Last Updated Aug 10, 2009 5:50 AM EDT
That was a pretty incredible year. Jobs had returned to the company he founded in 1996, after Apple bought his software business NeXT (which more or less delivered the base software for Mac OSX...). Initially a consultant, in July 1997 the board ousted CEO Gil Amelio and replaced him with Jobs.
A month later, in his MacWorld keynote, the new CEO did the unthinkable - particularly given that for many Mac fans he represented the second coming. He announced a major, multi-strand partnership with Microsoft. The only thing that comes close, I think, is Bob Dylan playing electric guitar and the reaction to the more die-hard fans in both cases was the same: "Judas!"
But more than simply saving Apple - it needed Microsoft's Office application and it's money ($150m invested) - Jobs explained that Apple's problem up to that point had been its desire to beat its rival. "We have to let go of a few things," he told the audience. "We have to let go of this notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose. And we have to embrace the notion that for Apple to win, Apple has to do a really good job."
That's an incredibly valuable lesson. Detractors might think it was hippie-ish. But Jobs really believed in the success of the computing eco-system - and it seemed, for him, to be about delighting end users, not die-hards in one camp or the other. Every business should be trying to be insanely great - rather than trying to be insanely aggressive or madly mean.