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.
I think that televisions are unnecessarily complex. The irony is that as the pictures get better and the choice of content gets broader, that the complexity of the experience of using the television gets more and more complicated.
So it seems exactly the sort of problem that if anyone is going to change the experience of what the first principles are, it is going to be Apple.
Sculley, who is now an investor and director to several Silicon Valley companies, confessed that he has yet to read Walter Isaacson’s biography on Steve Jobs. But he says he has heard a lot about it, and that the books dispels a number of “myths,” one of which was that Sculley fired Jobs while he was CEO, and the other that the company was on the verge of collapse before Jobs returned:
When I left Apple it had $2bn of cash.
It was the most profitable computer company in the world – not just personal computers – and Apple was the number one selling computer. So the myth that I fired Steve wasn’t true and the myth that I destroyed Apple, that wasn’t true either.
Sculley insists that he and Steve had “a terrific relationship when things were going well.” But admits they did fall out when things weren’t going so smoothly:
When the Macintosh Office was introduced in 1985 and failed Steve went into a very deep funk. He was depressed, and he and I had a major disagreement where he wanted to cut the price of the Macintosh and I wanted to focus on the Apple II because we were a public company.
That’s what led to the disagreement and the showdown between me and Steve and eventually the board investigated it and agreed that my position was the one they wanted to support.
Sculley notes, however, that the disagreement wasn’t about him and Steve, but rather the technology:
Ironically it was all about Moore’s law and it wasn’t about Steve and me. Computers just weren’t powerful enough in 1985 to do the very rigorous graphics that you had to be able to do for laser printing, and ironically it was only 18 months later when computers were powerful enough that we renamed the Mac Office, Desktop Publishing and it became wildly successful.
It wasn’t my idea, it was all Steve’s stuff, but he was just a year and a half too early.
Sculley goes on to talk about the Apple Newton, a failed project he took charge of, and admits it was “probably 15 years too early.” If you’re an Apple fan, the interview is well worth a read.