The secret of Apple
In 2010, earnings from Apple Inc.. have exceeded those of Microsoft. However, the firm has repeatedly been on the brink of bankruptcy and has a time had to rely on help from Microsoft to redress its finances. It changed several times CEO too, up to 1997.
In 1983, John Sculley, who had made a great success at the head of PepsiCo, is hired to run the Apple firm. He increased the incomes from 800 to 8000 million a year. He will lead the company until 1993.
In 1986, a conflict occurs between Sculley and Steve Jobs, each one trying to push the other towards the exit. The board did not trust Jobs, too unstable to run the business and he was relieved of his duties.
It departed with some engineers to create Next. Sculley developped the Newton, a personal assistant that make the firm losing more money than it will bring it. He will commit more errors, including the choice of PowerPC processors rather than Intel, and poorly designed computers.
His successor will be worse, and will give up the license of the Mac operating system to third party manufacturers. The system also becomes insufficient for new hardware.
The company, unable to produce a new operating system is on the verge of bankruptcy in 1997. She takes Steve Jobs has his head and with it the operating system from Next, based on Unix.
When he arrived and that he was presented the company's products, he was bewildered by the number of different models proposed. He then take a marker and draw on a whiteboard the diagram below: now Apple will manufacture only 4 computers.
Since the arrival of Jobs, the company has always been successful with all the products, including the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad.
What Jobs has magical, which means that all products receive public support?
The answer is given by John Sculley, in an interview for the online magazine CultOfMac.com.
Incidentally, we see that many of the qualities that Sculley attributes in his quotations to Jobs, who knows how to infuse them to the products, are also qualities that belong to Google products.
And according to Sculley, things have not changed since the early days of the firm:
Having been around in the early days, I don’t see any change in Steve’s first principles — except he’s gotten better and better at it.
The Jobs' methodology
His methodology is totally confused with the operation of the Apple company.
Vision of the future
He was a person of huge vision.
He believed that the computer was eventually going to become a consumer product. That was an outrageous idea back in the early 1980's.
He felt that the computer was going to change the world.
The most recent example of this ability to know what people might need is the Tablet PC. At the end of our article, the links show the reaction of some journalist to the announcement of this new object: "People do not need a Tablet PC." Sales prove otherwise.
The secret of Apple's success according to Steve Jobs: Just a few products.
A limited product range
Steve Jobs gave this advice in April 2011 to Larry Page, new Google CEO: A company must have only five products. This is the case of Apple, here's the list: iPod, iPad, iPhone, Mac Pro and Mac Air laptop. It was he who drew the schema at right to the use of his engineers.
An advice that has been listened, since Google has significantly reduced the number of its services and software. But is that really what makes the success of Apple?
Unlike the firm of Steve Jobs, Samsung offers a wide range of smartphones, each offering a particular service: one a stylus, the other an integrated pico projector, etc ...
In April 2012, Samsung became the first manufacturer of smartphones on top of Apple and Nokia. Maybe Apple has a few products because it's easier for one man to supervise them and Steve Jobs wanted to participate in the design of all products.
The great skill that Steve has is he’s a great designer. Everything had to be beautifully designed even if it wasn’t going to be seen by most people.
He was not a designer but a great systems thinker.
These two quotations taken at different places in the transcript of the interview seem contradictory. In fact, what means Sculley, is that Jobs wants to make beautiful objects and appreciates the beauty in everything, but it does not create it itself. What he knows to create is a system to produce them.
Steve in particular felt that you had to begin design from the vantage point of the experience of the user.
People in product marketing in those days asking people: What did they want? How can I possibly ask somebody what a graphics-based computer ought to be when they have no idea what a graphic based computer is?
The iPod is a perfect example of Steve’s methodology of starting with the user and looking at the entire end-to-end system.
The usability of Apple products, and primarily, that of the Mac operating system, has always been the strong point of the firm. We understand why.
Precision and perfectionism
He was also a person that believed in the precise detail of every step.
He was a perfectionist even from the early days.
And he was constantly forcing people to raise their expectations of what they could do. So people were producing work that they never thought they were capable of.
This finding from Sculley is fully confirmed by all books written about the history of Apple and that from the first days when Steve Wozniak was working on the Apple II, Jobs then encouraged he to continually add new features and improve the hardware to make it the best.
What makes Steve’s methodology different from everyone else’s is that he always believed the most important decisions you make are not the things you do – but the things that you decide not to do.
He simplifies complexity.
Reduce the object to the smallest form, is what we call programming optimization: rewriting a program to gradually make it simpler and more efficient. A legacy of what Jobs learned as a programmer?
Minimalism here is to simplify even more, to make things small, interfaces simpler.
It also makes us think about how Facebook took the ascendancy on MySpace. While MySpace multiplied steps to show more ads, garner more revenue, Facebook made the interface simpler. The second took the members of the first.
Part 3: Steve Jobs vs Bill Gates.
- John Sculley On Steve Jobs, The Full Interview Transcript.
- Saying no. The secret of Apple is also to say no to many products that are not perfects. The article quotes St-Exupery:
- "A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."