On the advice of a trusted source, I went and checked out Steve Jobs’ so-called “lost interview.” I guess this made sense since I had already referenced the interview.
Jobs on why tech companies start rotting from the inside at birth and become unable to save themselves.
They changed their product like once every ten years. To them a new product was a new sized bottle. So, if you were a product person you couldn’t change the course of that company very much. So, who influenced the success of Pepsico? The sales and marketing people. Therefore, they were the ones that got promoted and they were the ones that ran the company.
Well, for Pepsico that might have been ok. But, it turns out the same thing can happen to technology companies that get monopolies. Like, oh, IBM and Xerox. If you were a product person at IBM or Xerox, so you make a better copier or a better computer. So what? When you have a monopoly market share, the company’s not any more successful. So the people who can make the company more successful are the sales and marketing people. And they end up running the companies. And the product people get driven out of decision making forums. And the companies forget what it means to make great products.
Apple was only able to pursue radical, innovative change at the end of the 90s because they were a dead man walking. They transitioned from one of the most important computer makers in the 80s (and kind of the 90s) into a company that basically just sold music boxes. They were able to rethink and reboot everything, centered around good products and a vision for the future that has served them well.
His analysis of IBM’s PC success could easily have been written about Android.
IBM’s first product was terrible. It was really bad. And we made a mistake of not realizing a lot of other people had a very strong vested interest in helping IBM make it better. So, if it had just been up to IBM, they would have crashed and burned. But, IBM did have what I think is a genius in their approach, which was to have a lot of other people have a vested interest in their success. And that’s what saved them in the end.
The first Android phone, the G1, was terrible. And the Open Handset Alliance had a serious interest in making it work. Of course, this time around Apple didn’t ignore the competition, but the idea of attacking them on the basis of patents was very problematic. Their far better response was admitting eventual defeat and moving on to other areas where they’d hold an advantage, at least for a while, in places like tablets and televisions that don’t suck.
The first quote comes at around the 26 minute mark and the second one comes in around 29 minutes. You can find the interview at a whole bunch of places, like iTunes, Amazon and Netflix.