Before the disastrous launch of Apple Maps, one of Apple’s biggest failures of all-time was the launch of MobileMe. Apple set a group of engineers out to rebrand .Mac and create a new cloud-based product that totally fell over the night it launched.
Steve Jobs famously met with the entire MobileMe team in the campus auditorium and fired the manger of the project on the spot. Then he told everyone, “you’ve tarnished Apple’s reputation … You should hate each other for having let each other down.” It was one of Steve Jobs’ most famous tough-leader moments, but according to one insider, Steve should have been yelling at himself because the MobileMe launch failure was really his fault.
Erin Caton was an Engineering Project Manager on the MobileMe project. In a recent post on Medium, Caton claims that Steve Jobs deserved most of the blame for MobileMe’s launch by creating a company where the employees couldn’t voice their concern about the project to Apple leadership.
In her post, Caton says that the MobileMe team didn’t feel confident about the launch date for a long time, so they gave a number of suggestions to leadership so the launch wouldn’t be a giant production but still be successful. No one listened, so the team kept on. Then when MobileMe launched, and it failed, the engineering team behind it worked 24/7 to get it back up.
“Once it was up, we (at least a hundred of us) got called into a meeting with Steve Jobs. We all walked over to the building like we were headed to the guillotine. He stood in front of us and yelled at us, told us that we should be mad at each other, said we could have done a staggered launch and complained that we didn’t even try to do all the things that we (those on the ground floor of production that actuallymake the fucking products of the world) had been begging to do. It was the world’s best de-motivational speech.
Now, regardless of whether no one in the inner sanctum of dudes-that-Steve-listened-to-at-the-time told him all the things we told our bosses, or who-up-the-chain-of-command was not brave enough to suggest we do something not-Apple-like — this was the system that Steve created. He made himself so fearful and terrible that an entire group of amazing, talented, hard working people, ended up getting screamed at wrongfully. It was his fault that the MobileMe launch went so poorly, not ours.”
Caton’s post is meant to be a warning to young Silicon Valley CEOs who think Steve Jobs is a leader worth emulating, but it also has some great details on what it’s like to work at Apple – including getting cut by Steve Jobs in the sushi line at the cafeteria.