The members of Apache Troop couldn’t see a thing. It was August 2010, 0200 hours. About 120 U.S. and Iraqi soldiers were silently spreading out over a remote farm in northwestern Iraq. Their objective: a mud hut where, according to intelligence reports, two suicide bombers were planning an attack on a checkpoint to coincide with the end of Ramadan. But the allied soldiers, even wearing night vision goggles, couldn’t locate the hut; eight-foot-tall sunflowers obscured their view.
As the troops searched for their target, two U.S. cavalrymen set up on the edge of the squadron, reached into their packs, and withdrew the components of a 4-lb. miniature airplane called the Raven-B. They assembled it in seconds, revved its motor until it buzzed like an angry bee, and threw it into the air. Read the rest of the feature story on Businessweek.com.
Scott Forstall, who went to work for Jobs right out of college, was one of the key architects of Apple’s current success. In less than five years, iOS—the latest version, iOS 5, ships this week—has become one of the most valuable corporate assets on earth. His name is on about 50 Apple patents that cover everything from how application icons are laid out on the iPhone screen to the method of turning off a device with a finger swipe. On a crucial 2009 patent for a touchscreen device controlled by finger commands, “Forstall, Scott” is listed second, right after “Jobs, Steven P.” But Forstall is like Steve in one other important way: He can be, in what some of his co-workers might call an understatement, a polarizing figure. Read the full Bloomberg Businessweek cover story at Businessweek.com.
Steve Jobs was not accustomed to boos, but there he was, on stage at the airy and decrepit Park Plaza Castle auditorium in Boston, absorbing a crescendo of unhappiness. It was 1997, the year Jobs replaced Gil Amelio and declared himself “interim CEO” of Apple, saying he was too busy with Pixar and family to take over permanently. At the annual Macworld Expo that August, Jobs told the long-suffering Apple faithful that there was still hope for the computer company but that it would first have to put aside its all-too-consuming fixation with its dominant rival, Microsoft. Read the full story on Businessweek.com, part of our memorial issue devoted to Jobs.
Steven P. Jobs was born on Feb. 24, 1955, into an era of rotary phones and room-sized computers. He died on Oct. 5, 2011, having contributed perhaps more than any other person to forging an age of personal computers, slick electronic tablets, and slender mobile phones with a thousand times more computing power than the old mainframes. Jobs was 56 when he died, of complications from pancreatic cancer. He was surrounded by friends and family, including his wife, Laurene, and their children. Read the Obituary on Businessweek.com.
Jeff Bezos is channeling Steve Jobs. It’s mid-September, 2011, and the wiry billionaire founder of Amazon.com is at his brand-new corporate headquarters in Seattle, in a building named Day One South after his conviction that 17-year-old Amazon is still in its infancy. Almost giddy with excitement, Bezos retrieves one by one the new crop of dirt-cheap Kindle e-readers—they start at $79—from a hidden perch on a chair tucked into a conference room table. When he’s done showing them off, he stands up, and, for an audience of a single journalist, announces, “Now, I’ve got one more thing to show you.” He waits a half-beat to make sure the reference to Jobs’s famous line from Apple presentations hasn’t been missed, then gives his notorious barking laugh. With that, Bezos pulls out the Kindle Fire, Amazon’s long-anticipated tablet computer—and the first credible response to the Apple iPad. Read the full Bloomberg Businessweek cover story.
It’s hot and crowded in the Shatang Internet Café in the southern coastal city of Shenzhen, where some 300 young factory workers sit amid flickering lights and discarded cigarette packs. At one computer, Zhou Qingqing chats with her boyfriend about 600 miles away in Zhejiang province using QQ, the popular instant messaging software.
She interrupts the conversation to play an online game called QQ Dancer, maneuvering a fashionably dressed avatar to the beat of a catchy Chinese pop song. “This is the only game I know how to play,” she says. “It’s easy.” Read the entire feature at Businessweek.com.
On a Tuesday afternoon in late April, 30 managers of Facebook’s various business units come together to discuss a matter that preoccupies its famous founder: how to keep their rapidly growing little company from getting too big. The meeting, organized and led by the second-most-famous person at the social network, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, focuses on how to solve the problems of users, advertisers, and partner websites by using automated systems rather than bringing in thousands of new employees. Read the whole story on Businessweek.com
Vince Thompson doesn’t appear in any accounts of Facebook’s early years. Few of the more than 2,000 employees at the company even know his name. The AOL (AOL) veteran’s brief stint as Facebook’s first official ad-sales chief lasted less than six months. Even so, when Thompson left the company in early 2006, he exercised his options to buy Facebook stock, as is the custom in Silicon Valley, and took a sizable chunk of shares with him. About 18 months later he moved to Los Angeles and started consulting for media clients such as TVGuide.com on how to tap new sources of revenue, and he began to think about how to create one for himself. He set out on a quest, talking to friends in the New York investment banking world about an unorthodox idea: selling a portion of his Facebook shares, packaged with those of a colleague who left Facebook shortly after he did. Read the full feature story on Businessweek.com.
Greg Hoglund’s nightmare began on Super Bowl Sunday. On Feb. 6 the high-tech entrepreneur was sitting in his home office, trying to get to the bottom of some unusual traffic he was seeing on the Internet. Two days earlier he’d noticed troubling activity hitting the website of HBGary Federal, the Sacramento startup he helped launch in 2009. He suspected some kind of hacker assault and had spent the weekend helping to shore up the company’s systems. A few hours before Green Bay kicked off to Pittsburgh, Hoglund logged into his corporate account on Google (GOOG)—and confirmed his fears.
He couldn’t get in. Someone had changed the password and locked him out of his own e-mail system. Read the saga on Businessweek.com.
On a sunny, wind-swept December morning, Virgin America kicked off a day of festivities along the otherwise unfestive runways of Dallas Fort Worth Airport. Four longhorn cattle lolled in a pen while dignitaries such as Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert lunched on pulled pork and ribs, and lasso artists twirled rope. The main attraction was the host, 60-year-old Sir Richard Branson, billionaire bon vivant and founder of the Virgin Group. While he was at the center of the celebration, he was also making an incursion into enemy territory. Read the full feature story on Businessweek.com.