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For six years, the Internet Nexus served as my technology blog, but I've since started blogging at the SuperSite Blog instead. If you're looking for the blog, please head there. --Paul

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Recalling Apple's Early Days

The Providence Journal (free membership required):
The man who guided Apple Computer through its early glory years offered a group of Brown University entrepreneurs some advice, and anecdotes, and even some brutally honest self-criticism.

"I'm a terrible manager," said John Sculley, 67, a former chief executive officer of Apple Computer, who ran the company from 1983 until 1993. "But I'm a half-decent idea person, and so I try to match myself up with people who complement the areas I'm not particularly strong in."

Sculley heaped praise on Apple cofounder Steve Jobs, despite having ousted Jobs from the company in 1985.

"Real genius is seeing something that is totally obvious, maybe 20 years ahead of anybody else," Sculley said. "Steve Jobs would be a real example of that. Steve saw where all of this was going long before any of this existed."

"When I went to Apple -- and I take no credit for any of the vision at Apple, this was purely Steve Jobs' vision -- my job was to help bring big brand marketing to Silicon Valley" and to get people to think of a computer as something they needed.

Sculley and his team at Apple succeeded. During his 10-year tenure, Apple's sales rose from $1 billion a year to $10 billion. The company went from being a maker of a hobbyist's toy to a powerhouse in the desktop publishing industry that attained a near religious following among customers.

But what he didn't see coming, he said, was a new model for making and selling computers, pioneered by a student at a Texas university -- Michael Dell.

Dell undercut Apple's prices by building computers from easily attainable components. He sold them directly to customers, customized with the features they wanted.

"What we entirely missed -- my watch, I missed it -- was that someone else could innovate around the intangibles of the supply chain."

Apple was instead focusing on "cool stuff," such as the design of its computers, desktop publishing systems, and its new laptop computer.
Maybe Apple hasn't really changed all that much, when you think about it.

I've always been fascinated by John Sculley and the early days at Apple Computer. I recall plopping down on a couch at the Arizona State University campus in 1993, shocked to discover via US Today that he had been ousted from the company. Obviously, Sculley is a bit of an enigma. He is and should be credited with taking the company down a hugely successful route in the late 1980's. But he also forfeited Apple's future when he declined overtures from Bill Gates and Microsoft to let the Mac OS become the default OS on PCs. A few years later, a renewed Windows pushed Mac OS aside and the rest, as they say, is history. Like Sculley now, I suppose.


[ Posted at 10:53 AM | Permalink ]


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