Unheard 1998 Steve Jobs interview talks Apple and higher ed

Unheard 1998 interview reveals Steve Jobs’ thoughts on Apple and higher ed


Steve Jobs gives his commencement speech at Stanford in 2005. Photo: Stanford University
Photo: Stanford University

Right from the start, Apple has had one foot firmly in the education market. Today the conversation tends to be about getting iPads into schools around the world, but as far back as the 1980s Apple was cultivating relationships in the higher-education market — where it picked up some of its most loyal evangelists.

A newly published interview Steve Jobs gave to the Chronicle of Higher Education back in 1998 offers some pretty intriguing tidbits about Jobs’ approach to learning and his plans for Apple going into the new millennium.

If you’re interested in Jobs interviews (and what Apple fan isn’t?), this was recorded at an interesting time — shortly after Jobs returned to Apple, before it had released the iMac, aka the product that helped start turning the company around. It’s definitely worth a listen.

In 1998, Apple was still losing ground to competitors, particularly in the higher-education market. The interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education came about after the editor of the publication got Jobs’ attention with a story about the number of Macs declining on college campuses.

The person conducting the interview was a young reporter, just a couple of years out of college, who notes that, “This chance to sit down with Mr. Jobs was the biggest interview I’d ever been assigned.” Although it’s far from the most polished interview Jobs would ever be involved with (it somewhat awkwardly ends with the 20-something journalist, Jeffrey R. Young, handing Jobs his business card), it does yield some interesting observations — like Jobs saying that “Some of the best ideas that we’ve ever had have come from higher ed.”

There’s also an interesting brief discussion in which Jobs defends Apple’s vertical integration (e.g. making both hardware and software), which may sound like an obvious strategy today, but was much-criticized during the 1990s, when Windows was flying high.

Finally, it’s always fun to hear a bit of Jobs prickliness. While there’s not too much on display, it’s far from the groveling showing you might expect from a CEO returning to a beleaguered company after a few disappointing years himself. As the author notes:

“At the time we had hoped for a conversation, but what we got felt more like a deposition. Mr. Jobs was at times defensive and curt, and he often seemed impatient with our line of questioning. We knew he wasn’t going to spill any details about forthcoming products—his secrecy on that point was already legendary—but he was equally guarded on softball questions. He wouldn’t even reveal what campuses he liked to visit or who his personal heroes were.”

You can check out the interview in full below:

Source: Chronicle of Higher Education


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