Monday 18 December 2017

Bono: Jobs was a poet and artist

John Meagher

John Meagher

Early last month, Bono was moved to write a letter to The New York Times. The newspaper had published an article questioning why Steve Jobs had not done more for philanthropic causes considering his wealth and influence, and the U2 frontman wasted little time in coming to his friend's defence.

"I'm proud to know him," Bono wrote. "He's a poetic fellow, an artist and a businessman. Just because he's been extremely busy, that doesn't mean that he and his wife Laurene have not been thinking about these things.

"You don't have to be a friend of his to know what a private person he is or that he doesn't do things by halves."

Bono praised Jobs for his backing for the RED campaign and noted that "through the sale of RED products, Apple has been RED's largest contributor to the Global Fund to Fight Aids".

Jobs and U2 had come together in 2004 to launch a limited-edition iPod, the design of which utilised the predominant red and black colours of the cover of the band's album, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.

U2 licensed their song 'Vertigo' to the resulting campaign and the four members of U2 appeared in the memorable TV adverts that helped make the iPod one of the most iconic products of the decade.

For Jobs, one of the shrewdest marketers in the history of Silicon Valley, aligning his MP3 player to the world's biggest band made sound financial sense.

The iPod had been unveiled three years previously, and by the end of 2004 -- with a little help from Bono et al -- the latest generation of the device had captured the imagination of music fans everywhere. Sales soared and Apple was on its way to become the world's biggest company, a position it achieved in August.

In 2007, the leaders of U2 and Apple would do business once more when Bono purchased Jobs's New York apartment for $10m. One of the most covetable pieces of real estate in the city, the 26th-floor penthouse property is located in the venerable San Remo building and overlooks Central Park.

The two men started their respective empires just a few years apart in the 1970s. Apple grew quickly and in 1980, the European headquarters of the company was established in Cork. It was also the year that U2 released their debut album Boy.

Although Jobs became known for his showy, near messianic performances at Apple's product launches over the years, he was an intensely private individual who rarely gave media interviews. Kieran McGowan, former chairman of the IDA, met Jobs at the Cork plant in the 1980s and was struck by how reserved he was, although his visionary ideas were notable even then.

Born in San Francisco in 1955 during the post-war baby boom, Jobs was not academically distinguished, but he had developed an interest in the embryonic computing industry while still a teenager. After a stint working for the video game maker Atari, he got together with tech-whizz friend Steve Wozniak, and Apple was born.

The first product -- Apple 1 -- was launched in 1976 and for the following eight years the company grew quickly, with ever-more powerful computers developed.

Always a combative figure, Jobs set his sights on the behemoth IBM and by the time of the launch of the Mackintosh personal computer in 1984 (celebrated in a Ridley Scott-directed commercial that played on George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four), Apple had become a serious player in Silicon Valley.

Yet, the following year Jobs found himself ejected from the company he had founded after another much-publicised product, the curiously titled Lisa computer, had failed to sell. During his 12-year hiatus from Apple, Jobs showed just how entrepreneurial he could be.

He bought the computer animation firm Pixar from Star Wars director George Lucas for $10m, and within 10 years had turned it into a multibillion- dollar enterprise responsible for such hugely popular films as Toy Story.

By contrast, Apple's fortunes had foundered and when Jobs eventually returned to the company in 1997, it was almost $1bn in debt.

Several analysts have noted that Jobs's dictatorial style of leadership and obsession with detail intensified after his return to Apple, but his visionary approach had remained intact. Within a couple of years, Jobs had helped turn Apple's fortunes around with the launch of such design-led products as the iMac and iBook.

The "i" in the title referred to "internet" and "individual" and would be used as a prefix in every significant Apple product the following decade.

First, in 2001, came Apple's music store, iTunes, and just months later, the iPod. Although several companies had already produced MP3 products, the iPod was a game changer, ushering in the idea that music lovers could carry their entire library in their pocket.

The product was refreshed routinely over the following years and has sold an estimated 200 million units. Yet, despite such global penetration, it -- like Apple's subsequent products, the iPhone and iPad -- has managed to retain a sense of cool normally limited to anti-establishment start-up companies.

Jobs -- described as this generation's Thomas Edison in a slew of obituaries yesterday -- somehow managed to retain his outsider status right to the very end.

Steve Jobs: February 24, 1955 -- October 5, 2011

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