Larry Ellison Really Said that Apple Won’t Do as Well Without Steve Jobs

| Analysis

CBS had us going on Monday with a clip of Larry Ellison seemingly saying that Apple will crash and burn without the late Steve Jobs. The full interview offers a slightly different take, however, one in which Mr. Ellison calls Steve Jobs "irreplaceable" and says that Apple won't do as well without him.

Mr. Ellison is right, of course. Steve Jobs is irreplaceable. Whether or not Apple can do as well without him remains to be seen. I've argued repeatedly that if you think Steve Jobs was the bee's knees (I do), you should believe him when he said that he rebuilt Apple to live on without him.

Mr. Jobs said just that to biographer Walter Isaacson.

That's neither here nor there, however, at least when it comes to the Larry Ellison interview with Charlie Rose that was aired Tuesday morning on CBS. Mr. Ellison was speaking as a grieving friend who lost his "best friend of 25 years" to cancer. He's allowed a bit of poetic license when discussing the impact of his friend's loss, and the very least thing anyone can say is that Apple (and the world) won't be the same without Steve Jobs.

So, let's look at the full interview as aired on CBS's website. It's a seven minute segment, and it includes some other interesting comments, too:

Note that it starts off with a bash on Google as a whole and Google CEO Larry Page in particular. He said that the only people in Silicon Valley that he tries to avoid are "the Google Guys," Larry Page "specifically."

Them's fightin' words, but Larry Ellison's company, Oracle, is already fighting with Google in court. Oracle (and Mr. Ellison) have accused Google of using Java code without permission.

"We just think they took our stuff," he said, referring to Java technology Oracle claims is used in Android development tools without permission. He went on to say that what Mr. Page did (according to Mr. Ellison) was "evil," making a distinction between actions and the man.

Moving on to Steve Jobs, Mr. Ellison said that he was brilliant, "He was our Edison. He was our Picaso. He was an incredible inventor."

In yesterday's mention of the CBS teaser video, I noted that when Charlie Rose asked what would happen to Apple without Steve Jobs, Mr. Ellison said:

We already know [what will happen to Apple without Steve]. We conducted the experiment. I mean, it’s been done. We saw Apple with Steve Jobs [raises hand]. We saw Apple without Steve Jobs [lowers hand]. We saw Apple with Steve Jobs [raises hand again]. Now, we’re gonna see Apple without Steve Jobs [lowers hand hand again].

It was a shrewd edit point by CBS to get folks interested in the full interview, but as noted above, Mr. Ellison's full comments offer a far more nuanced interpretation.

Mr. Rose said, "So you're shorting Apple," using stock terminology to say Mr. Ellison was betting that Apple would fall.

Mr. Ellison fired right back, however, saying, "I'm not shorting Apple. I like Tim Cook. I think there are a lot of talented people over there."

Charlie Rose challenged this, saying, "You just said Apple is going down without Steve Jobs. That's exactly what you said!"

"OK," Mr. Ellison said. "I'll say it publicly. Steve Jobs is irreplaceable. I don't see how...they will not be nearly so successful because he's gone."

Charlie Rose then showed why he is among the most respected interviewers in the business by asking, "Did you watch him die?"

That's a hard question,but it drew out a story about Mr. Ellison watching Steve Jobs's health deteriorate. He added that he reached a point where he decided that the medication he was on to fight his health problems was going to stop.

"He just pulled off the meds, I think on a Saturday or Sunday, and by the following Wednesday he was gone."

"There is no other Steve Jobs?" Mr. Rose asked.

Mr. Ellison replied that, "My eulogy began, 'I guess we're all told no one is irreplaceable I don't believe that.'"

The last two minutes of the interview are spent talking about the NSA's surveillance of communications within the U.S., a surveillance program that makes extensive use of Oracle's high-end database software.

Mr. Ellison said that he supports what the NSA is doing, calling it essential and noting that President Obama had called it essential. Mr. Rose asked at what point it could become a problem, and Larry Ellison said that it would cross a line if NSA surveillance became a tool to target political opponents.

Mr. Rose specified that Mr. Ellison refused to specify where the line was. Of course, Mr. Ellison's thoughts aren't going to play much of a role in policy, even though he's the third richest person in the U.S. It was interesting, however, to hear his take.

Popular TMO Stories


Lee Dronick

The problem is that the many people will not watch, and comment on, the entire interview, just what was taken out of context.

Interesting what said about surveillance, I am mostly with him on that.


Good interview. It got quite a bit of attention around the news circuit yesterday, including a detailed treatment on Bloomberg West.

I found the discussion about domestic surveillance the most intriguing. Whether one likes it or not, it’s here to stay. Those agencies tasked with insuring domestic security have historically used every available source of intel to do so; how could we expect them not to go after the horde that is big data? Furthermore, we appear to have far fewer qualms about the private sector combing through our data ( which as Ellison pointed out they’ve been doing for years, even prior to Google and FB), than we do about our governments, which strikes me as a combination of mistrust and naïveté; the former of what our governments will do with these data (despite their mandate to protect us), and the latter about what industry will do with them (despite their telling us they own out data indefinitely and have provided us no assurances as to how they will and will not us then).

As Spock would say, fascinating.


NB: that last sentence should read, “use them”. Autocorrect strikes again.


The problem with Ellison’s view of surveillance is that it trashes the constitution. The line is not when this data is used against political enemies. The line is drawn at the individuals right to privacy. They cannot legally do this without first amending the constitution.

Don’t we know the difference between collecting intel on foreign security threats and collecting intel on citizens? They tell us that nothing is being done with this data against citizens. How are we supposed to know that is true. Even it were true, there will come a day when someone will put it to use. Stop collecting. Or change the Constitution. Good luck trying to do that.

Lee Dronick

  The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

What defines an unreasonable search? A traffic cop monitoring an intersection for red light runners, is that unreasonable? Because that is in effect what is going on.

Opinions are strong on this. It may take a Supreme Court decision to settle it.



@Lee if all they are doing is monitoring Internet and wireless networks, then by all means let the issue go before the Supreme Court. The problem is that they are collecting data on citizens in case of who knows what. In addition to the fact that the NSA hires outside contractors who have clearance into this data stream; they don’t have control of these people and what they are doing. The whole thing is just one big top secret mess.

Lee Dronick

We can’t “let” the issue go to the Supreme Court, it has to be “brought” to it. Someone has to challange the law that currently allows this to go on.

I have mixed feelings on this. One one hand I don’t like people looking over my shoulder, but I very well know the reason why. A balance must be found.

Yes, get rid of the contractors or at least do a better job of vetting everyone involved.


Would the NSA need to spy on us if we weren’t such a warlike nation? One that wages war almost indiscriminately to protect the interests of the the wealthy owners and execs at companies that pay almost no taxes (property or income)? How does the spying done by NSA compare to that done by other democracies, like Canada, France, New Zealand, Australia?

Lee Dronick

Buck take a look at this story:

Other countries are also doing it

Lee Dronick

Just for clarification. The fact that most every country has some sort of domestic surveillance program doesn’t make it okay, or wrong, I am just saying that it happens.


Without moving too far afield of the original story, Lee, I would just say we as a nation should be setting the standard for protection of individual liberties. Not the ethical floor. This is an unreasonable search. Its not akin to watching an intersection for red-light-runners. Its closer, although not quite as bad,  as having cameras in our homes on the chance one of us is doing something wrong.

Lee Dronick

The discussion needs to be made and the direction given to our elected officials to carry out our decisions. Unfortunately only a few of us are discussing it, most people only care only about bread and circuses.


Skipaq, Lee, et al:

Just a quick technical comment about surveillance. The science of surveillance is poorly understood, even by many who conduct it for a living; specifically the issue of what constitutes surveillance vs a detailed investigation, such as eavesdropping and amassing targeted information.

Surveillance, if it is to be efficiently conducted, is the deployment of a system, whether an extant information system or one created de novo, designed to identify anomalous patterns against a normal background, in this case connections with persons or places of interest.

From an evolutionary point of view, this is a primordial human endeavour by which we have survived first as hunter-gatherers and later as farmers and herders scanning the horizon for either prey or predators. When you scan the horizon, you’re not looking at specific trees and rocks one-by-one. You are surveying for breaks in the pattern of the normal, that is, you are seeking to identify, quickly and efficiently as possible, what does not belong there. The same is true for a data stream, any data; you are looking for an anomalous break against the background. Designing a system to do this efficiently and with sufficient sensitivity to detect signal, and distinguish the desired signal from noise, is the art of the profession as much as it is the science.

Contrast that to detailed data collection, as part of the ability to dig into a specific case, whether as an intelligence officer, a medical epidemiologist, a legal expert, a physician, or law enforcement; to do so for even an individual case or target requires often-times tens if not hundreds of man-hours of cross-disciplinary and sub-specialist work in order to capture the correct data and then to make sense of it. This is dozens to hundreds of man-hours to investigate a single person or case, at least if that investigation is lead to answers worth having. Even in this case, it is an inefficient and poor exercise of investigation to simply sit and watch or listen, for hours ad nauseam, to video or audio content in order to find something useful. Outside of extraordinary situations (e.g. you know an event occurs but is rare, so you have to monitor for hours or days to catch it), no professional does this.

Bear in mind that each time you commit your human resources to a single investigation, those are resources that are blind to everything else - at least at that moment. That decision needs to be strategic if it is not to be wasteful.

Imagine then the time and resource commitment to do that across an entire town; you would need more people conducting the investigation than exist in the town itself. How then could this be done on an entire nation? No one, and no agency on this planet, has that level of resources at their disposal; not even with supercomputers to crunch through the noise. No one. Could it be done on a sampling frame (a sub-sample)? Certainly. However, even using a sampling frame is an inefficient means of surveillance. This is useful only on signal; that is, you may not be able to investigate every signal because your system is so sensitive it yields too many of them, so you investigate perhaps every 10th hit. Again, that’s investigation, not surveillance.

I only point this out because there is a tendency to conflate surveillance and investigation or scrutiny. Governments have used surveillance to protect their sovereignty since ancient times. It has always been with us and is not going away. All we require is one incident of a security breach with an adverse outcome, and we are reminded why we require a monitoring system to detect threats in advance.

As our information systems evolve, e.g. social media, surveillance systems will evolve to keep pace. Detailed information gathering on persons society-wide, i.e. spying, however, is a practice that requires substantial resource commitment, and has never been a cost effective means of preserving security in a nation; which is why few modern nations have practised it.

As to the surveillance systems, today they will continue to take the shape of cooperative arrangements between the intelligence community and the private sector (e.g. Google, FB, Apple, MS) so long as those private sector intelligence gathering systems exist. Why? Because that’s where the information is. What we have yet to do is to devise a transparent and universally accepted system (i.e. a system accepted by all parties including the public) of monitoring, and regulating, the monitors, and thereby insuring that specific information gathering on persons, as opposed to scanning the data stream for anomalies, does not take place outside of civil law. Although related and vital, that remains a separate issue.

Lee Dronick

As Wab said, it isn’t spying or investigation. However, surveillance could lead to that if your pattern sets off an alert. I still stand by my analogy of a traffic cop, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t be pulled over on a violation that never happened, we need good oversight and controls.

Personally I am more concerned about hackers getting my bank login and password, that sort of stuff, than I am about O’Brien or Creedy. Not that this system couldn’t evolve into that.

Question for you all. What should be done? What suggestions do you have?


My first and primary objection to the whole NSA situation as leaked is that they used *secret* courts for their warrants. That hides the due process of law so deep that no citizen can be sure it’s being done right.  The process needs to be open and transparent.  This is like wab95’s conclusion that we just haven’t yet agreed on how to effectively monitor the monitors.


In theory, what wab95 argues sounds reasonable.  But due to the secrecy of the process, we don’t know what “anomalies” (Yes, there are multiple factors) the government is scanning for. And saving for future (ab)use. It could be foreign travel, ACLU membership, Occupy ____ participation or inquiries, impeach_____ rants, petition signing, donations to a cause, etc. This is a damnable violation not only of the 4th Amendment, but also of the oath of office (not upholding/defending the Constitution vs all enemies, foreign and DOMESTIC) for any government employee, whether judges, members of the administration (of either party), elected reps, etc.

IMO, this secrecy is an impeachable (if not prosecutable) offense, not to mention the conspiracy to violate the law (also impeachable), and should be viewed that way, or at least questioned, by citizens, the media and our members of Congress. Where is the investigation? If it were as benign and harmless as some think, why are there multiple people who have high level security clearances, including a high level of patriotism, and are sworn to secrecy, blowing the whistle on such violations, knowing that doing so will unalterably turn their lives upside down?

Log in to comment (TMO, Twitter or Facebook) or Register for a TMO account