Larry Ellison loves Steve Jobs. They hung out together. They were best friends.
Hell, when Steve was in exile, Larry even offered to use his money to buy Apple so Steve could return as CEO. (See the Steve Jobs biography.)
On top of that, Larry knows a thing or two about the technology business and what it takes to run a company.
However, like everyone else on this planet, Larry is capable of being exquisitely wrong — even when he talks about his great friend.
Here are two examples, starting with his most recent:
1. We all know what will happen to Apple without Steve Jobs.
In the Charlie Rose interview above, Ellison makes a very matter-of-fact statement about Apple’s future without Jobs’ leadership.
Basically, he says that we’ve already seen how bad Apple was without Steve and how amazing it was with him. Therefore, it’s obvious what’s bound to happen next.
Unfortunately, one can’t compare the Apple of 1985 to the Apple of today.
When Steve left Apple in 1985, the company continued its struggle to find a formula for success. To no avail, it kept trying to crack the business market. It stumbled when trying to break new ground (Newton).
When Steve returned in 1997, he demonstrated the winning formula: keep innovating, love the customers and never compromise on quality.
The 1985 Apple was a fledgling company with many question marks. The Apple Steve left behind more recently is mature, with a super-strong sense of identity. It understands that innovation is its lifeblood.
During his second time around, Steve put a lot of work into building a foundation for Apple’s future success — which was not the case in 1985.
So the ending to this story isn’t nearly as conclusive as Larry Ellison might think.
Let us also note that back in 2012, Ellison said Apple won’t be the same without Steve Jobs, but that it will “thrive without him.” Make up your mind!
2. Apple should never have fired Steve Jobs.
Referring to H.P.’s firing of Mark Hurd in 2010, Ellison said in an email to The New York Times: “H.P. just made the worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple board fired Steve Jobs many years ago.”
Clearly Steve and Apple made business history together. But they likely would not have achieved such spectacular success had Steve not spent all those years away from Apple.
Steve matured as a business leader at NeXT, having to start a new company from scratch. He acquired Pixar and gained a world of experience there. He developed NeXTSTEP software at NeXT, which became the much-needed foundation for Apple’s operating systems of the future, Mac OS X and iOS. Some of the most important experiences of Steve Jobs’ life occurred during his time away from Apple.
Of course, back in 1985, no one could possibly know how things were going to play out. But knowing what we know today, it’s hard to imagine Hollywood producing a more perfect script.
Many factors all came together to make Steve a success when he returned to Apple in 1997 — none of which would have existed had the board never sent him packing.
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