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America's premier guru of gadgets is doing it again

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The myth also reflects Jobs's breathtaking audacity. Daring has helped him - a college dropout, an Apple founder at age 21, humiliated and sent into oblivion by the soft-drink executive he hired for company president - to return to rescue Apple from certain oblivion. It has helped him run two profitable companies that are changing entire industries - consumer electronics, music, and motion pictures. It has helped make him a icon of the world's technology, business, and, indeed, cultural frontier.

A brand synonymous with 'cool'

Nearly 30 years after he helped start the personal computer revolution with the introduction of the Apple as the "computer for the rest of us," Apple maintains a top spot in the top tier (along with Nike) in global brand recognition by fulfilling a consumer lust for cool with what Jobs likes to call "experiential tools." Apple's iPod digital music player has become such a "must have" item that it has staked out an 85 percent share of the global market. The new Mac Mini, which went on sale last week, has launched the company into another frontier - competitive pricing. It signals that the company is serious about turning out personal computers for the rest of us and adding to its current 5 percent global computer market.

Along the way, Jobs managed to found a company NeXT, whose work stations were so technically advanced they enabled the origination of the World Wide Web. And he purchased a marginal computer animation studio that now produces breakthrough feature stories: Its latest has been nominated for four Academy Awards.

Perhaps it was this vicarious sense of Jobs's pursuit of whole experiences - esthetic, functional, and spiritual - that drew more than 100 people to a downtown San Francisco sidewalk on a recent Saturday. Bundled against the cold, they stood outside the stainless steel and glass Apple retail store, cheerfully anticipating the moment when the doors would swing open and allow them to be among the first to purchase the newest offerings.

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