Ex-Apple CEO John Sculley’s tenure at Apple was marked for a lack in innovation that eventually almost sunk the company, before Steve Jobs came back to rescue it in the late 90s. So he’s an expert in what makes a company go wrong.
According to Sculley, that’s just what is happening in the Tim Cook years. He says the company is experiencing another “lull in innovation” and needs to find its next creative leap.
Apple must overhaul its supply chain in a bid to make its iPhone cheaper and meet the demand of low-cost smartphones in emerging markets, according to former CEO John Sculley. The Cupertino company has enjoyed plenty of success with the device in the United States and Europe, but Sculley feels that going forward, Apple will need to depend on growth in emerging markets, where the handset’s premium price tag just won’t work.
Aren’t these the snazziest sneakers you’ve ever seen?
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was rarely seen with anything other than sneakers on his feet — except in the early 1970s when he went everywhere barefoot — and so it’s hardly surprising that at some point the Cupertino company was producing sneakers of its own. They weren’t on sale, though I’m sure they’d have been a hit, but they were issued to employees in the early 1990s.
The fantastic Letters of Note blog has posted an amazing letter that a 30-year old Bill Gates sent to John Sculley and Jean Louis Gassée back in June of 1985.
In the letter, Gates argues that Apple should license their hardware and operating system out to other companies, making Macintosh a “standard.” If that pitch sounds familiar, it should: after being ignored by Apple for six months, Microsoft took the idea and ran with it, bringing Windows to the world.
John Sculley, a former Apple CEO who was at the helm of the Cupertino company between 1983 and 1993, has no doubts that it can revolutionize the television set. If anyone’s going to change the experience and the “first principles” of TV, Sculley told the BBC in a recent interview, it’s going to be Apple.
In 1985, after a power struggle developed between Steve Jobs and John Sculley, Apple Computer’s charismatic co-founder was forced out of the company his vision had created. For the next twelve years, the company foundered, lost marketshare hand over fist and almost went bankrupt before Jobs returned to the company in 1997 to put things right.
We all know that story. Still, it’s amazing how just one item from the dark years can hilariously put the disconnect between pre- and post-Jobs Apple in sharp relief. Could anything better exemplify the now-amusing differences in vision between Apple under Jobs and Apple under Sculley than this 1987 relic, The Apple Catalogue?
A few weeks ago, we posted the video above to show how Apple saw Siri and the iPad coming back in 1987. We didn’t tell the story behind the video though, which is equally fascinating.
Back in 1986, Apple CEO John Sculley had a conversation with Apple Fellow Alan Kay, the revolutionary American computer scientist who coined the phrase “the best way to predict the future is to invent it.”
Kay pointed out to Sculley that almost all of Apple’s profits at the time came from the 512K Macintosh, Aldus PageMaker, Adobe’s Postscript and Apple’s LaserWriter 2.0 printer… all inventions that were lifted from Xerox PARC.
Then Kay said something chilling. “Next time, we won’t have Xerox.” Unless Apple started incubating its own great new ideas, the company would stagnate and wouldn’t have any new products down the road.
The result of Kay’s challenge to Sculley was this 1987 conceptual video of the Knowledge Navigator.
John Sculley, Apple's ex-CEO, talks for the first time about Steve Jobs. Illustration by Matthew Phelan.
In 1983, Steve Jobs wooed Pepsi executive John Sculley to Apple with one of the most famous lines in business: “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?”
Jobs and Sculley ran Apple together as co-CEOs, blending cutting edge technology (the first Mac) with cutting edge advertising (the famous 1984 ad) and world-class design. But it soon soured, and Sculley is best known today for forcing Jobs’ resignation after a boardroom battle for control of the company.
Now, for the first time, Sculley talks publicly about Steve Jobs and the secrets of his success. It’s the first interview Sculley has given on the subject of Steve Jobs since he was forced out of the company in 1993.
“There are many product development and marketing lessons I learned working with Steve in the early days,” says Sculley. “It’s impressive how he still sticks to his same first principles years later.”
He adds, “I don’t see any change in Steve’s first principles — except he’s gotten better and better at it.”
It’s long but worth reading because there are some awesome insights into how Jobs does things.
It’s also one of the frankest CEO interviews you’ll ever read. Sculley talks openly about Jobs and Apple, admits it was a mistake to hire him to run the company and that he knows little about computers. It’s rare for anyone, never mind a big-time CEO, to make such frank assessment of their career in public.
UPDATE: Here’s an audio version of the entire interview made by reader Rick Mansfield using OS X’s text-to-speech system. It’s a bit robotic (Rick used the “Alex” voice, which he says is “more than tolerable to listen to”) but you might enjoy it while commuting or at the gym. The audio is 52 minutes long and it’s a 45MB download. It’s in .m4a format, which will play on any iPod/iPhone, etc. Download it here (Option-Click the link; or right-click and choose “Save Linked File…”).