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Apple

Headquartered in Cupertino, Calif, Apple, Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) designs and makes laptops, desktops, mobile communication devices, portable music players, and other electronic/digital products. It also operates Apple Stores, where consumers can shop and get support for Apple products.

Company Description

More than anything, Apple has built its reputation on creating sleek, cutting-edge products that tickle the inner techie in all of us. The first seeds were planted in 1976, when co-founder Steve Jobs teamed up with colleague Stephen Wozniak, then took a handy cash infusion from angel investor Armas Clifford "Mike" Markkula Jr. to help get the company off the ground.

Their first product -- the Apple I -- was essentially a circuit board and lacked a keyboard, screen, and other features you’d normally associate with a personal computer. Apple released a new-and-improved version, the Apple II, a year later with more RAM, color graphics, and other additional features. That same year, the company was officially incorporated as Apple Computer, Inc.

These models have since been long forgotten behind the popularity of Apple's Macintosh computers, and when the television commercial for the first “Mac” came out in 1984, it made history. Directed by Ridley Scott (director of Blade Runner, Alien, and Black Hawk Down, and other films), it aired during the Super Bowl on Jan. 22, 1984. With George Orwell’s book, 1984, as its thematic backdrop, the commercial shows masses of mindless conformists all following a talking head on a large screen. Suddenly, a powerful woman (model and athlete Anya Major) bursts onto the scene with a sledgehammer, hurls the hammer at the talking screen, and destroys it. The idea was that Apple’s new $2,495 Macintosh would save humanity from conformity.

Its edgy content and masterful filming created a huge stir among viewers, garnering an estimated $5 million in free publicity from magazine, newspaper, and television reporters and others who couldn’t stop talking about it. TV Guide later dubbed it the greatest commercial of all time.

Jobs’ Resignation and Return

But despite the hoopla over the glitzy ad, Apple's business started to drag, and in 1985, the company embarked on a major restructuring that included a 20% reduction in its workforce and the closure of three manufacturing plants.

Meanwhile, tensions between Steve Jobs and CEO John Sculley flared. Sculley, who joined Apple as CEO in 1983, hailed from Pepsi-Cola and was very skilled at lifestyle advertising. But Jobs' and Sculley's arguments eventually made their way to Apple’s boardroom, and the board reached a consensus that Jobs was too volatile to lead the company. On Sept. 16, 1985, Jobs resigned and started a new company called NeXT Computer, while Sculley remained Apple’s CEO until 1993.

Apple struggled over the next few years -- as did NeXT -- but NeXT had developed new technologies that would be helpful to Apple. In December 1996, Apple bought the company for $400 million. This purchase had two important outcomes: It gave Apple the technology that would eventually lead to the creation of its Mac OS X operating system, and it brought back Jobs.

Apple’s then-CEO, Dr. Gil Amelio, had come aboard that year to revive the seriously ailing company. Under Amelio’s control, Apple's stock hit a 12-year low. In 1997, the board ousted Amelio, and Jobs set out to whip the company back into shape. A number of innovations followed over the net few years, including the wildly popular iPod, the paper-thin MacBook Air laptop, and the text-messaging, photo-snapping, car-washing (OK, maybe not the last one) iPhone. On a split-adjusted basis, Apple’s stock surged from around $5 per share on Jan. 1, 1997 to nearly $200 per share on Jan. 1, 2008.

Other Notable Details

Jobs and Wozniak actually founded Apple with colleague Ron Wayne, who had a 10% stake in the company. However, Wayne was concerned about the risks involved and withdrew in 1976, relinquishing all of his stock for just $800.

Apple IPOed in December 1980, making instant millionaires of many of its employees.

In 1986, Jobs bought the computer graphics division of Lucasfilm Inc., which he re-established as Pixar. Walt Disney Studios bought Pixar for $7.4 billion in an all-stock transaction in 2006.

Jobs survived pancreatic cancer in 2004, and his health has recently been an ongoing focus in the press. Most recently, investors took notice in 2008 when Apple unveiled its 3G iPhone, and in the presentation, Jobs looked noticeably more gaunt than he did in the previous year.

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