• Oct 1, 1956
    (b.) - ?

Bio/Description

An American computer scientist and electrical engineer who played an instrumental role in the development of the iPod, the portable music and video device first sold by Apple Computer Inc. in 2001. Born and raised in New York City, he is a graduate of the Horace Mann School, class of 1974. He went to college and graduate school at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., where he received a B.S. in Electrical Engineering in 1978 and a Master’s in the same field a year later. He later earned an M.S. in Computer Science from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. His first jobs in the computer industry were in Ithaca, where he worked at a local computer retailer and also served as a design consultant to an area computer company. After graduate school, he took a job with Hewlett-Packard in Colorado and spent about two years in the company’s manufacturing engineering division, developing quality-control techniques and refining manufacturing processes. Later, he worked on HP workstations. He left HP in 1986 to join a startup, Ardent Computer Corp., in Silicon Valley. While at Ardent, later renamed Stardent, he played an integral role in launching a pair of machines, the Titan Graphics Supercomputer and the Stardent 3000 Graphics Supercomputer. In 1990, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs approached him to run hardware engineering at his latest venture, NeXT. He headed work on NeXT’s RISC workstation – a graphics powerhouse that was never released because in 1993, the company abandoned its floundering hardware business in favor of a software-only approach. After helping to dismantle NeXT’s manufacturing operations, he went on to start another company, Power House Systems. That company, later renamed Firepower Systems, was backed by Canon Inc. and used technology developed at NeXT. It developed and built high-end systems using the PowerPC chip. Motorola bought the business in 1996. After the sale, he planned on an extended break and travel. But Jobs, at this point an informal consultant to Apple, asked him whether he wanted to work for the Cupertino, Calif., computer maker. Many didn't consider Apple a plum assignment at the time. The company's reputation as an innovator was waning, as were profits. His arrival in February 1997 came on the heels of a year in which Apple lost US$816 million. But he wanted to give it a shot because, he told The New York Times, "Apple was the last innovative high-volume computer maker in the world." He joined Apple as Senior Vice President of Hardware Engineering and a member of its executive staff. He was responsible for hardware development, industrial design and low-level software development, and contributed heavily to Apple's technology roadmap and product strategy. When he arrived, his work was cut out for him. The company sold no fewer than 15 product lines, yet its low-end consumer products were widely derided as technological also-rans. Engineering and product development were similarly troubled. Multiple engineering teams worked on the same product independently of each other, and the various lines were built with non-interchangeable parts. He fixed both problems. He also embarked on an extensive cost-cutting plan that axed both research projects and engineers. Expenses were cut in half. After vetting the projects in the pipeline, the one that appeared ready to deliver was the G3, a fast PowerPC-based desktop machine. When it was released at the end of 1997, Apple had what it hadn't in several years: a cutting-edge desktop machine that was on a technological par with Intel-based competitors. In 1998, Apple's lack of an entry-level consumer desktop was soon to be history. While the G3 was being readied, the company was hatching the idea for the colorful, egg-shaped iMac. He assembled a team and then spurred his much-leaner engineering corps to have the product ready to roll in 11 months - a timeline they considered impossible. When it came out, the iMac relied heavily on, and was instrumental in popularizing the fledgling USB peripheral standard. The iMac also shipped without a floppy disk drive. He was responsible for both decisions. Future rollouts under his watch included the G4 and G5 series of Macintoshes. The machines, while considered technical standouts, were still hampered by a public perception that they were "slower" than similar, Intel-based PCs because their CPUs had lower clock speeds. He helped diminish that misconception in a speech following the 2001 rollout of the G4 - and popularized a term, the 'megahertz myth,' to describe how an Apple running at 867 megahertz could be faster than an Intel processor running at 1.7 gigahertz. As the Macintosh started becoming successful again, the company began to pursue a strategy that would put the computer at the center of consumers' electronic entertainment. Turning the Mac into a digital hub which would connect with a range of devices formed the basis of Apple's strategy moving forward in the marketplace. As part of this strategy, Apple developed software to edit videos (iMovie), organize photos (iPhoto), and store and play music (iTunes). Due to the relatively low sales of its Mac computer brand, Apple decided to expand its ecosystem in order to increase its consumer awareness. The iPod came from Apple's "digital hub" category, when the company began creating software for the growing market of personal digital devices. Digital cameras, camcorders and organizers had well-established mainstream markets, but the company found existing digital music players "big and clunky or small and useless" with user interfaces that were "unbelievably awful", so Apple decided to develop its own. Even though it was a space with immense market potential, previous products had not enjoyed any notable market penetration. By 2000, Steve Jobs expressed interest in developing a portable music player. He disagreed with Jobs, saying the necessary components were not yet available. While on a routine supplier visit to Toshiba Corp. in February, 2001, however, he first saw the tiny, 1.8-inch hard disk drive that became a critical component of the iPod. While Toshiba engineers had developed the drive, they were not sure how it could be used. At a Tokyo hotel later that evening, he met with Jobs, who was in Japan on separate business. “I know how to do it now. All I need is a $10 million check,” he told Jobs. Jobs agreed, and he assembled and managed a team of hardware and software engineers to ready the product on a rushed, eight-month schedule. The team’s engineers needed to overcome a number of hurdles, including figuring out how to play music off a spinning hard drive for more than 10 hours without wiping out a battery charge. His production contacts proved invaluable, too; the iPod’s sleek, minimalist design, with its high-gloss, engraveable metal back, was a mass-manufacturing triumph. The success of the first-generation iPod was almost overnight. By 2004 the business became so important to Apple that the iPod was spun off into its own division, which he took over. Other iPod models were released on a regular basis, increasing the device’s capacity, decreasing its size, and adding features including color screens, photo display and video playback. By early 2008, more than 119 million iPods had been sold, making it not only the most successful portable media player on the market today but one of the most popular consumer electronics products of all time. He is sometimes called the "Podfather" because of his role in developing the iPod and was also instrumental in creating a robust secondary market for accessories such as speakers, chargers, docking ports, backup batteries, and other add-ons. That gear, produced by a network of independent companies that came to be known as "The iPod Ecosystem", generates more than $1 billion in annual sales. In the 2007 fiscal year, the iPod generated $8.3 billion in revenue, or about a third of Apple's sales. In October 2005, Apple announced that he would be retiring on March 31, 2006. It was later announced that he would make himself available for up to 20% of his workweek on a consulting basis. In 2007, he joined Palm as Executive Chairman of its Board Of Directors. He took control of the company’s product development and led the company's research, development, and engineering. One of his first tasks included winnowing the company's product lines and restructuring R&D teams. He was instrumental in developing the webOS platform and the Palm Pre. He debuted both on January 8, 2009, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. On June 10, 2009, just four days after the successful release of his brainchild, the Palm Pre, he was named the CEO of Palm. The Pre first launched on the Sprint network. Reports at the time of the launch noted that it was a record for Sprint, with 50,000 units sold its opening weekend. A follow-up phone, the Palm Pixi, was announced on September 8, 2009, and released on Sprint on November 15, 2009. He had said that one of Palm’s keys moving forward would be to “bring on more carriers and more regions,” and the company launched its Palm Pre Plus and Pixi Plus phones on Verizon Wireless in January 2010. In the same month, AT&T announced plans to launch a pair of Palm’s webOS devices later in 2010. But the addition of Verizon Wireless did not help as much as expected. By February 2010, Palm warned that its products were not selling as quickly as hoped. His visibility in the mainstream tech community grew upon joining Palm. He was the featured guest in September 2009 at the first episode of “The Engadget Show,” a web videocast produced by the technology weblog. In December 2009, the magazine Fast Company named him one of its Geeks of the Year, along with people such as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and writer/director/producer J.J. Abrams; Fast Company also named him to its list of the “100 most creative people in business." In December 2010, he was elected to join Amazon.com’s Board of Directors. He rejoined HP in 2010, when the Silicon Valley pioneer bought Palm for $1.2 billion. The deal gave HP another chance to enter the mobile-device market while sending a lifeline to Palm, which some analysts expected to run out of cash within two years. He agreed to remain with the company for 12 to 24 months after the purchase. At the time, HP said it would utilize webOS across a spectrum of products, including phones, printers and other devices. HP’s strategy was to keep consumers connected to all of their information through the cloud, regardless of which device they were on.On July 1, 2011, HP released the webOS-based TouchPad. Shortly after, he stepped down from the webOS unit and assumed a "product innovation role" elsewhere within HP. While he had pledged to be patient in building demand for the device, HP abandoned it quickly in the face of soft sales: The TouchPad was on the market for only seven weeks when then-CEO, Leo Apotheker announced in August that the company would discontinue all hardware devices running webOS. (HP subsequently slashed the price of the least expensive TouchPad to $99, setting off a buying frenzy and leading technology-research firm, Canalys to call it the “must-have technology product of 2011.) Apotheker himself was gone less than a month later, when the HP board replaced him with former eBay CEO Meg Whitman. She announced plans to make webOS open source in December 2011. On January 27, 2012, he left HP after his 24 months contract ended. In an interview with him he said that he will not be retiring and he will take a break and think what to do next. He is married to Karen Richardson, a technology-industry veteran who is currently on the Board of Directors of BT Group plc. He has been elected to serve as a member of the National Academy of Engineering and is a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Other organizations with which he is or has been associated: Member - Cornell Silicon Valley Advisors; Fellow, World Technology Network; Former director, Immersion Corp.; Former member, Cornell Alumni Council and Former member, Consumer Electronics Association Board of Industry Leaders
  • Date of Birth:

    Oct 1, 1956
  • Noted For:

    Instrumental in the development of the iPod
  • Category of Achievement:

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