/ The Man Who Changed the World — Part 3

The following is a continuation of the blogs about Steve Jobs that appeared on December 6, 2011 and February 2, 2012. As in the previous write-ups, the facts and figures below are taken from the book, Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson.

The wilderness decade was over

On December 2, 1996, Steve Jobs returned to Apple’s offices for the first time since his dismissal 11 years earlier. His title was “advisor” to the chairman and, on December 20th, Jobs made it official in front of 250 cheering employees at Apple headquarters.

Bringing Apple back from the brink

On his return, Jobs began by asking, “What’s wrong with Apple?” Not waiting for an answer, he said, “The products suck! There’s no sex in them anymore!” His goal was to build a company that would endure. Lasting companies, he noted, know how to reinvent themselves.

Drastic cuts: products and people

Apple was churning out multiple versions of each product. Jobs cut 70% of the product offerings and decided to focus on four areas: two professional (the Power Macintosh G3 and the Power Book G3) and two consumer (the iMac and the iBook). He also laid off more than 3,000 people.

In September, 1997, Apple lost $1.04 billion. “We were less than 90 days from being insolvent,” Jobs recalled. For the full fiscal year of 1998, it would turn a $309 million profit.

The computer in jelly bean colors

Jobs first launch was the iMac in a Bondi Blue plastic casing — so named after the water at the famous beach in Australia. Other colors were added later. To ensure that the colors were correct the Apple people elected to visit a jelly bean factory to study the candy’s translucent colors.

The iMac went on sale in August, 1998 for $1,299. It sold 278,000 units in its first six weeks, and would see 800,000 by the end of the year, making it the fastest-selling computer in Apple history.

A bold move: freestanding Apple stores

In 1999, Jobs decided he didn’t want an iMac to sit on a shelf between a Dell and a Compaq, while an uninformed clerk recited the specs of each.

Initially, the Apple board of directors were opposed to freestanding Apple stores. After all, Gateway had tried and failed. Why would Jobs succeed with this venture?

Proceeding carefully, Jobs decided to secretly build a fully furnished mockup of an Apple store in a vacant warehouse near the company’s headquarters. Then, every Tuesday for six months, Jobs and his top executives held an all-morning brainstorming session there.

Eventually, the decision was made to organize the store not around the products, but instead, around what people could do with them — meaning: the computer as a hub for all digital activity. This was a major breakthrough that required adding an extra three months to the opening data.

A glass staircase, bleached wood floors

The first Apple store opened on May 19, 2001. By 2004, Apple stores were averaging 5,400 visitors a week (Gateway had been averaging 250).

Ten years later there were 326 Apple stores around the world.

Update: The dazzling, new Apple store in Grand Central is the company’s fifth store in Manhattan. It is 23,000 sq. ft. and is located on the east and northeast balconies. It has 315 employees and is furnished with sleek, white tables for product testing. The white Apple logo can be easily seen from Grand Central’s Main Consourse.

It is reportedly the largest Apple store in the world.

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