BusinessWeek has published one of the best interviews we have yet read with Apple CEO Steve Jobs. The interview covers a wide variety of topics including the nature of innovation (several themes regarding that), what happened to Apple in the early and mid 1990s, how Apple works today, what Mr. Jobs finds important, the nature of Mac loyalty (hint: itis not the "church of Mac") and more.
In the following excerpt, for instance, Steve Jobs talks about how companies innovate, and what happens to them after that initial innovation. Perhaps more interestingly, he illustrates his point by using Microsoft as an example. From the interview:
Q: What can we learn from Appleis struggle to innovate during the decade before you returned in 1997?
A: You need a very product-oriented culture, even in a technology company. Lots of companies have tons of great engineers and smart people. But ultimately, there needs to be some gravitational force that pulls it all together. Otherwise, you can get great pieces of technology all floating around the universe. But it doesnit add up to much. Thatis what was missing at Apple for a while. There were bits and pieces of interesting things floating around, but not that gravitational pull.
People always ask me why did Apple really fail for those years, and itis easy to blame it on certain people or personalities. Certainly, there was some of that. But thereis a far more insightful way to think about it. Apple had a monopoly on the graphical user interface for almost 10 years. Thatis a long time. And how are monopolies lost? Think about it. Some very good product people invent some very good products, and the company achieves a monopoly.
But after that, the product people arenit the ones that drive the company forward anymore. Itis the marketing guys or the ones who expand the business into Latin America or whatever. Because whatis the point of focusing on making the product even better when the only company you can take business from is yourself?
So a different group of people start to move up. And who usually ends up running the show? The sales guy. John Akers at IBM (IBM ) is the consummate example. Then one day, the monopoly expires for whatever reason. But by then the best product people have left, or theyire no longer listened to. And so the company goes through this tumultuous time, and it either survives or it doesnit.
Q: Is this common in the industry?
A: Look at Microsoft (MSFT ) -- whois running Microsoft?
Q: Steve Ballmer.
A: Right, the sales guy. Case closed. And thatis what happened at Apple, as well.
There is much, much more in the two page interview, which we recommend as a very interesting read no matter your opinion of Apple.