steve jobs

Apr 14

John Sculley apologizes again—but shouldn’t

John Sculley isn’t exactly a favorite amongst Apple fans. He will forever be the man who sent Steve Jobs into exile.

Given the astronomical success of Apple following Steve’s return in 1997, it’s understandable why Sculley would say it was a “mistake” to send Steve packing. He’s said it before and he just said it again.

Get over it, John.

You may have blundered through that particular period of time, but in a weird way you can actually take credit for Apple’s — and Steve Jobs’ — great success.

Because of you, a young, passionate and inexperienced Steve matured in a way he wouldn’t have otherwise.

Being cast out of Apple was what forced Steve to reassess his life. It was during those years of exile that he matured, learning the skills he was lacking in 1985. Continue reading →

Apr 14

Apple’s little advertising crisis

Phil – and his email – get their day in court

Corporate legal dramas often serve as a reminder to one of the new cardinal rules of business:

Watch what you say in email.

I suspect there are a few people at Apple and its ad agency TBWA\Chiat\Day who wish they could take their messages back, now that Samsung’s lawyers have introduced them as evidence.

One email from Phil Schiller to Tim Cook says that Apple “may need to start a search for a new agency … we are not getting what we need from [Chiat] and haven’t been for a while.”

Tim’s reply: “If we need to do this, we should get going.”


This all happened in 2013, so who knows if it’s blown over by now. But given Steve Jobs’ long-running relationship with Chiat, this potentially represents a huge break from the past.

A little perspective is in order. Continue reading →

Mar 14

One of Steve Jobs’ greatest talents: caring

Before iPhone, there was another tool Steve Jobs used to great effect.

It’s always fun to read stories about people’s chance encounters with Steve Jobs.

A recent one came from an anonymous person who “had a friend” who had such an encounter.

Okay, it does sound a bit suspicious. We all know there’s a lot of fantasy out there. However, I find this story to be perfectly plausible — mainly because it’s quite consistent with the everyday Steve behavior I witnessed myself.

As this story goes, the “friend” — who worked for a talent agency — hung up on Steve Jobs twice because he thought he was being pranked. But in fact it was Steve, calling to force a change in Justin Long’s schedule so he could shoot some new Mac vs. PC ads.

That simple phone call (or several calls, in this case) illuminates a side of Steve that most people don’t think about. That is: he cared. Continue reading →

Aug 13

Steve Jobs as entertainment

Steve Jobs has been many things to many people.

But until I made it to the theater yesterday to see “Jobs,” I never really thought of him as entertainment.

I actually mean this in a positive way. Unless we’re talking about documentaries playing in art houses, movies aren’t expected to lay out the facts. They’re designed to keep us amused or engrossed for a couple of hours.

For me, this one did that.

Admittedly, I took my seat with a few biases and preconceptions — some of which hit me when the project was first announced. Lightweight actor. Director with short resume. Screenwriter with no resume. An absurd title (originally called “jOBS). And a horribly written website to boot. It all seemed amateurish, being rushed into production upon Steve’s death.

Several months ago, I got an early opinion from a former Apple executive who’d been invited to an advance screening. He was surprised that Ashton had done such a good job, even though he felt that the screenplay made Steve too one-dimensional. He pronounced the movie “fun and entertaining.” Continue reading →

Aug 13

Larry Ellison gets Steve Jobs wrong — twice

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. Continue reading →

Feb 13

Microsoft’s uncool quest for cool

In the technology biz, “cool” is a very good thing to be. Ask Apple. Its past revolutions were fueled by the ever-present aura of cool.

But where exactly does cool come from? One thing is for certain: it doesn’t come from standing on a mountaintop and screaming “we’re cool!”

This is apparently one marketing lesson Microsoft has never learned. Because just a few days ago, it stood on a mountaintop (The Grammys broadcast) and screamed its coolness with the above Surface Pro commercial.

Let’s start with the obvious: it isn’t cool. If I had to categorize it, I’d say this spot falls somewhere between “retro” and “embarrassing.” Continue reading →

Jan 13

jOBS movie: lowered expectations alert

The first Steve Jobs movie is almost upon us. The indie film titled jOBS will debut as the closing act at Sundance tonight, and will appear in theaters on April 19th.

There are conflicting signs about the quality of what we might expect.

Let’s start with the positive. A colleague who was close to Steve recently attended a pre-screening of the film, and he thought it was a lot of fun to watch. It was good to see the Apple story getting its time on the big screen.

He did, however, add an important disclaimer: if you knew Steve, you’ll likely feel that the Ashton Kutcher’s portrayal is “one-dimensional.” Kutcher exhibits one facet of Steve’s personality per scene, while the real Steve was a deeper, more complex person. Continue reading →

Aug 12

Where do bad ads come from?

In the wake of Apple’s now-retracted Genius commercials, I received quite a few emails asking:

“How could that even happen?”

Good question. However, a much bigger question is, why does any company end up with a bad ad? Turn on the TV any given night and you’re sure to see an impressive display of world-class clunkers.

Where does all the badness come from?

Though mediocre creative people do exist, more often the problem is mediocre clients. The marketing directors at many companies (1) don’t have terrific advertising taste, (2) don’t appreciate the power of creativity, or (3) are unwilling to stand up to their superiors. Continue reading →

Aug 12

Steve Jobs, research & common sense

When people say that Steve Jobs had vision, they’re talking about his ability to see where the world was headed.

However, he had another vision-related talent that was every bit as amazing. He could clearly see what was right in front of him. Many of his opinions and decisions were based on simple common sense.

And as was demonstrated by the technology press recently, common sense isn’t all that common.

I was surprised by the many articles written about research conducted by an operation called YouGen.

YouGen concluded that Apple now enjoys greater appeal with older customers than young ones. Valid or not, that finding ran contrary to public perception, so the story spread far and wide. Continue reading →

Jul 12

Maybe Sculley wasn’t so $#@ after all?

Quick. When you hear the name John Sculley, what comes to mind?

Conspirator? Failed CEO? Uh, visionary?

As we all know, Sculley’s attempts to fill Steve’s visionary shoes didn’t quite pan out. Newton was a good idea, lacking only in the technology that would make it work well. (Though it did provide excellent fodder for the late-night comics).

Sculley’s most revolutionary idea was the Knowledge Navigator. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a product — it was just a video. It was his vision of Apple’s computing future. Continue reading →