Steve Jobs, Apple

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Of course, Apple has another huge advantage: A brand based on maintaining a narrative that keeps consumers interested and anticipating. At any point, Jobs can pull a rabbit out of his hat and introduce something revolutionary, as he did in 2001 with the iPod and again with the iPhone six years later. “With Apple,” says Engadget editor-in-chief Joshua Topolsky, “you never know what they’re going to come up with.”

Such expectations can work against Apple, too, which is what happened with the much ballyhooed G4 Cube, a piece of modern art whose high price led to disappointing sales in 2006. The iPhone 4 was such a state secret that Gizmodo scored a major media coup when it ran a photo of the device this April, after getting its hands on a model. The event stole Jobs’ fire when it came time for the official unveiling, and Apple did little to help its image when it sicced the cops on Gizmodo’s editorial offices in search of the allegedly stolen property—bad press only compounded by the call—dropping design flaw known as “antennagate.”

Luckily for Apple, though, the story’s been pretty positive. A mere 1.7 percent of iP4 buyers have returned their phones, meaning most of the 3 million ones sold are still out there. And the world hasn’t stopped wondering what Steve Jobs will come up with next.