What Was That Again? "Steve Jobs Can't Run Companies"?
Apple CEO Steve Jobs is calibrating his keynote Monday at the company’s annual developer conference amid unprecedented attention. Apple (AAPL) hasn’t announced anything more than the time and place of that address, yet the company has been making headlines for weeks now. Forbes actually sent a reporter to a Fremont, Calif., distribution center owned by Apple partner Quanta to photograph unmarked boxes that may have something to do with Apple–or nothing at all.
Things weren’t always like this though. Years ago, before Jobs transformed the company into the juggernaut it is today, when Apple’s share price was trading at about $2 instead of $2 away from $190, it seemed the only thing the media was eager to speculate about was Apple’s impending demise. So let’s take a little walk down memory lane, shall we?
From Apple R.I.P. Forbes, 10.05.2000
Apple is a small fish, and the pond is going dry. Like that other great marketer, Jerry Sanders of AMD, Jobs has a genius for making Apple seem more important than it is. Even after all the successes of the last two years, Apple is still where it was during the Spindler era. It is a niche player, with an anomalous operating system, trying to survive in a market dominated by giant corporations like Compaq, Dell and IBM.
Steve Jobs can’t run companies, but he has proven that he is a genius at motivating teams of people to produce extraordinary products. In fact, he may be the greatest project team leader in the history of high tech. That is no small achievement. But it does not translate to being the CEO of a giant corporation. Jobs failed the first time running Apple, failed at Next and only succeeded at Pixar because the company worked around him. He succeeded in the short term during this, his second, Apple tenure because he ran the whole company as a product team. That only works so long. Why is he a poor CEO? Because he’s mercurial, insufficiently engaged by the more boring (but crucial) operations like distribution and, ultimately, because he’s a pretty nasty piece of work. In the best of all scenarios, Jobs would hire a competent CEO and focus on product development, but his ego would soon lead him to undermine his replacement. Steve Jobs is Apple’s Alcibiades: the company can’t live without him, or with him.
From 101 Ways to Save Apple, Wired, 06.01.1997
Why save Apple? It isn’t entirely obvious why a company whose management has done as much destruction to shareholders, employees, vendors and customers ought to be saved. More to the point, what does save really mean? Besides why, we need to consider who and what, in addition to the implied how. Having been flamed–mindlessly and sometimes venomously–by Guy Kawasaki’s Mac-addict brownshirts, I hesitate to make any formal recommendation. However, emboldened perhaps by a glass of adequate merlot, I will offer this utterly hypothetical speculation as grist for lateral thinking: Maybe Apple’s shareholders should sell what is left of Apple to Steve Jobs’s Pixar for, say, $400 million.
- Lewis J. Perelman, president of Kanbrain Institute
From Sorry, Steve: Here’s Why Apple Stores Won’t Work, BusinessWeek, May 21, 2001
Given the decision to set up shop in high-rent districts in Manhattan, Boston, Chicago, and Jobs’s hometown of Palo Alto, Calif., the leases for Apple’s stores could cost $1.2 million a year each, says David A. Goldstein, president of researcher Channel Marketing Corp. Since PC retailing gross margins are normally 10% or less, Apple would have to sell $12 million a year per store to pay for the space. Gateway does about $8 million annually at each of its Country Stores. Then there’s the cost of construction, hiring experienced staff. “I give them two years before they’re turning out the lights on a very painful and expensive mistake,” says Goldstein.
From The Fall of Steve Jobs, Fortune, 10.05.1985
High on the list of Apple Computer’s talents is ”event marketing”–turning corporate announcements into extravaganzas that reap lavish press coverage. Lately, though, the press has been trumpeting events that the Cupertino, Calif., company would prefer not to publicize at all. From the end of May to the middle of June, Apple reorganized in a rush, fired 20% of its work force, announced that it would record its first-ever quarterly loss, saw its stock hit a three-year low of $14.25 a share, and stripped Steven P. Jobs, Apple’s 30-year-old co-founder and chairman, of all operating authority. John Sculley, 46, president and chief executive, ruefully remarked that Apple’s moves were attracting as much attention as an episode of Dynasty.
Guess that’s true today, as well. Though obviously for far different reasons.