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My opinion after working for him (and writing this story) is he couldn't see obvious things everyone else could see, but he could see things no one else could. I fought with him over stores as did virtually everyone on the board of Apple, and it turned out he was right. Thank God he was stubborn enough to go forward with them. We all said it drove Gateway out of business, yada.



Thanks for that comment. People want to oversimplify Jobs, either as an asshole or as a genius. Reality is not so simple.


> he couldn't see obvious things everyone else could see, but he could see things no one else could.

This is probably the most accurate statement I can agree with about him with all that I currently know about him. I consider him eccentric in his own way but darn it I cannot deny he got results.


As a contraexample, I've always held that Steve giving up on the "no iTunes for Windows" decision saved the sales trajectory of the iPod, which paved the way for the iPhone/iPad.


And the App Store as well, Steve thought it would be best to do deals n an app by app basis. However note that in both cases he did relent. For all the stories about his intransigence he didn’t hire yes men and he did listen to the people he trusted.


Do we know that to be true? It seemed to me like they pulled the public SDK and App Store together much faster than they could have if it were a last minute change of direction.

And it further seemed to me that had Apple let developers write apps from day one, the quality of apps would have been far worse, with many developers basing their iPhone apps on the designs and logic flows of their existing Blackberry/Windows CE apps.

Looking back on it, I think they did—whether by design or by accident—exactly what they should have done.


It wasn't a last minute change of direction, they had about a year to put the DK and app store together. I believe the final decision was made shortly after SDC in 2007.

They couldn't have released an SDK in 2007 though, it simply didn't exist every system app was essentially put together by hand as part of the system and debugged and tested alongside the OS. At least that's what it sounds like from the interviews I've seen with developers on the project.


Though they've stuck to "no iTunes for Linux", which is just irritating.


Count your blessings.


Indeed. iTunes (for Windows) used to be so great, fast, clean, easy to use it immediately replaced WinAmp which we all used to use. It wasn’t just that it was the only software to support the iPod, in fact you could sync WinAmp to the iPod as well, there was no closed ecosystem yet, it was that iTunes was just better. Natively written for Windows, imported cds and organized metadata. Once they switched to HTML based and started pushing movies, it became awful.


Windows iTunes was never really intended to be a music player, I don't think. It was intended to be a Windows beachhead for "enough macOS" to talk to any and all consumer-electronics hardware Apple was producing.

This meant that, from the start, Apple knew that as they did more and more varied consumer-electronics plays, Windows iTunes would necessarily bloat into the monster it is today.


I don't know about all that. There's plenty of software out there that is much more complex and isn't as bloated. Granted multimedia software can get pretty 'heavy' but still. I feel like iTunes for Windows is very low priority and fewer resources are allocated towards it which I find a bit sad, I used to use iTunes for years and now I rather just listen to music off my phone or from a browser from Google All Music Access.

Although even my Google Play Music app seems to have some annoying bugs lately that are starting to irritate me, like if I download songs for offline listening and I'm connected to the internet it still redownloads the song. Or how it always winds up failing to download albums for offline listening despite it streaming just fine at the same time.

I mean I thought we solved playing audio files ages ago, most people listen to pretty standard audio files so I'm surprised we dont have snappier apps to listen to music with. I can totally see an Electron app emerging that gives a better experience than iTunes, which is embarrassing given how many resources have been allocated to iTunes as a whole.


Agreed. iTunes went from a joy to use to something I avoid at all costs these days.

It’s awful on iOS, Mac and Windows.


Why? I've had to spend time to set up a separate laptop with Windows 10 just for iTunes for my wife's mobile.

I get that iTunes is horrible, unintuitive software. (Where's Apple's famed user-centricity? This looks like really developer-centred software. To get to actual information about backups one has to know that there is seemingly only one way of doing so which is to click the small icon of an iPhone in one particular place.) But it's a pain to have to use some insecure second-class operating system just to access it. (I have neither the money nor the interest in setting a MacOS machine just for iTunes.)


Did he simply relent to someone else's pleadings? Or did he see something to change his mind, e.g. a demo of the Windows Carbon shim library proving was possible to bring the macOS aesthetics and features to a Windows iTunes?


In the Issacson biography:

"He didn’t want to make a Windows version of the iPod and iTunes; when all of his lieutenants fought him on it, he eventually conceded they were right, though grudgingly: “Screw it. I’m sick of listening to you assholes. Go do whatever the hell you want.”

http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2011/10/...


Not sure why your comment is dead, but I vouched for it since it appears you are the author of the original article everyone is commenting on.


> I fought with him over stores as did virtually everyone on the board of Apple, and it turned out he was right.

He actually goes into depth about why Apple stores were necessary in a talk he did at MIT in 1992 [0][1]. Was it that he was not nearly as articulate in person with his team, as he was in this video?

EDIT: Luckily, the transcript is available. The money quote is:

" ... current distribution channels for the computer industry over the last several years have lost their ability to create demand. They can fulfill demand, but they can't create it. If a new product comes out, you're lucky if you can find somebody at the computer store that even knows how to demo it. So the more innovative the product is, the more revolutionary it is and not just an incremental improvement, the more you're stuck [in getting people to try learn about it enough to try it out]."

Here's a fuller quote:

There are some things I can't talk about here. In addition to that, if you look at how we sell our computers right now, we have a sales force in the US of about 130 professionals in the field out selling NeXT computers. They spend 90% of their time selling NeXTSTEP software, and then 10% of their time selling the hardware.

In other words, if they can get the customer to buy into NeXTSTEP, then they're going to sell the hardware, because right now we have the only hardware it runs on. So they are out there selling NeXTSTEP right now. And this is what is required to launch a new innovative product. The current distribution channels for the computer industry over the last several years have lost their ability to create demand.

They can fulfill demand, but they can't create it. If a new product comes out, you're lucky if you can find somebody at the computer store that even knows how to demo it. So the more innovative the product is, the more revolutionary it is and not just an incremental improvement, the more you're stuck. Because the existing channel is only fulfilling demand. Matter of fact, it's getting so bad, that it's getting wiped out, because there are more efficient channels to fulfill demand, like the telephone and Federal Express. So we're seeing the channel become condensed on its way to I think just telebusiness.

So how does one bring innovation to the marketplace? We believe the only way we know how to do it right now is with the direct sales force, out there in front of customers showing them the products in the environment of their own problems, and discussing how those problems can be mated with these solutions.

[0] https://infinitehistory.mit.edu/video/steve-jobs-next-comput...

[1] https://youtu.be/Gk-9Fd2mEnI


That's a great find. I hadn't seen that. I didn't even remember him saying this. We did try to sell through VARs who were supposedly a higher-end channel. Sun had a lot of luck with VARs, I understand.


Thanks for this perspective. I wish I could save comments the way I can favorite posts, so I'm replying as a workaround.

It gives me new perspective on the value and purpose of the Apple Stores, which I previously viewed as just a luxury shopping experience as window dressing on the usual consumer electronics buying experience. That's still a big part of it, but your quote explains the deeper value.

It also explains to me why Microsoft chose to follow suite with their own Microsoft Stores, although I still wonder why theirs aren't as successful. It's always amusing and a bit sad to go to the Valley Fair Mall in Santa Clara, where the Microsoft Store is literally right across from the Apple Store, but Apple is packed where Microsoft is a ghost town. What secret sauce are they missing? My thought is that the Microsoft brand is still poison to the average consumer.


The thing to remember about the Apple store is that it made world class computers accessible to the masses.

In the old days, a Thinkpad or Toshiba Tecra were only seen by commercial accounts and college kids. Your only way to see and touch an expensive ($2k in 98-2000) purchase was some awful bolted down display at CompUSA or BestBuy. And you only saw shitty consumer product, and were stuck dealing with a salesman of questionable knowledge looking for a warranty spiff.

The Microsoft vs Apple store thing is easy — they are selling the same dreck, spiffed up with a few first party products.


Given that the average salary in many countries is way below 1000 € per month, I would disagree with "world class computers accessible to the masses".


You actually can save comments. Click the time stamp in the comment header to present the comment in isolation, then click “favorite”.


Microsoft has never been great at marketing.

Steve put so much effort into giving Apple products life, figuratively. For example, he would call the iphone, "iphone", not "an iphone" and was adamant about it. Almost giving existence to it. Also, the way he introduced products was brilliant. He was a master at teasing the public and peaking interest prior to product launch.

Where Microsoft would release products akin to the Zune..in brown, or products with unmemorable names like 'Surface Pro x', with very little marketing. I've always thought MS has interesting products and they have been first to market many times. However, due to lack of marketing, they didn't gain traction.


> What secret sauce are they missing?

I remember someone on ESPN segment which had been sponsored by Microsoft and the people on the screen were using MS Surface but the commentator said we are using an Ipad like device.

I guess MS needs some innovate ads which will tell people what MS does in the consumer space.


It's even worse than that! MS spent $400 million to sponsor the NFL and provided many Microsoft Surface Pro devices, and the week they debuted, all the announcers called them "iPads." So MS threw a fit, and rightly so, and the next week all the announcers called them "iPad-like devices" instead.

I mean: "iPad" is two syllables, short and sweet, and MS wanted people to call the devices the "Microsoft Surface Pro," six syllables that don't exactly roll off the tongue.

That's not even getting into how they packaged all of those Surface Pros in gigantic blue padded cases, giving the impression that Microsoft's version of the iPad was big and clunky. Necessary for use on the sidelines, I'm sure, but not well thought out.


That MS Store used to be a ghost town. It's pretty crowded on weekends now with people playing with Surface Book, Surface Studio.


If you click on the time stamp of a comment you can then save/ fav it.

I just found this out recently too, not a new member either!


> So we're seeing the channel become condensed on its way to I think just telebusiness.

Stealth prediction of Amazon. If you know what you want, you order it online (until Amazon kills itself with counterfeits.) If you don't know what you want, you go to a store.


Amazon should figure this out soon. They just need to improve the way to get after counterfeits by having a clear and concise way for attorneys and manufacturers to report what fake stuff is being hocked. Right now Amazon is too segregated internally to get the guilty parties off their platform (quickly). Consider how many of those there might be. Meanwhile the manufacturers are too paranoid to sell on Amazon because they view them as competition. Once walmat and microsoft team up for some bar lifting you will only see a better version of Amazon with respect to counterfeits.

-3rd party Amazon seller.


That's a great quote and the argument sounds convincing but worth remembering that, in terms of sales numbers, NeXT was a wart on the arse of other manufacturers selling workstation computers, like Sun Microsystems, which suggests they weren't doing an amazing job of mating "those problems with these solutions" on the software front.

The software was fantastic, and thankfully Apple acquired NeXT, but let's be honest: if NeXT hadn't been acquired (by somebody) their days were numbered.


Sales numbers over what time period? NeXT reverse-acquired Apple and sold hundreds of millions of units. Sun not so much. The vision of UNIX for everyone, under a best-in-class UI, was very powerful.


Umm, sorry, where are you getting "hundreds of millions of units" from?

Official figures are hard to come by but estimates suggest that NeXT sold about 50,000 units over its entire lifetime. The company had to stop manufacturing hardware and was very much dying.

You could classify the deal with Apple as a merger in that both companies were in a certain amount of trouble by that point and needed eachother (or some other merger partner) for survival, but Apple had a lot more runway. They did, after all, hand over $429 million in cash for NeXT, plus some quantity of shares.


It was literally a merger on paper, for what that’s worth. NeXT were also close to an IPO and their dev tools were second to none. WebObjects and EOF were first rate products easily worth hundreds of millions to the right people in their own right.


That distortion field is very powerful, I see. NeXT failed as an enterprise. It was close to going the way of the Lisp Machines.


Oh yeah. I have no doubt they were failing. But those two pieces of tech were very smart for their time.


Yes, I, too, saw that demo from the 80's. But the best tech doesn't always win :)


I don’t think EOF is from the 80s. WebObjects certainly isn’t.


I mean it was going to be NeXT or BeOS right? Seems like they couldn't have gone wrong with either.


I dunno. BeOS would have helped overcome some of their technical debt, but that alone would have not fundamentally changed Apple's 1996 market position. And don't forget, Be technology was not battle-tested, it was not multi-platform, it wasn't even multi-user.

NeXT technology didn't just overcome technical debt, it became a solid foundation for over two decades worth of cutting-edge software, hardware and product development by Apple. It remains one of Apple's greatest technical assets. But again, the technology alone would not have fundamentally changed Apple's 1996 market position.

Apple's market position was turned around by Steve Jobs, the "freebie" included in the NeXT acquisition.


That money quote is great. It strikes me that that's exactly where the toy market is today, as well. There is a reason Toys R Us crashed: you can go into a toy store and buy a toy, but you can do that just as well on Amazon. Current toy stores offer no way to discover and learn about toys you don't already know about. (Exception: gaming stores. Weekly collectible-card-game nights are a great way to discover said card game.)


I am amazed how much truth there is in these paragraphs, esp for B2B cos.


Great video. Thanks!


Thank you for writing this and sharing your thoughts. That was the impression I got from your piece too - that he had a knack for seeing past the obvious.

But the fact that you felt you "have to do the right thing and keep it secret from Steve until later" speaks volumes to Steve's leadership style. If everyone has to walk eggshells around you, that's a sign you're prone to flip out on them.

Being stubborn is not the same thing as being hostile. I wonder if steve ever learned how to separate the two.


That's a good point we never see. Being stubborn in a nice way is possible but it doesn't work as well as being an asshole that can end any debate really quickly.


Chris, another amazing story! Others have already said, but you really should consider writing a book. Not only the stories are great, but you have a a great and engaging writing style. Also loved your other story, about Unix Expo.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17420674


How much of the success of apple is the combination of Tim Cook and Jony Ive then? Where can we draw the line from them and what made Steve a critical piece of the puzzle.


Timing.

As a founder, Steve gets to take at least partial credit for hiring Cook in 1998, although I believe Ive joined in 1992 while Jobs was absent.

It all comes back to Jobs being a founder, and the dramatic turnaround in Apple's fortunes that clearly began at his return in 1997.




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