Steve Jobs and I worked together as close business partners during the turnaround of Apple, and shared the challenges and joy of the company's resurrection. Who will ever forget Michael Dell's statement about Apple at its nadir in 1997: "I'd shut it down and give the money back to shareholders."
I met Steve Jobs in late 1996, when Apple was evaluating a possible acquisition of NeXT. I remember a meeting at the Garden Hotel in Palo Alto, and Steve giving a very impressive demonstration of the NeXTSTEP operating system. After completing technical diligence on NeXTSTEP, Apple acquired NeXT in early 1997. The acquisition of NeXT brought critical assets to Apple, including NeXTSTEP, which became the foundation for Mac OS X; fifty very talented software engineers; and ultimately, Steve Jobs.
From 1998 to 2000, Steve stabilized the Mac business and returned Apple to profitability. He executed a massive restructuring, retrenching to the company's strongest market niches, improved product quality, outsourced manufacturing, and brought the successful iMac to market. Steve returned innovation and operational excellence to Apple, and invested heavily in the development of the new operating system, Mac OS X.About six months after the acquisition of NeXT, Apple's board decided to oust Gil Amelio as CEO and bring Steve Jobs back as a special advisor to Apple's Board, while a search was launched for a new CEO. During the next three months, I worked closely with Steve as he overhauled the board, killed the compay's clone licensing program, and consummated a historic deal with Microsoft. These moves, which could only have been pulled off by Steve Jobs, provedto be critical to Apple's survival. In September of 1997 Apple's board convinced Steve to become interim CEO.
In 2001, Steve began to reposition Apple at the center of the digital lifestyle with the long awaited introduction of Mac OS X, the continued rollout of digital lifestyle applications (i.e., iMovie, iPhoto, & iDVD), the introduction of the iPod with Apple's iTunes software and the opening of Apple's first retail store. This was the beginning of Apple's transformation from a traditional PC company into a consumer products company, leveraging superior software and design strengths into new product areas like iPod, iPhone and iPad. As a result, over the last decade Apple has delighted consumers with a steady stream of innovative products, and become one of America's most valuable enterprise.
The resurrection of Apple from the ashes of near death could only have been led by Steve Jobs. Only he understood the soul of Apple and its innovative roots, and the importance of combining art and science in the creation of truly great products. Only he had the powerful personality, vision and taste to achieve greatness. There will never be another Steve Jobs.
Fred Anderson served as Chief Financial Officer of Apple Computer from 1996 to 2004. He is currently a managing director at at Elevation Partners, a private equity firm that makes large-scale investments in market-leading media, entertainment, and consumer-related businesses (including Forbes Media).