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Insight into Steve Jobs' Product-Centric Approach in 1985 Interview

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Early last week, Steve Jobs announced that he was once again taking a medical leave of absence from Apple. The news has been met with understandable concern about his future at the company, and resulted in many a "look back" at Apple over the years. One particularly insightful article is this Newsweek article interviewing Steve Jobs back in 1985 shortly after his ousting from Apple. It's interesting to see how his views and attitudes about product design hasn't changed much in 25 years.

Steve Jobs co-founded Apple Computer in 1976 and led the Macintosh team in the early 80s, but in 1985, he was forced out of the company after an internal power struggle with John Sculley, the Apple CEO at the time. This interview was held shortly after he had departed Apple.

On what his plans and strengths are, Jobs described himself as being best and most enthusiastic about building products:
What I'm best at doing is finding a group of talented people and making things with them. I respect the direction that Apple is going in. But for me personally, you know, I want to make things. And if there's no place for me to make things there, then I'll do what I did twice before. I'll make my own place. You know, I did it in the garage when Apple started, and I did it in the metaphorical garage when Mac started.
He rejected offers to be a professor at the time and said he wasn't ready to be an industry pundit. Jobs went on to found NeXT computer company which was later purchased by Apple in 1996 and its operating system used as the basis for Mac OS X. He also acquired the computer graphics division of Lucasfilm which became Pixar Animation Studios. Pixar, of course, was ultimately acquired by Disney after years of commercial success. After Jobs' return to Apple in 1996, he's widely credited for returning Apple to profitability and the launch of many notable products including Mac OS X, the iMac, iPod, iPhone and most recently, the iPad.

Jobs finally describes his philosophy in running a company and the role of customer feedback:
My philosophy is that everything starts with a great product. So, you know, I obviously believed in listening to customers, but customers can't tell you about the next breakthrough that's going to happen next year that's going to change the whole industry. So you have to listen very carefully. But then you have to go and sort of stow away -- you have to go hide away with people that really understand the technology, but also really care about the customers, and dream up this next breakthrough. And that's my perspective, that everything starts with a great product.
Jobs has echoed this sentiment in recent years including citing a quote from Henry Ford which was "If I'd have asked my customers what they wanted, they would have told me 'A faster horse.'"

In his letter to Apple employees, Jobs hopes to be back at Apple as soon as he can.

Article Link: Insight into Steve Jobs' Product-Centric Approach in 1985 Interview
 
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applemagic123

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Aug 19, 2009
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He may be a good business man, but he and apple has really lost focus since iOS. I want him to stop trying to control his customers. Who cares if people jailbreak, or repair their own devices, or voiding warranties. And this new pentalobe screw for the iPhone 4? Just another way to control their customers.

Jailbreaking is SOFTWARE based, so if the hardware is damaged, it doesn't have anything to do with the SOFTWARE, so therefore, apple should still honor warranties for jailbroken iPhones. A little collaboration with the customer to find out how the device broke would be easy. Whatever, I personally don't care, as I have the original 2g iPhone on tmobile.
 

CFreymarc

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Rumor mill at Brittania Arms this night says the Medical Leave is a cover. He is really spending extending time with the architects of the new Apple campus. Funny this article talks about him just before Sculley did a Machiavellian move to get rid of him.

Word has it about a round of Boddington's and Budweiser's is that Steve's final legacy is to level Infinite Loop thus removing the last of Sculley's influence. Within a few years, if it follows through, Apple's core will be a new design of an Apple campus on the land they picked up from HP last year.

Will there be a statue to Steve and Woz erected in the courtyard after their passing? Who knows. My take is it will follow the tradition of Bill and Dave and make it a very inspirational, almost retreat like setting with a good kitchen and very exclusive corporate housing.
 
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CFreymarc

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Žalgiris;11774249 said:
Steve is awesome.

Or he is just too smart, too brilliant for some people to understand. Clearly he sees things no one else can see.

“Any fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius-and a lot of courage-to move in the opposite direction.” -- Albert Einstein
 

Mr. Chewbacca

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All kidding aside. Hundreds of years from now he will be looked at as a visionary. Not unlike edison or franklin. I can't thank him enough
 

Doctor Q

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Apple has had a few misses along with their obvious hits but that's the nature of predicting where the world should go next rather than simply reacting to what users say they want.
 

twilson

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Doctor Q said:
Apple has had a few misses along with their obvious hits but that's the nature of predicting where the world should go next rather than simply reacting to what users say they want.

I'd argue all of Apple's "where next failures" were while Jobs was not with Apple.
 

iPadThai

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Apr 25, 2010
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He may be a good business man, but he and apple has really lost focus since iOS. I want him to stop trying to control his customers. Who cares if people jailbreak, or repair their own devices, or voiding warranties. And this new pentalobe screw for the iPhone 4? Just another way to control their customers.

Jailbreaking is SOFTWARE based, so if the hardware is damaged, it doesn't have anything to do with the SOFTWARE, so therefore, apple should still honor warranties for jailbroken iPhones. A little collaboration with the customer to find out how the device broke would be easy. Whatever, I personally don't care, as I have the original 2g iPhone on tmobile.


You obviously never created anything. NEVER anything worth the attention I presume. It's so easy to destroy than to create. Let's see a company build a smartphone like the iPhone - intro it to the world and have every single company try to imitate the iPhone in every aspect.

Give the man some credit - he may not of single handedly built the iPhone but he took all the talent from the talent pool strung them together and whipped up something we know today.

It's so easy to criticize, complain, bxtch, moan, gripe, all of the negative views about a company who didn't make a product you wanted. It's not easy to satisfy one person let alone billions.

The sales of apple products PROVE ONE THING - Apple is doing it all right. It may not be what you imagined but it's definitely a majority vote. When you try to satisfy everyone, you end up making a mediocre product at best. The man knows what to create and what people want. Or else no one would buy it. There is no iSheep, iClone, consumers. There are only consumers who buy products they want and the others who don't buy them but love to hate/criticize.

I've seen much and do you even realize that the UI on the iOS device is so good no one really ever talks about how smooth the views animate, how smooth the scrolling is or how quickly things get done smoothly? Everyone is now on apple's case about dual processors, mega retina screen resolutions, and the list goes on but it takes super hard work and amazing creativity to make something so complex so simple. There isn't one single Android device in the making that is as smooth as the iPhone. NONE.

But who cares - we all complain about Steve Jobs being a control freak, blah blah blah - you can simply not buy his products if you assume he is a tech nazi. But give the man major credit for if not for Steve Jobs, we wouldn't have what we have today. He's just as important as bill gates except mr. gates got real lucky and took his oppurtunity and exponentially exploited it while mr. jobs decided to be original and innovative...
 

CFreymarc

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You obviously never created anything. NEVER anything worth the attention I presume. It's so easy to destroy than to create. Let's see a company build a smartphone like the iPhone - intro it to the world and have every single company try to imitate the iPhone in every aspect.

Give the man some credit - he may not of single handedly built the iPhone but he took all the talent from the talent pool strung them together and whipped up something we know today.

Agree! A great batter that hits .400 in his career only hits well four times out of ten. Those with great achievements are allowed a spectacular failures here and there.

Those that try to invalidate someone for one thing going wrong are really insecure. Reminds me of mating rival monkeys that that throw their dung and competing males. But then, that is an insult to monkeys.

The total worst are those that don't even try and live in a non-growing "safe space" their entire life without knowing the thrill of risk. That is a youth wasted.
 

bakerzdosen

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Apr 11, 2006
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another one

This Wired interview is really good too. It's a little later (1993?) but he talks about good design. (Question: "Is there anything well designed today that inspires you?")

That article actually initially got me hooked on Miele appliances (if only I could afford more of them... :( )
 

batchtaster

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Mar 3, 2008
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"If I'd have asked my customers what they wanted, they would have told me 'A faster horse.'"

This embodies what I mean about people getting the hell over such things as a theoretical removal of the Home button on the iPhone and iPad, or other things that people get angry and up-in-arms about, such as the removal of floppy drives. If you listen only to the customer, you miss the opportunity to create and define the next paradigm, which has become the cornerstone of what Apple is and does today. They have a massive influence, even in areas in which they don't have a massive marketshare. Not always in the areas of core technology, but certainly in what it means for users and how it manifests in products.
 

res1233

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Perhaps it's not a "where next" type of product but I think Steve should have known better than to release the hockey puck mouse.

Totally. That thing was an ergonomic nightmare. Plus, the one button mouse thing never really caught on. I like the current mouse selections: Multi-button mice that look like single button mice to make all those Apple haters look like fools when they post images of them to show how macs use "one button mice". It's becoming rarer nowadays, but it still give me a chuckle.
 

Fraaaa

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Doctor Q said:
I'd argue all of Apple's "where next failures" were while Jobs was not with Apple.
Perhaps it's not a "where next" type of product but I think Steve should have known better than to release the hockey puck mouse.

Apple made one not so good looking mouse, big deal.

I wouldn't consider that a failure even if this mouse was advertise as a next generation mouse. It's a mouse.
 

pika2000

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Sometimes it's quite fun reading back Job's old quotes. Heck, sometimes I'm still amazed watching his old keynotes (the first iLife bundle, etc). He has this vision and charisma that you don't see on/hear from anybody else. I mean really, the fact that Apple was a no name in many countries to the point of everybody in the world is lusting over iPhones and iPads. No matter how you want to look at it, it's amazing.
 

res1233

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Apple made one not so good looking mouse, big deal.

I wouldn't consider that a failure even if this mouse was advertise as a next generation mouse. It's a mouse.

Stop defending apple for no reason... I defend apple as much as anyone, but it's okay to admit that they messed up once in awhile. :) In the world of Apple hate, even something like a mouse is enough to give them an entire book of BS to spout, so it saves some headaches if the mouse they're offering is a good one, which the current two are.
 

LeeTom

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"If I'd have asked my customers what they wanted, they would have told me 'A PowerBook G5.'"
 

EiriasEmrys

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I agree completely. I'm an artist, clients hire me because they like what I've done, but most of them don't have a clue as to what they want for a painting or know how to go about visualizing it. It is the job of the creative mind to come up with things the customers wouldn't dream of.
 

res1233

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"If I'd have asked my customers what they wanted, they would have told me 'A PowerBook G5.'"

Yah, a product with terrible battery life, and that you could cook your dinner on. That's why it's a good thing they didn't listen to their customers. :D
 
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