Steve Jobs was interested in the phone industry as early as 1984, according to his former boss, John Sculley. In an interview at the Young Turks conclave (reported by YourStory), Mr. Sculley said that even then Mr. Jobs was focused on the importance of saying no more often than you say yes.
John Sculley, Former CEO of Apple
"I remember we were working on Mac phones back in late 1984," Mr. Sculley said. "Steve was thinking about those kinds of products back then. He used to say, the most important things are not the things you build but also the things you don’t build. He was rigorous in the discipline of simplifying"
Context is king, and it's important to note that Mr. Jobs was undoubtedly talking about a Mac-OS based landline phone, not a cell phone. In 1984, the Mac and Mac OS itself were fresh off the press, and a Mac OS-based "mobile phone" at the time would have made the Motorola DynaTAC 8000 look like a RAZR.
It's also important to realize that while he didn't stipulate it, Mr. Sculley's point is that Steve Jobs rejected making a Mac phone. It was something he said no to, a notion that he frequently stressed when Apple began its incredible growth after the introduction of the iPod in 2001.
His replacement, current Apple CEO Tim Cook, has also repeated that notion, and it's safe to say this has been a cornerstone principle at Apple since Steve Jobs's return to the company in 1996.
Bill Gates & Steve Jobs
John Sculley's critics dismiss for any number of reasons—he didn't listen to Steve Jobs and let him leave Apple; he allowed Apple to become a bloated behemoth whose engineers ran amuck and did as they pleased; he was nothing more than a marketing guy with little vision whose time has come and gone.
All of these things have a greater or lesser degree of merit—we'll note that the Newton and the Knowledge Navigator were both brilliant ideas he contributed to and championed at Apple, and Mr. Sculley deserves credit for both—but there is one unassailable thing that John Sculley has that few others can claim. The man worked with Steve Jobs in the early days of the personal computer revolution, and he was an eye witness to some important history.
To that end, in the same interview, he offered some anecdotal thoughts about Steve Jobs and Bill Gates that we think is very interesting.
Bill Gates used to come quite often to see Steve that time, and both of them would sit for hours and argue over things. I would watch these two geniuses who have such different views about how the computer industry would evolve.
Steve was all about perfection, no compromises, he was not concerned about being the biggest company in the world. He wanted to build the most perfect company in the world. Bill was all about land grab. Both of them were right though. Both of them built incredible companies. Here were two entrepreneurs, both knew where the world was going, but very different ideas of how to get there.
There's a lot more in the full interview, and we recommend it as an interesting read.