Laughing last, laughing best

Twenty-two years ago, Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computer, took back the reins of the company as its chief executive officer.

The company was, shall we say, in not too good a shape. In fact, at a meeting of technology managers that year, competitor Michael Dell of Dell Computers was asked what he would do if he were CEO of Apple.

“What would I do?” Mr. Dell said to an audience of several thousand. “I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders.”

Well, Mr. Jobs didn’t do that and Apple went on to be the largest company in the world, judged by market capitalization. It was the first company in history to surpass the mark of $1 trillion. Today, we live in a society of iPhones, iPads, iMacs, iTunes and iPods. Oh, and iWatches.

Mr. Jobs injected 1997 Apple with a new spirit of adventure. He challenged his employees to think innovatively — develop new products people didn’t even know they wanted. In the process, they transformed mobile phones, the music industry and, with their iPad tablet, computing and publishing.

Mr. Jobs died in 2011 after a long fight with cancer. It appears that his successor, Tim Cook, has kept Apple infused with the Jobs’ spirit of invention. While their last earnings report issued this week showed a drop in iPhone sales, the company as a whole still had year-over-year growth.

It is safe to say that Mr. Jobs’ reconnection with Apple in 1997 will go down as one of the biggest success stories in American corporate history. Somewhere, Steve Jobs is laughing last, and best.

(Portions of this editorial have appeared previously in The Maui News.)

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.