by Roy Posner
Steve Jobs along with his partner Steve Wozniak founded Apple Computer in the 1970s. Together they developed the first commercially successful personal computer, the Apple II in the late 1970s, and then went on to create the first user-friendly machine, the Macintosh in 1985. After being forced out of the company, Jobs returned to help the faltering company by rejuvenating its Macintosh line and by developing the wildly successful IPod multimedia device, and their first foray into the telecommunications business with the introduction of the IPhone.
List of Major Accomplishments
- Founded with his partner one of the great, innovative technology companies in the world, Apple.
- Developed the first commercially successful personal computer, the Apple II.
- Developed the first user-friendly computer, the Macintosh, which included a mouse and a "what you see is what you get" (WSYWYG) easy to use interface.
- Developed radically new operating system and application software technology at Apple that was later emulated at rival Microsoft that ironically became the industry standard – Windows – used in hundreds of millions of computers around the world.
- Create the IPod multimedia device for listening to music, watching videos, and connecting to the Internet, which became extremely successful worldwide.
- Rescued Apple from a money-losing operation in the mid 1990s to an enormously successful, highly profitable 30 billion dollar company by 2008. The company had a staggering $20B in cash without any long-term debt.
- Developed the user-friendly IPhone telecommunication devise, revamping the look and feel of such devices for the entire Smartphone industry.
- Implemented at Apple the informal working style of Silicon Valley that has become a model around the world.
- Championed state of the art design in hardware and software.
- Became an icon of technological change and innovation in society.
- Early years
Steve Jobs was born in San Francisco and was adopted by Paul and Clara (née Hagopian) Jobs of Mountain View, Santa Clara County, California who named him Steven Paul. His biological parents, Joanne Carole Schieble and Syrian Abdulfattah Jandali —a graduate student who later became a political science professor— later married and gave birth to Jobs' sister, the novelist Mona Simpson.
Jobs attended Cupertino Middle School and Homestead High School in Cupertino, California, and frequented after-school lectures at the Hewlett-Packard Company in Palo Alto, California. He was soon hired there and worked with Steve Wozniak as a summer employee. In 1972, Jobs graduated from high school and enrolled in Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Although he dropped out after only one semester, he continued auditing classes at Reed, such as one in calligraphy.
In the autumn of 1974, Jobs returned to California and began attending meetings of the Homebrew Computer Club with Steve Wozniak. He took a job as a technician at Atari, a manufacturer of popular video games, with the primary intent of saving money for a spiritual retreat to India. During the 1960s, it had been discovered by phone phreakers (and popularized by John Draper) that a half taped-over toy-whistle included in every box of Cap'n Crunch breakfast cereal was able to reproduce the 2600 hertz supervision tone used by the AT&T long distance telephone system. After reading about it and later meeting with John Draper, Jobs and Wozniak went into business briefly in 1974 to build "blue boxes" that allowed illicit free long distance calls.
Jobs then backpacked around India with a Reed College friend (and, later, first Apple employee), Daniel Kottke, in search of spiritual enlightenment. He came back with his head shaved and wearing traditional Indian clothing. During this time, Jobs experimented with LSD, calling these experiences "one of the two or three most important things he has done in his life." He has stated that people around him who did not share his countercultural roots could not understand certain aspects of his thinking.
He returned to his previous job at Atari and was given the task of creating a circuit board for the game Breakout. According to Atari Founder Nolan Bushnell, Atari had offered US$100 for each chip that was reduced in the machine. Jobs had little interest or knowledge in circuit board design and made a deal with Wozniak to split the bonus evenly between them if Wozniak could minimize the number of chips. Much to the amazement of Atari, Wozniak reduced the number of chips by 50, a design so tight that it was impossible to reproduce on an assembly line. At the time, Jobs told Wozniak that Atari had only given them US$700 (instead of the actual US$5000) and that Wozniak's share was thus US$350.
- Beginnings of Apple Computer
When twenty-one-year-old Jobs saw a computer that Wozniak had designed for his own use, he persuaded Wozniak to assist him and started a company to market the computer. Apple Computer Co. was founded as a partnership on April 1, 1976. Though their initial plan was to sell just printed circuit boards, Jobs and Wozniak ended up creating a batch of completely assembled computers and thus entered the personal computer business. The first personal computer Jobs and Wozniak introduced, the Apple I, sold for US$666.66, a number Wozniak came up with because he liked repeating digits. Its successor, the Apple II, was introduced the following year and became a huge success, turning Apple into an important player in the nascent personal computer industry. In December 1980, with a successful IPO, Apple Computer became a publicly traded corporation, making Jobs a multi-millionaire.
As Apple continued to expand, the company began looking for an experienced executive to help manage its expansion. In 1983, Jobs lured John Sculley away from Pepsi-Cola, to serve as Apple's CEO, challenging him, "Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?" In 1983, Apple introduced the Apple Lisa as a challenger to the IBM PC, which dominated the market. It had a breakthrough graphic interface, influence by the Xerox Parc technology, and a suite of powerful applications. It was perhaps the first computer to have black text on a white background, essentially the opposite of the PC and compatibles, and far more like the normal printed page. However, due to its excessive cost, and relatively slow speed the product failed to take hold. Also, the IBM PC had become the rage and then the standard of the business world. The following year, Apple retired the Lisa and began to develop a slimmed down version of it. Starting with a Super Bowl television commercial titled, "1984." Two days later at Apple's annual shareholders meeting on January 24, 1984, an emotional Jobs introduced the Macintosh to a wildly enthusiastic audience; Andy Hertzfeld described the scene as "pandemonium." The Macintosh became the first commercially successful computer with a graphical user interface, although it was heavily influenced by Xerox PARC. The development of the Mac was started by Jeff Raskin, and eventually taken over by Jobs. At first the Mac was slow to take off due to limited supply and none availability of a hard disk. Even the first hard drive was slow, eventually replaced by much faster ones. By 1987, the Mac finally began to replace in quantity sales of the Apple II, making it a viable competitor to the IBM PC and compatible. Still the latter outsold the Mac nearly 10 to 1, and became the worldwide standard. The Mac sold more to the non-corporate, the graphics, and media communities. It became somewhat of a niche product.
Returning back to 1984. While Jobs was a persuasive and charismatic evangelist for Apple, some of his employees from that time had described him as an erratic and tempestuous manager. An industry-wide sales slump towards the end of 1984 caused a deterioration in Jobs' working relationship with Sculley, and at the end of May 1985 – following an internal power struggle and an announcement of significant layoffs – Sculley relieved Jobs of his duties as head of the Macintosh division.
It should also be kept in mind that Jobs wanted Apple to devote its resources to the new Mac, pushing the Apple II aside. Apple however was making most of its money on the Apple II. Jobs was willing to give up the old for what he believed was next great thing, but the Apple board rejected his stance. This added to the conflict between Jobs and the board/Sculley, leading to Jobs’ dismissal.
In 1986, finding himself sidelined by the company he had founded, Jobs sold all but one of his shares in Apple. Around the same time, Jobs founded another computer company, NeXT Computer. Like the Apple Lisa, the NeXT workstation was technologically advanced, but was never able to break into the mainstream mainly owing to its high cost. Among those who could afford it, however, the NeXT workstation garnered a strong following because of its technical strengths, chief among them its object-oriented software development system. Jobs marketed NeXT products to the scientific and academic fields because of the innovative, experimental new technologies it incorporated (such as the Mach kernel, the digital signal processor chip, and the built-in Ethernet port).
The NeXT Cube was described by Jobs as an "interpersonal" computer, which he believed was the next step after "personal" computing. That is, if computers could allow people to communicate and collaborate together in an easy way, it would solve a lot of the problems that "personal" computing had come up against. During a time when e-mail for most people was plain text, Jobs loved to demo the NeXT's e-mail system, NeXTMail, as an example of his "interpersonal" philosophy. NeXTMail was one of the first to support universally visible, clickable embedded graphics and audio within e-mail.
Jobs ran NeXT with an obsession for aesthetic perfection, as evidenced by such things as the NeXT Cube's magnesium case. This put considerable strain on NeXT's hardware division, and in 1993, after having sold only 50,000 machines, NeXT transitioned fully to software development with the release of NeXTSTEP/Intel.
It is interesting to note that NeXT technology played a large role in catalyzing the World Wide Web as Tim Berners-Lee would develop the original World Wide Web system at CERN on a NeXT workstation. Thus, Jobs played a significant, roundabout role in the development of the Internet and Web.
In another period of perceiving great opportunity in 1986 Jobs bought The Graphics Group (later renamed Pixar) from Lucasfilm's computer graphics division for the price of $10 million, $5 million of which was given to the company as capital.
The first film produced by the partnership, Toy Story (1995), with Jobs credited as executive producer, brought fame and critical acclaim to the studio when it was released. Over the next 15 years, under Pixar's creative chief John Lasseter, the company produced many box-office hits.
In 2003 and 2004, as Pixar's contract with Disney was running out, Jobs and Disney chief executive Michael Eisner tried but failed to negotiate a new partnership, and in early 2004, Jobs announced that Pixar would seek a new partner to distribute its films after its contract with Disney expired.
In October 2005, Bob Iger replaced Eisner at Disney, and Iger quickly worked to mend relations with Jobs and Pixar. On January 24, 2006, Jobs and Iger announced that Disney had agreed to purchase Pixar in an all-stock transaction worth $7.4 billion. When the deal closed, Jobs became The Walt Disney Company's largest single shareholder
Floyd Norman, of Pixar, described Jobs as a "mature, mellow individual" who never interfered with the creative process of the filmmakers. In early June 2014, Pixar cofounder and Walt Disney President Ed Catmull revealed that Jobs once advised him to "just explain it to them until they understand." Catmull released the book Creativity Inc. in 2014, in which recounts numerous experiences of working with Jobs.
It is said that in his period at Pixar he learned to be more tolerant, listen to others, and not be so combative. It was also at Pixar that he began to once again have great success.
- Return to Apple
Apple continued to do well with the Mac in the late 1980s and early 1990s as a niche product. However, gradually the technology began to seem old, despite increasing sales. There was little innovation in Apple during that time. Apple's reliance on outdated software and internal mismanagement, particularly its inability to release a major operating system upgrade, had brought the company spiraling down.
In late 1994 /1995, Windows 95 was released by Microsoft, an OS similar to the Mac, making the latter even more expendable. As a result, Apple’s fortunes began seriously plummet, leading to huge losses, and fear of bankruptcy.
In 1996, Apple announced that it would buy NeXT for $429 million. The deal was finalized in late 1996, bringing Jobs back to the company he founded. He soon became Apple's interim CEO after the directors lost confidence in and ousted then-CEO Gil Amelio in a boardroom coup. In March of 1998, in order to concentrate Apple's efforts on returning to profitability, Jobs immediately terminated a number of projects such as Newton, Cyberdog, and OpenDoc. In the coming months, many employees developed a fear of encountering Jobs while riding in the elevator, "afraid that they might not have a job when the doors opened. The reality was that Jobs’ summary executions were rare, but a handful of victims was enough to terrorize a whole company."
With the purchase of NeXT, much of the company's technology found its way into Apple products, notably NeXTSTEP, which evolved into Mac OS X. Under Jobs' guidance the company increased sales significantly with the introduction of the iMac and other new products; since then, appealing designs and powerful branding have worked well for Apple. At the 2000 Macworld Expo, Jobs officially dropped the "interim" modifier from his title at Apple and became permanent CEO.
In recent years, the company has branched out, introducing and improving upon other digital appliances. With the introduction of the iPod portable music player, iTunes digital music software, and the iTunes Store, the company made forays into consumer electronics and music distribution. This along with a steadily improving Mac market established Apple’s biggest boom in 25 years. For the first time in 2007 Apple entered the cellular phone business with the introduction of the iPhone, a multi-touch display cell phone, iPod, and internet device.
While stimulating innovation, Jobs also reminds his employees that "real artists ship," by which he means that delivering working products on time is as important as innovation and attractive design.
Jobs works at Apple for an annual salary of US$1, and this earned him a listing in Guinness World Records as the "Lowest Paid Chief Executive Officer." His current (2008) salary at Apple officially remains US$1 per year, although he has traditionally been the recipient of a number of lucrative "executive gifts" from the board, including a US$46 million jet in 1999 and just under 30 million shares of restricted stock in 2000–2002. As such, Jobs is well compensated for his efforts at Apple despite the nominal one-dollar salary. This approach reduces his personal tax liability because, under current U.S. tax law, salary income is taxed at a significantly higher rate (currently up to 35%) than the capital gains tax (currently a maximum of 15%) applied to profits arising from the sale of stock grants. Obtaining remuneration through stock instead of salary is a common extrinsic rewarding technique, which ties management performance to financial benefits. Furthermore, it acts as a tax minimization strategy.
Jobs is both admired and criticized for his consummate skill at persuasion and salesmanship, which has been dubbed the "reality distortion field" and is particularly evident during his keynote speeches (colloquially known as "Stevenotes") at Macworld Expos and at Apple's own World Wide Developers Conferences.
In 2005, Jobs responded to criticism of Apple's poor recycling programs for e-waste in the U.S. by lashing out at environmental and other advocates at Apple's Annual Meeting in Cupertino in April. When asked by a representative of a liberal investment fund why Apple's programs lagged behind Dell's and HP's, Jobs wound up his critic by calling the advocates' complaints "poo-poo head." However, a few weeks later, Apple announced it would take back iPods for free at its retail stores. (This shows how Jobs often would be disparaging of a criticism, but later shift gears. The most famous case was perhaps “when hell freezes over,” when Apple enabled Windows software to run on a Mac.) The Computer TakeBack Campaign responded by flying a banner from a plane over the Stanford University graduation at which Jobs was the commencement speaker. The banner read "Steve — Don't be a mini-player recycle all e-waste". In 2006, he further expanded Apple's recycling programs to any U.S. customer who buys a new Mac. This program includes shipping and "environmentally friendly disposal" of their old systems.
Jobs began 2007 with Macworld Expo at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. He began the episodic keynote address by reviewing Apple's music business through iTunes music and video highlights, mentioning that rumors of the decline in Internet music business were false. Highlights included the long-awaited iPhone mobile device as well as the rebranding and official introduction of Apple TV. After the long-awaited introduction of these two products, Jobs announced on January 9, 2007 that "Apple Computer, Inc" would be now known as "Apple Inc."
In 2008, Apple topped Fortune magazine’s 26th annual list of America's Most Admired Companies. Apple was moving toward $30B a year in annual sales, with considerable profits, as Mac sales increased, IPod dominated the mp3 market, and the IPhone began to take off. Apple now was approaching 20 billion in cash with no long-term debt like other Silicon Valley companies such as Intel, Cisco, and Oracle. Apple along with Google and Microsoft were now dominating the computer and technology scene.
Qualities that Enabled Success
- Envisioning, Foreseeing the Future; Trendsetter
One trait common to most change-makers is the ability to envision a different future in that person’s domain or field. Jobs’ is certainly a visionary in his field, constantly perceiving new possibilities in his industry. That ability to foresee new products and services at Apple and thereby set new directions and trends for the company and the entire industry is legend.
- Innovative; Creates New Realities
In addition to envisioning future possibilities, that which Jobs envisioned was highly innovative -- more often than not a breakthrough in that domain. That ability to envision the new that is unprecedented is another quality that Job’s has in spades.
- The Integrator
One particular talent Jobs has is the ability to see various items in a field and often organize it into something entirely new. This integrator capacity is one of the Hallmark’s of Jobs’ mind. For example, he saw the graphic user interface at Xerox Parc in the early days of Apple and then integrated into the emerging personal computer. Similarly later on when he saw a fragmented MP3 market, he thought of different aspects from different systems that he would like to create in his own device – the IPod – which also includes advances in user interface taken from his own OSX Mac operating system. He did the same when he integrated the web based ITunes music store into both the PC and the iPod device. His ability to see various sides and integrate it into a new innovative reality/system/product is one of the hallmarks of Jobs’ mental skill and talent.
- Revolutionizing Industries
Jobs takes pleasure in revolutionizing a field -- questioning its assumptions and creating replacements that turn that industry upside down while driving it to new, unprecedented levels of success. Again, the IPod is a perfect example. This fervor to revolutionize things comes right out of the revolutionary-like idealism of the 60s and the Hippies who questioned all assumptions, even the foundations of society. Jobs participated in that unfolding in part and has carried it over to his work at Apple. That revolutionary, life changing verve is one of Jobs’ deep personal values.
- Simplicity, Accessibility
Perhaps the chief way he is innovative, integrative, and revolutionizes industry is through his deep belief in making hardware and software that is easy to use, to the point of sheer elegance. Dating Mac to the inception of the Mac, Jobs wanted to create a radically new product that would revolutionize the industry through its ease of use. The graphic user interface (GUI) was a radical departure from anything before in the personal computer. Similarly, when he championed the WYSWYG output from the computer, including graphics, onto the LaserWriter printer, he championed a revolution in the printing field. He did the same with the IPod and especially the IPhone. Jobs’ deep belief in making things easy for people – i.e. the value of Ease of Use – is one of his core personal values and beliefs, which reflects in the innovative, even revolutionary products he has developed. Speaking in the early days of the Mac Jobs said: “We want to make a product like the first telephone. We want to make mass-market appliances. What we are trying to develop is a computer that can do all those things that you might expect, but we also offer a much higher performance which takes the form of a very easy-to-use product." (Fortune) We see here a vision of something extremely easy to us that has an all-in-one quality of design. Melding the inner and the outer into one seamless product, as in the Mac and particularly the IPhone, making it so simple that it is almost appliance life, is another thing that drives Jobs’ thinking in developing Apple products and services.
- Ability to See/Solve Problems in Society
One key quality of a change-maker is the ability to perceive a problem in society and offer solutions to it. E.g., Martin Luther saw the abuse of the church through tax and other forms of doctrinaire oppression, and fought for its removal. E.g., he said that the Bible, not the church, was the true conduit to the spirit. His action created a revolution in society; not only bringing about an alternate approach to the Christian religion, but unleashing the forces of freedom and democracy in Europe.
Smaller, Personal Computer -- Steve Jobs has seen a variety of problems in the technology arena and has sought to solve them. For example, he saw that the computer was being used primarily by huge organizations, rather than the common man, including the small businessperson. He thus sought to develop a personal computer that anyone could use. He was not the only one who had this vision, as there were quite a few who had this vision at the Homebrew Computer Club at the time. The difference is that he was committed to making it a mass phenomenon in society; not merely a hobby. Thus he developed the Apple computer with the intention of changing the role of the computer from a massive clunky device for elites to a small, easier to use machine for the average person (or small business).
Easier to Use Computer – All personal computers until 1984 were rather difficult to use, with green or black background with white or green text and no graphics. The machine was controlled only through keyboard input. Jobs however, influenced by what he saw at Xerox Parc aimed to make a system that anyone could use via a simple graphical interface and the use of a mouse input device. Thus, overcoming the difficulty of use was a problem in society that he sought to overcome. He did so on the Macintosh, which in turn influenced the Windows operating system from Microsoft. In essence, his desire to change that limitation in the technological world and in society revolutionized both.
Better Music Access - Yet a third problem in society appeared years later when people, especially youngsters were illegally downloading music, skirting the need to pay, which caused the music publishing companies and the musicians to lose money. And yet using the Internet was the easiest medium for distributing and accessing music. Jobs saw a that problem and aimed to solve it by establishing not only an easy to use MP3 player -- the IPod -- but an easy to access ITunes music store in which people could download music over the Internet and yet still pay for it on a song-by-song or album basis.
With the IPhone, Jobs went back to the original inspiration of an all-in-one device of the Mac that was easy to use, which would in turn resolve several technological hurdles. It integrated email, multimedia (as in the IPod), phone calling, and Internet browsing all in one. Rather than having several devices to achieve this, one could have one making it more convenient to carry around, yet have access to all of these features and more (like Google Maps and other computer-like applications) in one easy to use device.
In this and in many other ways Jobs looked at problems in the industry and society and came up with solutions. In each case, he wildly succeeded. The industries and society was indeed changed. (editing point)
(Note: Below in the section on Society, we discuss what the true, underlying psychological and social needs of the society were that were behind these needs for technological change. Suffice it to say here that Jobs had an uncanny ability to ride the emerging wave of society – from the urge for a personal computer to the need for the needs for an easy to use personal experience to the development of integrative multimedia technologies that the average person aspired for.)
- Spearheads Development
Steve Jobs himself felt that his greatest talent was spearheading development of new products. He saw a social or technological limitation, had a vision of something new, and had that urge and will to drive development of it until it came out as he wanted. He then put full force of his energies – including innovative, sometimes revolutionary marketing techniques – drive it into the market. It is Jobs ability to conceptualize and actualize projects of new development that is one of the reasons he had such great success and alter the course of his industry, technology in general and the world.
Closely related is the fact that he led the customer rather than followed it. One precept of modern management business management is to listen to what the customer wants and then develop products and services based on that. In a way Jobs went to a different model of looking at what was going on in technology and society and drive new development based on that, with the added value of creating ease of use, simplicity, and an all in one experience. These are things that the customer may have never imagined. By leading the customer, Jobs felt he could bring much improved change to the world around him. It is an individualistic, creative urge more than a collaborative one in that sense, even as he worked collectively within Apple to bring these often-revolutionary products to market. We can see here the 60s creative impulse and values at work. It is also a power of individuality, self-empowerment, and personal aspiration that expresses in the thought of Thoreau to the Bhagavad Gita (You become what you believe you can become.)
- Risk Taker
Jobs has been willing to try radical new technologies even if it means undercutting previous one that Apple was selling, most notably when he introduced the Mac to essentially replace the Apple II and II lines, though the latter produced 90% of its sales. More to the point, Jobs has been willing to introduce unproven technologies, like the mouse, graphic interface, and touch screen IPhone technology. He is willing to try these new things even if they are not popularly known or have never been accepted. Apple itself seems to in a mode of never-ending risk taking. Perhaps that is because it has no guarantee of success like a Microsoft that dominates its market. When the Macintosh came out, the IBM PC and compatibles had become the business standard, and yet Jobs was willing to risk all with the unproven Mac.
- True Individual – Thinks for Himself; Does Not Follow the herd
A person who truly thinks for himself can be thought of as a “true individual.” He or she is not moved by the herd but by something internal. From early on Jobs has demonstrated that propensity. He was always a loner, and a self-thinker. He took classes in philosophy and immersing himself in the emerging counterculture of the 1970s.He experimented in areas that interested him such as Eastern religion, even taking a trip to India in search of spiritual enlightenment.
As a result of this inner-bent, he always had a different way of looking at things. It was his, unique way. That aspect would show up in many ways: from the many radical new technologies he championed to his disdain for the financial concerns and demands of Wall Street. He had a vision of an unlimited future, unfettered by the givens of life, of what other people accepted. Of course, he was influenced by others – from the pioneers of the Homebrew Computer Club to other technologies – but he always has a fresh, new way of looking at things that comes from an inner vision of what is possible, rather than what others believe. Sometimes, of course, he went to the other extreme and rejected others’ thoughts and opinions outright. (E.g. he was strong-minded about allowing others to duplicate the Mac, as in the PC-compatible business which has been stupendously successful, creating a world standard.)
- Reflection of Emerging Hippy/Hip Sensibilities
Having said he was a self-motivated and oriented – i.e. a true individual – he was also immensely influenced by the forces of his time. For one, he was interested in technology and its emergence in society. In particular he saw saw how others were beginning to develop the first personal computers particularly through the Homebrew Computer Club in Silicon Valley, which certainly influenced the development of the Apple I.
He was also heavily influenced by the counterculture sensibilities of the hippies of the 60s and 70s, becoming one himself to a degree. Non-conformity, non-acceptance of authority, perceptions of new philosophies, cultures, and religions, the empowerment and freedom of the individual were among the many forces that he embraced from his generation. And yet he was of the younger edge of that generation -- therefore less conditioned, more progressive, and more technology-oriented than the main body of individuals.)
Jobs was also influenced by the overlapping California sensibilities, the casual life style of the San Francisco Bay area, the New Thinking that was emerging there with a different world and personal view of life. These are all factors that influenced his thinking. Even the middle class lifestyle in the suburban Silicon Valley affected his worldview.
And so the company he formed, Apple, and the products he developed, such as the Lisa and Mac were reflections of these sensibilities.
“The image Jobs wanted the public to have of the Macintosh was young, wears blue jeans, and lives in an 80's version of the 60's counterculture. Macintosh was impatient, uncomfortable, and contemptuous of everything that was conventional or hierarchical.”
- Influence of Step-father
We also see the influence of his stepfather, who was a machinist and member of the working class. That influence caused Jobs to dabble in mechanical devices, which eventually evolved into more sophisticated, intelligent computers. Jobs’ aptitude was therefore more of mechanical skill than a conceptual or theoretical one, yet he sought to bring greater intelligence to the personal computers and other devices, trying to make them as easy to use as say a television.
- Creativity, Innovation over Money Value
One of Steve Jobs precepts is the notion that "the journey is the reward." I.e. that the process of doing and creating (the journey) should be exhilarating, and the rest (the reward) will take care of itself. Of course, he was not immune to the allures of being successful, creating wealth for him and his company, and becoming the leader of his industries, yet there was a feeling that he projected onto Apple that the creative process was as important as the outer rewards it brings. For Jobs, the reward is the joy of innovation itself, of creating as he called it “insanely great” products that helps improve and change the world. (Perhaps we can say that it is more of a psychological than material reward that he and his followers seek. This view permeates much of Silicon Valley, who ironically attract vast wealth by focusing on the journey of creation and the psychological reward of improving the world through technology.)
It is ironic that this sort of approach in the modern technology often creates the greatest financial results, including massive profits; often without any long-term debt
- Artistic, Creative Sensibilities
Steve Jobs consistently demonstrated from the development of the Lisa on forward artistic and creative vision. I.e. he wanted products to be beautiful in their elegance and simplicity. He wanted good-looking software that worked simply and elegantly; as well as beautiful looking hardware. He took this to the extreme with the elegant but successful Macintosh Cube. That aesthetic sense has always been there ever since he took the reins at Apple. Often when demonstrating new products he would comment not only on the simplicity, but the elegance of design, and the physical outer form of the computers and other media device Apple created.
Sometimes that aesthetic sense was confronted by its impracticality in the market. That was the case with the far ahead of its time Lisa, the Next machine, and the Apple cube. All were too expensive, yet almost appeared like art.
- Melding of Artistic and Commercial Instincts
Having explored an aesthetic sense that sometimes clashed with reality, it is equally true that Jobs was highly conscious of the market. Right from the get go Jobs hired several industry heavyweights including Regis McKenna and various individuals from Intel to help him determine the marketability of his products, particularly the Apple II and II in light of the sudden domination of the IBM PC.
Also, Jobs was a master promoter and showman who develop highly innovative strategies to promote his computers to the world. With the Apple II, he used famous TV personality Dick Cavett to promote the product, which helped make the Apple II the first viable commercial personal computer, and he later devised the astonishing 1984 commercial that changed the course of advertising history.
Jobs always had the market in mind, despite his artistic sentiments and the needs to create something new and radical for the market. These two sentiments however came to clash with the Apple board when they drove him out of the company for pushing the Mac when the Apple II was generating 90% of their sales.
After returning to Apple, Jobs’ marketing instincts have only increased as the campaigns to market the IPod and IPhone have been off the charts in terms of creating public awareness and pure excitement. The combination of his artistic, creative temperament, his revolutionary zeal, and his commercial instincts is one of the hallmarks of his success.
- Showman; Surprise and Delight in Discovery
One of Jobs’ greatest skills is as a master showman of new products that thrills his audiences to no end. His presentations are dramatic, revealing, and exciting. His famous “reality distortion field” seems to hypnotize the audience into believing in the utter magnificent of the products he develops. Call this his showman and entertainer instincts. Though he can be fairly low key and shy in small social circles, in front of a group he creates drama, and then never fails to impress when he uncovers like a master magician a radically, new product that appears to appear out of thin air. (Actually out of a highly innovative R&D department at Apple.)
Jobs loves the element of surprise, of revealing a new product that surprises and delights. He enjoys the process of audience discovery of that which was unknown before, or never existed before that creates a deep sense of awe.
- Leadership Skills
One of the hallmarks of a leader is to be passionate about a thing, which Jobs always is. Another is to take people in new direction that have never been thought of before. This is yet another quality of a great leader.
After Apple won the most admired company award from Fortune magazine, one headline read, “The creator of the iPod and iPhone sets a dazzling new standard for innovation and mass appeal, driven by an obsessive CEO who wants his products to be practically perfect in every way.” Not every change-maker seeks perfection. Many will not worry about the details, aiming instead for the overall impact. Yet Jobs’ obsession for perfection is one of the reasons he has revolutionized several industries. It is perhaps common to those who seek breakthrough in technology. In Jobs’ case, it is also an indicator of his artistic and aesthetic sensibilities. This obsession with perfecting details, as well as relating them back to the overall intention can be thought of as a spiritual-like quality. It is likely that he was influence by the machinist values of his stepfather in this regard. Anyone who has watched his demonstrations can observe the glee on his face when he talks about the perfection of a circuit board, or of a small, but elegant detail in an email or other application program on the IPhone. This ability to make the broad stroke through near-revolutionary technology and yet be obsessed obsession with details has helped brought about Jobs’ and Apple’s great success. In essence, Jobs’ passion about perfection has spread throughout Apple.
“Apple hires people who are never satisfied. A designer has to be a borderline fanatic to care about the curve of a screw on the underside of a MacBook Air or the apparent weightlessness of the tiny door that hides its connectors.” That passion about perfection is also what provides the push to overcome design and engineering obstacles, as well as to bring projects in on time.
Here’s another quote that shows why he so values creating excellent things.
“"We don't get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life. Life is brief, and then you die, you know? So this is what we've chosen to do with our life. We could be sitting in a monastery somewhere in Japan. We could be out sailing. Some of the [executive team] could be playing golf. They could be running other companies. And we've all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it. And we think it is." (Fortune)
He will redo a product from scratch if it does not meet their standards of perfection.
"Well, you know what? It's been that way with [almost] every major project at Apple, too.... Take the iPhone. We had a different enclosure design for this iPhone until way too close to the introduction to ever change it. And I came in one Monday morning, I said, 'I just don't love this. I can't convince myself to fall in love with this. And this is the most important product we've ever done.'
"And we pushed the reset button. We went through all of the zillions of models we'd made and ideas we'd had. And we ended up creating what you see here as the iPhone, which is dramatically better. It was hell because we had to go to the team and say, 'All this work you've [done] for the last year, we're going to have to throw it away and start over, and we're going to have to work twice as hard now because we don't have enough time.' And you know what everybody said? 'Sign us up.'
"That happens more than you think, because this is not just engineering and science. There is art, too. Sometimes when you're in the middle of one of these crises, you're not sure you're going to make it to the other end. But we've always made it, and so we have a certain degree of confidence, although sometimes you wonder. I think the key thing is that we're not all terrified at the same time. I mean, we do put our heart and soul into these things." (Fortune)
- Narrow Focus; Self-Limitation, and Absorption
One of the lesser-known traits of Steve Jobs was his ability to focus on something he wanted to develop, putting all other development aside. In other words, rather than develop a wide swatch of technology, he demonstrated razor-like focus on developing only a few products. These were one he deeply believed would change the environment, and so put all of his energy into developing. Apple itself would constantly have this quality under his leadership.
“Here there is no such thing as hedging your bets."One traditional management philosophy that's taught in many business schools is diversification. Well, that's not us," says Cook. "We are the anti-business school." Apple's philosophy goes like this: Too many companies spread themselves thin, making a profusion of products to defuse risk, so they get mired in the mediocre. Apple's approach is to put every resource it has behind just a few products and make them exceedingly well.” (Fortune)
And another Jobs quote in this regard: "Apple is a $30 billion company, yet we've got less than 30 major products. I don't know if that's ever been done before. Certainly the great consumer electronics companies of the past had thousands of products. We tend to focus much more. People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.” (Fortune)
The ability to focus on a thing at the expense of other matters is one of the factors that lead to great achievement in life, including the breakthrough changes that change-making pioneers bring about. It is also one of the sub-processes of the process of accomplishment in life. I.e. you conceive of something you want to achieve out of all possibilities, and put all of your energy into its execution. (I.e. self-conception, self-limitation, and self absorption.)
- Revolutionary, Messianic Fervor
With a desire to make breakthrough, easy to use yet powerful products; to change the course of technology and society; to want to create perfect, elegant products; to focus laser-like on certain ones with passion; and to bring them to market with great enthusiasm and fanfare; and to do this in an informal, creative, dynamic, new age atmosphere Jobs had created an almost revolutionary environment at Apple.
At times, it has seemed almost messianic, not only for the company but for the followers and purchasers of Apple products. In one sense, it seemed that some of those who were Hippies in the 60s and 70s now made Apple their conduit for the values hey believed in. If the hippies (which were a huge part of the baby boom generation in their youth) aimed to change the world, but came up short when they all but disappeared, Jobs and Apple seemed to carry on that tradition through the vehicle of technology.
- Fear-Driven Innovation
Unlike Microsoft, which became the industry standard in business around the world though Windows and Office, Apple never has established a sense of permanent dominance. It has no hold on any market, despite huge market share with the IPod. At any time, it senses that it can be overcome, as the IBM PC virtually wiped Apple and its Apple II dominance off the face of the earth, and only limped back with the Macintosh. Jobs and Apple know that they can be easily knocked off the pedestal. This “fear” if you will drives Jobs and Apple to create even more daring, revolutionary products, whereas Microsoft can somewhat afford to move slowly in developing its software. In essence, there is a subconscious sense in Apple that it needs to innovate radically in order to survive, despite all of its stupendous successes of 2000-2008. Even with the IPhone, there is the fear of losing out in this gigantic market to the Microsoft-based Windows Smartphone technology.
- Turns Limitations, Criticisms into Opportunities/Solutions
Often Apple is criticized for acts of commission or omission. The ability to embrace such criticisms when valid is a hallmark of a successful person, including a change maker. We see this capacity periodically in Steve Jobs. For example, in 2008 the IPhone was criticized for being close, unopen to developers. Jobs at first responded that this was to protect the new device from being infected by viruses and the like, as computers are. However, secretly Jobs created an SDK development kit that enabled companies and smaller developers to make applications for the IPhone. Plus it was an extremely elegant solution. His shows an ability to be in touch with the market, as well as the ability to move on valid criticism. Many people are not able to make it to the level of change-maker and pioneer because they are unable to break through in these sorts of situations as Jobs has done in these instances.
Qualities that Impeded Success
It is certainly the case that Steve Jobs was abusive to others in his first stay at Apple. Many complained of being belittled for not doing things as Steve wished. Yet after being tossed out of and then returning to Apple his demeanor changed somewhat, as he became more tolerant, and also showed greater leadership and management skills in the company. He acquired this mellowness and corporate skills while "being in the desert" between stints at Apple, especially so at Pixar where he learned to appreciate the work of other people in the organization. Still he might not have fully outgrown his abusive tendencies, even though now much reduced.
- Smallness and Possessiveness
Jobs has certainly been criticized for his sometimes aggressive personality, his exceedingly demanding nature, his blistering verbal attacks on others, etc. To see how much that reflects more of the early Jobs than the later and how much it actually contributed to his success vs. the retarding of it is something worth investigating.
E.g., on close scrutiny, we do see that there is a smallness and possessiveness in his personality that dates back to his childhood -- perhaps inheriting this trait from previous family generations, or more certainly that he was an orphan as a child. That is marked contrast to a Bill Gates, who had less of the dynamic nature of Jobs, but was less possessive, and more expansive, particularly in his nurturing of multiple manufacturers of IBM compatible based on his DOS OS that enabled him to build an empire around the PC standard. Jobs' smallness and possessiveness accounts for why the Mac or Apple did not become the world standard. I.e. the outer life did not respond positively to his narrow, possessive nature, which wanted to be the sole outlet for the Mac. To repeat, it was born of some aggressive rebelliousness or other quality that formulated into a form of selfishness.
That aggressive rebelliousness of his childhood was always there. The fact that he was an orphan probably explains much of his character and his drive, including both the positive and negative side.
- Unbalanced Life
Jobs was predisposed to technology at the expense of other aspects of life, creating an imbalance that likely contributed to his eventually fatal illness. Too much focus in the area at the expense of other life aspects, such as an inquiry of the meaning of life or discovering its principles, such as the power of attraction and life response, can cause the inner being to revolt, leading to the onset of serious problems, particularly of a physical kind. Though a Buddhist in background and theory, there was not the sense that he practiced the right balance of things in life, as he favored constant discovery at the material level of new technologies. Technology is only a container or tool of Truth, but is not Truth and insight of life itself, which he could have explored and expressed more frequently inside of and outside work.
- Apple’s Quandary with IPhone
25 years ago, Jobs and Apple faced a quandary. Should it open the Mac to other companies to develop clones of it, or copies of their OS on other machines. They refused, allowing the IBM-PC and clones to dominate the market until this day. (Vista Windows sales are 300M to Apple's 25M units sold per year.)
Shoot ahead to today and Apple and Jobs are faced with the same quandary. IPhone vs. other Smartphones. Shall she allow for copies, or will Microsoft once again dominate through their Smartphone software through multiple vendors.
It is ironic that Apple and Jobs may soon be facing the same dilemma.
Will Jobs relinquish control, and possessiveness and be open as Gates was long ago, or as Google tries to be now. History repeats.
One encouraging development at Apple has been the development of its App Store were people around the world create applications for the IPhone using the Apple toolkit, which users can then purchase. They range from free to $10. What is encouraging here is that Steve Jobs and Apple seemed to be relinquishing a degree of control, rather than being so possessive as they have been in the past. In fact, that new approach has so far met with an avalanche of success. We can therefore conclude that life is responding to that opening in the Apple (And Steve Jobs) value system. If this is so, it portends very great things for Apple, particularly if it is able to maintain this technology and marketing approach, as well as extend it to other aspects of its business.
- Thin Skin of Apple Supporters”
What people don’t understand about Apple is that it more or less popularized the personal computer (the Apple I and II), then the modern graphic interface in the Mac, yet Windows created near copies of that technology, and left Apple in the dust. Apple people for 20 years have felt psychologically co-opted. Had Apple of course allowed for cloning of Mac OS as Dos and Windows did through IBM-compatible computers long ago, they might not have got themselves in that situation. This perceived unjustness, plus the culture of rebellion that has always been at Apple, causes Apple fans to feel this way. It is also intrinsically linked to the fact that they make wonderful, breakthrough products, and really until the IPod came along and its success were really not acknowledge for it. Thus, Apple fan crotchitiness issues from deep insecurity, injustice perpetrated on them and revolutionary zeal. Again, it might be that Apple reflects the genius as well as the intense rebelliousness of Steve Jobs, which reflects a certain smallness and possessiveness.