonable guy who crashed a lot. The Mac on the other hand was a nicer guy who was humble, cared for the PC and had an energetic vibe. The campaign spoke about different features of the Mac and indirectly dissed the PC. It showed that the Mac was simple and easy to use while the PC was difficult and irritating. It portrayed the Mac to be a creative computer being able to do many things like creating photobooks and editing videos unlike the PC who was obsessed with work. In the quarter following the launch of the campaign, Mac sales increased by 12%. By the end of the year Apple sold a whopping 1.6 million Macs. 

Despite all the success with the Mac, this was not the end of Jobs’ vision. His vision was to bring technology to every single person and change their life for the better. The Mac had contributed to this in an extraordinary manner and the iPod brought about personalization like never before. The next step towards achieving this vision was the iPhone. 

Phones at that time were nothing like today. They had tiny plastic keyboards and button controls which were there whether you needed them or not, and stayed the same for each application. They had very limited computing power and limited functionality. They could only be used for simple tasks like calling people or sending SMSes. The internet almost never worked on them and you could barely do anything else with these mobile phones.

In January 2007, Steve Jobs announced the first-ever iPhone. The iPhone was the single biggest event which changed personal computing forever and was as close as it gets short of embedding chips in a human body. He spoke about the iPhone as 3 separate products combined into one – a widescreen iPod, a revolutionary mobile phone and a breakthrough internet communications device. Apple was reinventing the mobile phone. The iPhone had a user interface never seen before. It did not have a permanent keyboard or any fixed buttons and controls. It had Multi-Touch meaning that you could touch the screen with your fingers and perform functions. It combined the computing capability of a Mac with a palm-sized device which could do unique things never seen before. The first iPhone also ran a version of Mac OS X with desktop-class apps, amazing security, and a reliable network connection. Despite a steep price of $399, the first iPhone sold 6 million units in the first year. Today, it is by far the most successful product Apple has ever created.

Initially, Jobs did not want any third-party software on the iPhone. Apple had always maintained immense control on their products and Jobs did not want to give up that control. However, he eventually gave in to demand from developers and the iPhone SDK (Software Development Kit) was soon released. In March 2008, the App Store was launched, where developers could sell their apps to a massive audience. 

This move was critical for the iPhone’s success. In the coming years, developers created tons of apps for the iPhone. This gave Apple a huge competitive advantage. Most people bought the iPhone because it was the only phone to have the apps they wanted and buying another phone seemed useless to them. This was before Android came into the market and the iPhone was the only real smartphone.

Over the next two years, the iPhone and its subsequent versions sold over 20 million units. By the end of 2009, the iPhone accounted for 37% of Apple’s revenue. But all was not well with Jobs. Jobs and Apple’s paths were separating once again but in very different circumstances. He started looking frail and weak and many a times did not show up at work. There were rumors that he had cancer again. Jobs denied these rumors insisting that it was a hormone imbalance which could be treated easily. In January 2009, finally, he acknowledged that his health issues were more complex than he had thought of earlier and that he would be taking a medical leave. He did not appear on stage for Macworld in that month either. 

In June 2009, Jobs was weeks away from dying. Thankfully, he underwent a liver transplant. The liver belonged to someone who had died in a car accident and wanted his liver donated. Without it, Steve Jobs might possibly have died two years earlier than he actually did.

His approach towards cancer in 2003 might have been casual but this time Jobs was fighting. He knew his days were numbered but he wanted to try to live for as long as he could, especially to see his son’s graduation. Unlike before, Jobs did not resort to only alternate means. He even took part in various experimental medical treatments, even those which were not yet available in the US. In fact, he was one of the first few people to have undergone genome sequencing. In September of 2009, Jobs eventually came back to work. From the little people saw of him, he seemed much better. Jobs’ family disclosed very little about his cancer, so we do not know much about it.

In June 2011, Steve Jobs hosted the World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC). A frail Jobs walked onto the stage to roars of applause. Apple announced the latest software updates for the iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Jobs also announced the launch of iCloud, Apple’s cloud solution. iCloud helped users sync their music, documents, contacts, and photos, seamlessly between their devices. Despite looking frail and weak, Jobs was as energetic as ever. Little did people know that this was his last keynote.

Steve Jobs had a public persona where he gave all the keynotes and was synonymous with Apple, but not many people knew about his personal life. 

While Jobs never spoke about it, he knew of the return of the cancer as early as 2006. Robert Iger, former CEO of Disney, recalls Jobs telling him about the pancreatic cancer half an hour before Disney announced the buyout of Pixar. Jobs knew that as he was going to become the largest shareholder of Disney and a member of the Disney’s Board of Directors, he should inform the Iger prior to the deal. 

Jobs told Iger that the cancer had reached his liver and he had a 50-50 chance of surviving the next 5 years. His only wish was to stay long enough to see his son’s high school graduation, 4 years out. Since the Pixar deal in 2006, Iger and Jobs remained very close friends. Iger and his wife went to meet Jobs sometime in July-August 2011. He was in the late stages of cancer and looked frail. His voice was a rasp and it was evident that he was in deep pain. But despite all this, he wanted to spend the evening with them.

On October 5, 2011, Steve Jobs passed away at home surrounded by his family. They held a small funeral with around 25 people. 

Steve Jobs was considered to be a workaholic with no personal life, at least according to the press. In 2005, he gave a very inspirational commencement speech at Stanford, which gave the public a better insight into his personal life and changed his image in everyone’s minds. Jobs took examples from his own life and spoke about what he learnt from each incident. He spoke about following one’s heart and believing in oneself. He also spoke about how at the time what seems to be the worst thing, might end up being the best thing to happen to you, like when he left Apple. When talking about his cancer, he said that life is short and you should do everything like it is your last day. He ended his speech with the words, “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish”. In my opinion, this speech summarizes Jobs as a person and tells us a lot about his character.

After Jobs’ death, Tim Cook became CEO of Apple. Most of Apple’s executive team has stayed the same. Apple has gone to launch the Apple Watch, AirPods, Apple TV, HomePod, Mac Pro and a new version of the iPhone almost every year. Today Apple is valued at more than $ 2 trillion and is the most valuable company in the world. To this day, Steve Jobs’ imprint has remained on Apple and every product they launch contributes to Jobs’ vision of changing the world for the better with technology.

Steve Jobs is a man who has truly changed our world for the better. From the original Apple I to the Macintosh to the iMac and now the iPhone, Apple has evolved from a small business run out of a garage to one of the biggest tech companies in the world. Despite all the challenges, including being kicked out of his own company, Jobs persevered and was able to revolutionize the way we work, think, and interact with people.

PS: In 2016, the US courts ordered Apple to break into a terrorist’s iPhone. Apple refused to do so saying that they wanted to maintain the integrity of the device and doing this would create a master key that could be used to unlock any other iPhone which the FBI wanted. Apple has also stated that they do not have a ready-made method to break into an iPhone, showing their commitment to this philosophy. After this incident, Apple became a champion of privacy and this is another part of Jobs’ legacy. Being a very public persona, Jobs was still a very private person (he told very few people about his cancer). We also see this when he pushes back on allowing third-party apps on the iPhone. This is to maintain the integrity of the iPhone and to prevent it from viruses and other hackers. Jobs also initially refused surgery and did not want his body to be violated. This is another example of the integrity he wanted to maintain on his own self. iOS and macOS are also closed systems that cannot be violated as easily as Android or Windows. This integrity is at the core of Apple where they value the user’s choices and allow them to choose how they want to share their data. Even if someone has ‘nothing to hide’, they should be allowed to choose what data they want to share and with whom. 

[1] Right now, Apple is doing a similar transition with their Macs by switching them from Intel chips to their own in-house Apple-designed chips.


Go to Part 4: Steve Jobs – The ‘i’ in the Apple

Go to Part 1: Steve Jobs – Early Days and the Birth of Apple

Featured Image Courtesy – WIRED

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I live in Mumbai, India with my parents. I enjoy coding, robotics, and play the drums. I also write articles and stories. I have written two books which are published and can be found on Amazon and Goodreads. Here is a link to my latest book.

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