John Sculley On Steve Jobs, Apple and Microsoft

Steve said, “If I asked someone who had only used a personal calculator what a Macintosh should be like, they couldn’t have told me. There was no way to do consumer research on it, so I had to go and create it, and then show it to people, and say now what do you think?”

Both of them had this ability not to invent products but to discover products. Both of them said these products have always existed—it’s just that no one has ever seen them before. We were the ones who discovered them. The Polaroid camera always existed, and the Macintosh always existed—it’s a matter of discovery. Steve had huge admiration for Dr. Land.

A friend of mine was at meetings at Apple and Microsoft on the same day. And this was in the last year, so this was recently. He went into the Apple meeting (he’s a vendor for Apple), and as soon as the designers walked in the room, everyone stopped talking, because the designers are the most respected people in the organization. Everyone knows the designers speak for Steve because they have direct reporting to him. It is only at Apple where design reports directly to the CEO.

Later in the day he was at Microsoft. When he went into the Microsoft meeting, everybody was talking and then the meeting starts and no designers ever walk into the room. All the technical people are sitting there trying to add their ideas of what ought to be in the design. That’s a recipe for disaster.

Everyone around him knows he beats to a different drummer. He sets standards that are entirely different than any other CEO would set.

He’s a minimalist and constantly reducing things to their simplest level. It’s not simplistic. It’s simplified. Steve is a systems designer. He simplifies complexity.

The legendary statement about Microsoft, which is mostly true, is that they get it right the third time. Microsoft’s philosophy is to get it out there and fix it later. Steve would never do that. He doesn’t get anything out there until it is perfected.

John Sculley


“Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?” — What Steve Jobs said to make Pepsi executive John Sculley defect to Apple, according to legend.

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  1. What!? Name a recent Apple product that was released as perfection. How many new Mac cycles are released which have serious issues, that take time to be acknowledged.

    Design buys time for Apple. This world is about appearance. That is the kicker.

    For example:

    MacBook Air (which I am using right now), third generation is the sweet spot. First two suffered from serious heat issues.

    iPhone, third generation was starting to hit the sweet spot, iPhone 4 is a good phone. First iPhone did not even have 3G, you could argue the 3GS is also behind its competition with poor camera, and no front facing camera. It took the recent software update to give it functionality that exists in Android (i.e. tethering).

    iPad, third generation will be the sweet spot. First generation has low memory, low resolution, second iteration has addressed some of this.

    • I would completely agree with you. Those were Sculley’s words, not mine. 🙂 And I guess he meant perfection of design, not the product.

      Apple’s game is design, not technology. As Sculley quoted, “Both of them said these products have always existed—it’s just that no one has ever seen them before. We were the ones who discovered them.”, they just redesigned the front-end of what already existed, put a nice little Apple logo somewhere which enabled them to sell those products even while they were nothing new in terms of technology.

      Keeping aside this, the only thing I like about Apple is the CEO guru Steve Jobs. His vision, his charisma, his power to tell the world something and make them believe it without a doubt. Now only a few in this world have that power.

  2. YES apple is not perfection…but they know design and what people want and need in their products. It’s simple, it fills a void, it’s imagination in your hands
    and it’s different. That’s were the perfection idea comes into play. They still need two or three versions to get it correct but that’s the overall game right?

  3. “What!? Name a recent Apple product that was released as perfection.”

    Of course, nothing is perfect. But compared to what comes out of Microsoft…….

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