Apple’s former CEO John Sculley, best known as the man who came to Apple and first mentored, and later clashed with, Steve Jobs, gives his take on the man, and the complicated relationship he shared with him.
The BBC caught up with Mr. Sculley at this years Consumer Electronics Show, and the interview is an interesting and informative look into a period of computer history that still fascinates us to this day.
Here are some excerpts:
You haven’t read the biography (Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson) – but you have discussed it with people who have. Some people have said neither you nor Mr Jobs come out particularly well from the book – do you have concerns about it?
I haven’t really thought about it too much because I know what went on back in the 1980s because I was there. …I think he captured Steve in the really good greatness of him, and from what I’ve heard from people who have read the book Walter Isaacson cleared up some of the myths – that I never really did fire Steve Jobs and that Apple was actually a very profitable company.
From reading the book there is a sense that when Steve Jobs spoke to you he would say everything you wanted to hear, but then behind your back he was highly critical of you. To what extent was he difficult to manage?
I think Steve and I had a terrific relationship when things were going well. He was really interested in consumer marketing because he believed that the future of the personal computing industry was about marketing computers the way we marketed big brand consumer products – Pepsi and Coke.
I was brought to Apple not because I knew anything about computers – building them – but because the company had to keep the Apple II commercially alive, it was near end of life, for three more years to generate enough cash so that Steve could build the Macintosh and have time to do that and launch the Mac successfully.
So during that time Steve and I got along great.
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.
We had to have the profits of the Apple II and we couldn’t afford to cut the price of the Macintosh because we needed the profits from the Apple II to show our earnings – not just to cover the Mac’s problems.
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.
Despite your problems in Apple you have remained active in the tech sector. Why do you remain so attached to it?
I never claimed to be a computer engineer, but I did train as an industrial designer and I am a consumer marketer and I am very comfortable dealing with complex businesses and complexity in general and simplifying it – basically a systems designer.
So what intrigues me about the businesses that I have invested in over the years is always about there has to be a better way of doing something and using technology as the game changer.
The complete interview can be found on the BBC website. I highly recommend it.