In 1976, Steve Jobs founded a small company called Apple Inc. in his parents’ Silicon Valley garage. Four decades later, Apple is the first U.S. corporation to attain a market value of $1 trillion, a testament to its improbable rise as one of the world’s most powerful and recognizable companies.
Today, we know Apple as the maker of smash-hit devices such as the iPhone and iPad, which have upended existing industries and created new economies. But getting here from there was hardly guaranteed. Apple was months from bankruptcy before Jobs returned—having been forced out more than a decade earlier—and began what seemed then a quixotic bid to turn things around. First came the candy-colored iMacs, then the iPod and then, of course, the iPhone. In 2011, Jobs died, and Apple watchers wondered if his successor, Tim Cook, could keep the magic going. Turns out he could, though his tenure owes less to visionary Jobsness and more to canny stewardship of such nerdy things as supply chains, pricing and a push into services.
It’s easy to forget that Apple was once a niche brand, compared with Microsoft Corp. and International Business Machines Corp. Investors who smelled a good thing in 1980, when Apple went public at $22 a share, have enjoyed a more than 40,000 percent return, according to Bloomberg data. As Jobs might say, that’s thinking different.