Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Steve Jobs on why Xerox failed (youtube.com)
97 points by tosh 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 86 comments

I do believe this is what's happening at Blizzard at the moment. The company has completely derailed in the last year. [1] And the fan response over several core franchises has been very vocal. Activision is literally ripping the soul out of these guys in order to justify crap like microtransactions; a concept that wasn't very Blizzard-like up until recently.

1: https://kotaku.com/with-activisions-influence-growing-blizza...

I had a few conversations with Blizzard devs during the now infamous panels.

They have no idea why people are angry with them. None. But that's not surprising, because they have no idea why their company was loved in the first place. They view users that balk at the imposition of exploitive business models as entitled internet trolls (nevermind that their most famous and successful product owner is literally a famous and successful internet troll).

How could they be so disconnected? Well, it seems there's a massive normative shift following WoW. Most of the staff I spoke with date to after the MMO's massive money-spewing success. They're in their mid-twenties and didn't really play early Blizz titles at the time they came out. The few greybeard OG nerds I spoke with that were there still got it but didn't care. The ones that cared left, the ones that didn't stayed.

Maybe they got tired of fighting back against the suits when Titan failed to become WoW2.0? I don't know.

Morhaime's departure, and his replacement, are emblematic of this this shift to post-WoW money inurement.

This is the first year I'm considering skipping my annual visit to Blizzcon.

Yeah this video have been reposted in Blizzard subs over reddit several times before. Honestly fits the company perfectly especially what they are doing with Diablo and WoW

They really haven’t been in that great a state since WoW released, and its just been going downhill from there

This interview in it’s full form lives on Netflix. It’s great from begging to end.

"Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview"


+1 this was my whole reason for commenting on this thread.

The Touch Bar is the perfect example of marketing people hijacking the product to push sales without helping customers.

I avoided upgrading to the new MacBooks for as long as possible because of everything I read about the the Touch Bar, how awful it is, etc. I finally upgraded and... it’s fine. Actually, I don’t really mind it at all, and sometimes it’s kind of delightful.

I tend to disagree. It’s effectively still doing the same thing by offering functions of the current application with a single direkt input.

Previously as F1-12 Buttons they were overloaded with OS functions such as brightness and audio controls, moving the application Functions to the fn+ combo key.

With the Touch Bar not only are buttons only available when applicable, they also allow for custom inputs such as a range instead of a binary click and their meaning is a lot more explicit with icons and text as opposed to F1-12

I actually think it’s more of a application support problem. If more applications offered better touchbar support I’d be happy about forgetting a series of hot key keystrokes.

"It's not our niche technology, it's the damn developers not supporting it!"

If only they have left the Esc key.

I may be a minority, but I like the touch bar. It opens a lot of possibilities for each kind of program. It's like bringing software to keyboard. But that's just me.

I love the concept of the Touch Bar. In practice, I never use it and it's not uncommon for freezing to occur when I'm trying to adjust the volume which really colors my perception of the whole thing.

I think the target market should be for non-professional users (who don't otherwise use external keyboards and have shortcuts memorized) which is why it's weird that it's a top of the line addition (obviously, a cost issue).

But it requires each application to write custom code to support. In a world where companies chose Electron over proper native development that is a no-go.

I remember that back then it was very hard to figure out which Apple computer to buy. Model names had proliferated, thanks to the marketing department, and you needed a spreadsheet to figure out the differences between them. One of the best things Steve ever did was to reduce the offerings to just "four great products." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VkVs4ZqWgN8

Ironically it has become too confusing to know which Iphone to buy. The X* naming convention isn't helping one bit either.

How is it hard to discern X vs XS compared to 7 and 7S?

Is X the newest? I don't really Apple, but I feel like models of the 8 or 9 came after the X.

I assume X means 10 like 'OS X', so I would assume it's the 10th gen iPhone, but I don't know.

the X models are the newest. There is no 9, the 8 is the last "non-X" model.

So whats the difference between the XR, XS, X max (is that a thing? Feel like I've heard that). Which iPhone has a notch? Which one has a home button still?

These are questions I've heard over the holidays from friends and family, questions that were unthinkable when Jobs ran Apple.

> XR, XS, X max... Which iPhone has a notch?

All of them.

> Which one has a home button still?

None of them.

> So whats the difference

<>S is the refresh, same as it's been for years. Max is the physically larger size, what used to be called the "Plus".

> These are questions I've heard over the holidays from friends and family, questions that were unthinkable when Jobs ran Apple.

I mean, Max/Plus is annoying, but I think Jobs was alive when iPhones refreshed with an S so this seems like a silly statement.

There are now 4 phones consumers are supposed to be aware of. On top of the naming scheme being confusing, most people who asked me during the holidays think Xs is just a smaller version of the X.

Frankly X was just a dumb name.

Sounds like the people you know don't want to do entry level reading on a $1000 purchase.

I don't know, would you intuit the model called the X or the XS (read: "excess") as being the bigger, better phone? How many others might have thought it was "Xtra Small"?

And even if you knew the XS was the refresh, would guess the XR preceeded or succeeded it? R comes before S, so maybe S is the newest?

Personally, the X naming feels like kind of a gaff.

That's exactly right. It's normally a purchased through a carrier's 2 year upgrade plan, and the expectation has been simplicity.

Why are we suddenly expected to do more research on various models when part of the reason why the iPhone was successful was due to it's simplicity?

Honestly, I have no idea what the differences between those models are.

I presume there are some processor differences and such, I think the X models don't have the home button, I think all the X models have the notch as it's where the camera/ir module for the face unlock is located.

I like that the iPhone X came around as OS X became macOS.

Feels like there's a disconnect in the marketing department.

And now we have

* 7 macs

* 4 ipads

* 4 iphones

* 2 tv's

17 products ?

Nope, just one luxury brand

It happens to a majority of companies when they grow. Product innovation seizes to exist as market share grows ('don't mess things up! don't be too risky!') and Sales takes ownership.

Well isn't it something like: in times of wealth sales & marketing take over to promote growth (like a CMO becomes the CEO); in rough times it's finances that take over to cut costs and prevent losses (like a CFO becomes the CEO)...

The thing is, for some big companies Product is under the wing of marketing in some way... even if product releases are from a selected internal catalog to fill local market needs.

> seizes


For Tim Cook it would be a good idea to take a closer look at this video...

While Tim Cook is no Marketing or Sales Person, he is definitely a number person. All the % growth, YoY, revenue etc.

One of the reason why Steve never initiated Stock buy back and were sitting on big pile of cash were simple, he could bet on products that might or might not make money. ( He was never really sure ) They will have enough resources to weather the storm. He knew technology moves so fast that one single misstep will means 2 - 3 years behind.

As bad as Apple might seems today ( they aren't bad... we just thought it could be better ), it is still far better than it was in the 90s.

In the 90s Apple was on the verge of bankruptcy, was dependent solely on the Mac, contracting rather than growing and had no operating system strategy.

Today, Apple earns 70b/year profit, is growing at 10% per year and is incredibly diversified. They could survive on any one of their businesses and in recent years grew two from nothing i.e. Services and Wearables into 1B+ businesses. And they still have their 1B/year content play starting in 2019 and they have AR glasses rumored for 2020.

And you think Apple is doing bad as a company ?

>( they aren't bad... we just thought it could be better )

And those points are precisely, numbers. In terms of Products, Three years after the introduction of MacBook Pro Touch Bar, I still think the previous gen MacBook Pro is much better. Four Years after introduction of Homekit, Nearly 7 years since they kicked out Scott forstall because of Apple Maps, and it is still pieces of crap outside US, UK and China. How Many years after App Stores? Think MacBook Air was long in the work? It was because of huge amount of criticism from MBP they decided to make a Retina MacBook Air just to shut us up. ( For the time being )

It is not that their numbers aren't doing good, but their product and services quality are declining. Most of their Product Line seems like a mess. And we are paying a premium for it, we are not iSheep, but that value proposition is declining everyday.

Oh, Did I mention All MacBook Pro TouchBar had a design flaw with Thunderbolt that increase the MacBook failure rate? Yes these things happen under Steve as well, but once these were known a new iteration of design would have been make a year later, instead we are sitting on the same shit for years.

But you still bought one and my guess will continue to buy them retelling stories of glory when the mac was best.

You are still part of there marketing machine.

What a completely thoughtless reply. No. MacBooks still offer an excellent value in part because MacOS is less of a tire fire than Windows 10 and the hardware is still near the top. They are premium product that continues to have outsized market share in the development and education segments. The iPhone ecosystem continues to offer distinct advantages over Android in terms of privacy, support and quality. And these facts are evidenced by the market. None of this will change overnight, but it can change and furthermore the thesis here is it will change if Apple doesn’t get its act together.

If you are invested to the point where you believe MacOS is less of a tire sale than any other operating systems the fact that you dislike the current product offerings compared to the past shouldn't matter to Apple. You will continue to buy because you have no other choice. Apple is better off taking profit from your customer segment and using the money for future investment.

For a company that size, "incredibly diversified" is a huge overstatement I think. They have devices (phones, tablets, computers, watches), 3rd party content store and... they all rely on each other (ecosystem effect), which makes them arguably even less diversified. Remove phones and (I believe) the whole company would just crash. How their plans for for new lines of business in 2019 and 2020 will be crucial.

Compare that to for example how Microsoft have split their dependence on Windows, and now have xbox, azure, office as truly diverse business lines. Or Amazon and their AWS division (their content still relies too much on Prime subscriptions coming from the store).

"Doing bad" is not a good description, but in terms of trajectory, they are far from a safe strategic bet right now.

It's the usual market disease of "growth above all" - apple's growth is slowing, ergo they're in trouble. Doesn't matter that the current revenues/profits are astronomical, only thing that matters is that it keeps getting more, more, more!

Lots of company don't have that expectations, management just have to be clear about it and happy with a PE of 7-10. You can't be a trillion dollar company and don't have growth.

I'm not a big Apple fan. I've bought some of their laptops after the transition to Intel, but slowly switched away when macOS became less of a priority.

That said, I think Apple is sitting on top of another blockbuster, similar to the iPhone in terms of impact, if they know how to play it well. I'm referring to the Apple Watch equipped with a non-invasive glucose sensor.

I realize that they have a bit of a regulatory battle to fight before releasing it. But the potential is immense. It will change how people eat, not just diabetics. It's pretty well established science now that if we reduce the area under the glucose curve (read minimize glucose spikes), we will age more slowly and we will reduce metabolic disease enormously.

> I've bought some of their laptops after the transition to Intel, but slowly switched away when macOS became less of a priority

I recall at one of his last keynotes Jobs pointed out that compared to what the iPhone and iPad were bringing in the Mac/macOS division was small by comparison but compared to computer companies like HP or Dell that Apple was shipping more units of higher quality products to fiercely loyal users/fans (this observation preceded announcements of new/upgraded computers iirc). I realize Apple has an obsession with Ferrari-like cool, slick looks to their laptops but I think a blue-collar, enterprise-aimed laptop that says "I'm a serious developer/business person, I will lug an 8 pound laptop if it gives me lots of RAM, lots of processing power, and an all day batter, even if it's not sexy but gets the job done more reliably than anything else in existence" would be a wildly popular product. In short: something like a Lenovo P series (with 8 cores, up to 128GB RAM and a full, QUALITY keyboard without the BS touchbar) but running macOS. Hell, steal the advertising memes that Ford and Chevy use for selling their trucks: an industrial-grade laptop workstation for the knowledge workers who make the knowledge economy work.

I would buy two right away.

> I'm referring to the Apple Watch equipped with a non-invasive glucose sensor.

As someone who has dated someone that is diabetic and now works with someone who is diabetic--someone who likes to sit at the cutting edge of technology and is even using hacked equipment to improve his experience--I don't think we have that technology yet.

We don’t, the latest commercial technology consists of disposable sensors that require a probe to penetrate the skin. Whoever brings something non-invasive (and reusable) to market will be raking it in whether they’re apple or not.

PKVitality has a sensor array that is pretty much non-invasive: https://www.pkvitality.com/ktrack-glucose/

There's also an alternative using radiofrequency: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4641327/

> PKVitality

That product doesn't exist yet, the video on the home page is 18 months old so it's probably not feasible / accurate.

Could you provide a source on the last claim? I am generally quite skeptic whenever I hear anything in food science as being represented as well-established.

Also, love your username, I grew up there!

Sure. This recent Nature Reviews Genetics paper should describe the basic associations between DNA methylation and glucose levels, as well as point you towards more specific literature:

Bagsvaerd is great. I was living in the Lyngby-Naerum-Birkeroed-Farum area for many years, working in formal methods. I hope to be back soon! Are you still in the area?

Thanks, I'll make sure to read that. Generally I am greatly frustrated about how little I know about 'physical things'. Like all my effort has always been poured into philosophy, mathematics, economics, and computer science, never leaving any time to appreciate physics, chemistry and engineering. Just the title of that paper has three words I don't know what mean!

I moved to Copenhagen, but I guess that qualifies as the area :P

It definitely does, a very nice area overall!

> We hate to ground your technological hopes, but Valencell, which licenses sensor technology to Samsung, Sony and the rest, says that noninvasive glucose tracking is impossible.

Not that I necessarily believe the quote, but I've seen no sign yet that it's likely to happen any time soon.

I think it's quite the opposite - I think Apple have always had issues with every product launch, but the number of people now using them, and the bar / expectations are so much higher - they can't catch a break, rightly so - they charge a premium, and for 10% of the cost you pay Apple you can get a competitors product that's 90% there.

Tim Cook & Apple's board have an absolutely stellar team of VP's, from customer service to engineering, but I think they've given themselves too much freedom in terms of "throwing shit at the wall and seeing what sticks". They're so comfortable with their brand, cash piles and whatnot, that they can release so many variants of so many products and not even worry about the wasted man-hours and resources spent on it.

I get the feeling there hasn't been anyone there taking a step back and going "Y'kno, we can totally do this, but we shouldn't".

Butterfly keyboard? I love how slim their laptops are now, but did they really have to go and re-engineer how a keyboard works? Even in its 3rd iteration, I have a space bar on an almost new Macbook Pro that just won't stop sticking.

iPhone XR? We've priced out the XS for most folks, but let's make a cheaper one too! Oh wait, we have the 8!

Watch Hermes? Or ceramic? Around the $3k mark you're in Rolex, Omega territory; and those watches will be worth more in a few years than anything Apple release.

Etc etc.

I don't know what motivates a lot of folks to buy Apple, but for me it boils down to:

- Stellar customer support

- Reliability & durability

I don't particularly care too much about having the latest / greatest hardware inside my products; but so far Apple are still lightyears ahead of the competition on those two fronts.

I can be pretty much anywhere in the world that has an apple store, walk in and get my keyboard issue sorted, and my many other iDevices have easily lasted a few years and are still going strong.

What you’re saying doesn’t make any sense to me. Tim Cook isn’t from a Sales/Marketing background whilst many of the VPs at Apple are from Product backgrounds. Also the company is one of the most product centric companies around.

Also under Tim Cook’s reign Apple has dominated the wearables market with a product that everybody dismissed in the beginning.

The Apple Watch was the last product Steve Jobs envisioned and planned. You can't put that on Tim Cook.

And right now they are being more number centric rather than innovation centric as in the past years.

No evidence Steve Jobs was involved in the planning/design of the Apple Watch. In fact during the Wired interview with Ive:

“Ive began dreaming about an Apple watch just after CEO Steve Jobs’ death in October 2011. He soon brought the idea to Dye and a small group of others in the design studio.”

And plenty of innovations for me: A12X/T2/W1 SOCs, FaceID, Apple Watch ECG, HomePod spatial detection, Beats1 Radio, Handoff/Continuity, Apple Pay.

Or the days of Apple without Steve Jobs for that matter.

I remember pretty clearly how we all thought Apple would be doomed while they were still struggling to bring Copland out.

Ironically these were times when a TON of new products came out. There probably never were more simultaneous Mac models in the market, and there was OpenDoc, CyberDog, Quickdraw GX, QuickDraw 3D, QuickTime VR, HotSauce, Game Sprockets.

The first few years of Steve 2.0 were largely about REDUCING the number of products, and improving the MARKETING. As for the products:

* There was the iMac, which was notable for having FEWER features. Sure there was USB, but everybody was complaining about their ADB and serial peripherals no longer working without dongles, and about the omission of a floppy drive (sound familiar?).

* There was the iBook, which certainly had an iconic look (especially the handle), but not one that had a lasting impact.

* The PowerBooks were nice designs.

* The Power Mac G3/G4 towers with the opening latch and handles were a really good product with a lasting form factor, in my opinion.

* The Power Mac G4 cube was a commercial disaster, doomed, among other things, by bad pricing positioning in a weakening economy (sound familiar?).

* And don't get me started about the hockey puck mouse — the kind of product design that tends to get forgotten in Steve Jobs nostalgia threads.

People give Tim Cook a hard time, but he’s objectively a brilliant executive. What people have been seeking since Jobs died is a spiritual leader, and, well, those don’t come around as often.

I will say though, the current jumble of iPhone models reminds me a lot of all the various power macs available when Jobs returned to Apple, got rid of them all, and established the 4-quadrant product line of personal/professional, desktop/portable.

Or Cook could just listen to the legions of formerly loyal iPhone customers who refuse to buy phones that don't have a 3.5mm plug or require one to use Face ID. Or the Mac users who are eternally pissed off that products are too expensive and under-equipped (Mac mini) or "intentionally broken" (Touch Bar on MacBook Pro) or forgotten (is the Mac Pro ever going to get a hardware update -- or the iPod Touch for that matter?). Innovation is good but don't ditch products that work (iPhone SE, iPod nano) in the name of "innovations" that are proven flops.

Formerly loyal customers are giving Apple TONS of great product ideas but they aren't listening.

I remeber the same arguments for serial ports, ethernet ports, ADB ports and optical drives. The headphone jack is gone and not coming back to the iPhone.

> The headphone jack is gone and not coming back to the iPhone.

Just like many former buyers of iPhone will not be coming back. Apple can "innovate" all they want, but customers aren't going to blindly buy it.

You can turn Face ID off, and Apple publicly stated the Mac Pro is coming in 2019.

I don't think you could make legions out of iPhone users not wanting Face ID.

I can't say the same for 3.5mm (although I think both groups are misguided).

Steve Jobs essentially described what was later coined "The Innovator's Dilemma"[1], but in a more general way.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Innovator%27s_Dilemma

Actually he didn’t.

The Innovators Dilemma is about making a product that “overserves” the market and for companies being afraid to introduce a cheaper “good enough” product.

Also the author of the Innovators Dilemma was laughably wrong about the iPhone.


> The Innovators Dilemma is about making a product that “overserves” the market and for companies being afraid to introduce a cheaper “good enough” product.

Isn't that essentially the problem Apple now has with:

* The high-end iPhones going up in price because of more expensive components, but not providing features users would be excited to upgrade for

* Not bringing a mid-range phone to the market

Whether that’s Apple’s problem or not is tangential to whether or not Jobs was describing the Innovators Dilemma.

But Apple’s main problem is not the high cost of phones. Apple’s problem are:

* The iPhone is good enough for most people and the upgrade cycle is lengthening. The iPhone 6s from 2015 is faster than midrange new Android phones and is actually still faster than even high end Android Phones in single core performance. No one is going to upgrade to a mid range phone. The iPhone 6s is still getting OS updates and probably will for at least two more years.

* the average selling price of an Android phone in $265 - $315 depending on which source you believe (https://www.cnet.com/news/why-your-iphone-and-android-will-c...). Even the low end iPhone SE was selling for more than that.

The 7 is a midrange Phone by iPhone standards and it is $475. If they dropped the price to $350, it would still be more than the average Android user would be willing to pay.

Yes the $329 iPad is proof that they could make a profitable iPhone that was good enough for most people. They charge an extra $130 for cellular and GPS but the chip couldn’t cost anymore than $30.

* I doubt that Apple could make a phone that was cheap enough to lure Chinese buyers and still be a decent phone.

Because the problem was known, acknowledged and understood before the book was released ? The book coined the name, not the effect.

WOW! I didn't knew the book was so new, and I thought Steve read it and understand it better than anyone else. Turns out he figure it out all by himself!

It is also worth mention a lot of people running the company properly know or read "The Innovator's Dilemma", but to actually understand and put things into action is a completely different things. Shareholders just don't like risk.

Wow. This applies to so many large tech companies today that have monopolies on their primary product and have repeatedly failed to really innovate since.

I try to consume anything Steve says in these types of video. He might have been a terrible person sometimes but he is the greatest business man ever.

I think the important question we all need to ask ourselves is whether he was successful because he was an asshole, or whether he was successful despite being an asshole?

A lot of people seem to think that 'asshole' is a stepping stone to success. With no evidence to support it either way, I try to live presuming that it was 'despite'. That Apple could have been ever greater had he managed to be assertive and strong without being abusive.

I vote “despite”.

I’ve seen this a lot. People are assholes when young and then they mature and manage to maintain their effectiveness while inflicting less damage.

I agree. Whatever he might have been in his personal life, his business sense, and marketing acumen really make it a pleasure to watch the keynotes, and video interviews.

Full disclaimer, I was a full-on Apple fanboi from the Nineties to the mid 2010s.

hope you cashed in on those shares !

Yes sir. Though I held on to a fair share.

It's from Triumph of the Nerds, worth watching the whole thing (3 hours long)


It’s on Amazon if you want to watch it: https://www.amazon.com/Triumph-of-the-Nerds/dp/B01N0KK5JQ

Reminds me of the online travel industry. I did some time with Travelocity, Orbitz, and Expedia. Now its all Expedia. Expedia was always better, but not because they had a better product, but because they were better at finance and relationships. Travelocity had the best two products in the industry: travel packages and branded white labels.

I remember in each of these companies there were easily more than 10x product development people as marketing and merchandising people, but marketing people ran the companies. They had no idea about craftsmanship. Many of their ideas were in opposition to product quality would ultimately kill Travelocity as a slow poison.

My timing into all of this was interesting. I got into this in late 2007. At that exact moment Travelocity concluded industry growth in North America was finished. People had finally come online and organic growth was done. Now the only growth remaining was competition. Within a year all the executives left.

When Travelocity started its internal collapse in 2013 (I was in Afghanistan at the time) their superior products still had strong value even as the company quickly lost marketshare and employees. On top of that Travelocity had the strongest brand of the online travel companies, which was the thing they really wanted. In 2014 the company was diced up. Orbitz got the white label partnership business and Expedia got the Travelocity brand. In 2015 Expedia put in an offer to purchase Orbitz. A third of Orbitz's value was that partner business it got from Travelocity, because it would provide growth potential to Expedia it couldn't build from its brand alone. Now Travelocity is about a 50 person marketing team of Expedia, but it accounts for about a third of Expedia's core online revenue. At its high in 2012 Travelocity was about a 3500 employee company under Sabre.

The interesting thing about being at all 3 is the similarities in marketing driven goals and the similarities in technology. The technologies, the front end and the Java webapp middleware, were nearly identical. Same sorts of bloat. Same sorts of shifting positions on frameworks. Same sorts of aged archaic code that continued to live on 15 years later.


This is why the two products I mentioned were the industry's best. Vacation packages (flight + hotel + other things) by far had the highest margin. When you go to an online travel agency they are always pushing you to purchase a hotel, because hotels have substantially higher margin than flights, (like $50 compared to $7), but vacations packages could be worth anywhere from 1.5x to 4x hotel margin. Travelocity figured this out the best and were able to offer the cheapest packages at the highest margin rates. That was a big deal.

When all things retail fail, as they eventually always will, contracted partnerships will continue to pay. In additional to financial security they provide access to industries, data, and financial schemes otherwise not available. If you are a growth strategist this is what you want.

A buddy of mine in the SEO space kept quitting Expedia to go work for the competition and finding himself back on the Expedia team via acquisitions. After the 3rd or so time he got so frustrated he quit the travel industry entirely lol.

Its kind of funny how Steve Jobs, dismiss all his analysis on the final sentence with “but anyway, it’s all ancient history now, doesn’t matter any more”

I thought so originally. But honestly, I think part of him is genuinely sad that Xerox failed the way it did.

He is Apple's Hari Seldon.

That's why Apple is failing

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact