Apple Saviour Steve Jobs a controversial visionary

With the US launch of iPhones on June 29, Jobs aims to transform the "smart phone" industry in ways that iPods did to music and Macintosh computers did to lifestyles.

"What Steve’s done is quite phenomenal," Microsoft founder Bill Gates said during a rare appearance onstage with Jobs last month at a conference in California.

"It’s nice when somebody sticks around and they have some context of all the things that have worked and not worked. It’s nice to have people seeing the waves and waves of that and yet, when it counted, to take the risk to bring in something new."

Born in San Francisco on February 24, 1955 to a single mother, Jobs was put up for adoption at barely a week old, according to company biographical information.

He was adopted by a couple in Mountain View, south of San Francisco, and grew up playing in orchards in what is now Silicon Valley, the biography said.

As a high school student, Jobs attended lectures at Hewlett-Packard in nearby Palo Alto, and worked a summer job there with Steve Wozniak.

Jobs dropped out of college after a single semester, but continued to take classes. When he was 20, Jobs made a spiritual journey to India, returning with his head shaved and wearing traditional Indian garb.

He got work as a technician for video game pioneer Atari and attended a garage club called "Homebrew Computer Club" with Wozniak.

Jobs was 21 and Wozniak 26 and working as an engineer at Hewlett-Packard when they founded Apple Computer in the garage of Jobs’ family home in 1976.

The rest is legend: the popularisation of personal computers and eventually the iPod, the best-selling digital music player.

"I grew up fairly middle-class, lower middle-class, and I never really cared much about money," Jobs said.

"And Apple was so successful early on in life that I was very lucky that I didn’t have to care about money then. So I’ve been able to focus on work and then later on, my family." Jobs went from celebrity bachelor days that included a relationship with folk singer Joan Baez to settling into family life in Palo Alto.

He married in 1991 and has three children by his wife and a daughter with a woman he dated prior to marrying.

Jobs left Apple for a time after an internal power struggle, but returned in 1997 to rejuvenate the company and remains at its helm.

"There are a lot of things that happened that I’m sure I could have done better when I was at Apple the first time and a lot of things that happened after I left that I thought were wrong turns," Jobs said.

"It really doesn’t matter and you kind of got to let go of that stuff and we are where we are. Let’s go invent tomorrow rather than worrying about what happened yesterday."

Jobs’s critics depict him as a micro-manager who prefers obedience to partnership.

A former Apple executive who this year settled charges linked to stock-options fraud said he warned Jobs about potential accounting problems related to the executive awards.

Jobs is famous for taking one dollar a year in salary and letting his fortune ride on Apple’s stock value.

Jobs has not been charged with wrongdoing regarding stock options "backdating" and has the support of Apple board members, including former US vice president Al Gore.

Jobs angered music industry giants in February with an open letter calling for the abolition of digital rights management (DRM) software used to prevent downloaded music from being copied.

Major recording studios maintain the safeguard is needed to stop pirates from making myriad unauthorised copies and denying owners their due payments for music.

Cupertino, California-based Apple and EMI, based in Britain, have an alliance to sell DRM-free music.

"I don’t think about legacy much," Jobs said.

"I just think about being able to get up every day and go in and hang around these great people and hopefully create something that other people will love as much as we do. And if we can do that, that’s great."

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Apple Saviour Steve Jobs a controversial visionary