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…”).
It’s commonly believed that Apple wouldn’t have nearly gone out of business if it had only licensed the Mac operting system to other computer makers, like Microsoft did. But John Sculley explains why that was impossible:
With the invention of the Macintosh in 1984, Steve Jobs commercialized modern graphical computing. But he oversaw another invention from that era that was just as brilliant but no one mentions these days.
There’s a great scene at the end of Bridge on the River Kwai when Alec Guinness’ character assess his career in the British Army and admits it’s been a disappointment. Ex-Apple CEO John Sculley takes a similar look at his stint at the top of Apple, and says the company made a big mistake when it hired him as CEO. It’s the most surprisingly frank admission I’ve ever heard anyone make about their career.
One of the first things Steve Jobs did on his return to Apple was kill the Newton, the brick-sized messagepad that some blame for dragging the company towards bankruptcy. But John Sculley argues that the Newton actually prevented Apple from going out of business.