Steve Jobs on Apple's priorities

To me, Apple exists in the spirit of the people that work there, and the sort of philosophies and purpose by which they go about their business. So if Apple just becomes a place where computers are a commodity item and where the romance is gone, and where people forget that computers are the most incredible invention that man has ever invented, then I’ll feel I have lost Apple. But if I’m a million miles away and all those people still feel those things and they’re still working to make the next great personal computer, then I will feel that my genes are still in there.

Jobs Talks About His Rise and Fall – Print – Newsweek

In the language of innovation theory that Clayton Christensen created, companies are characterized by three attributes

  1. Resources
  2. Processes
  3. Values (or Priorities)

Resources come and go, typically arriving every morning and leaving every evening.

Processes take a lot of hard work to change but they can be changed.

Values and priorities are almost immutable. They are what Jobs refers to as the “genes”.

The fact that Steve Jobs said these words about Apple in 1985 after his first departure gives one hope that in 2011 (after his return and departure and return and departure again) the genes are still in there.

  • MattRichman

    Steve knows he'll be gone soon. His greatest accomplishment is building a company that will outlast him.

  • Chris

    Had Apple kept the Jobs DNA intact after 1985, I dare say he would never have been called back.

    • asymco

      Here's where I believe the opposite. It's because the DNA remained while management sought to move it in a different direction that the company struggled. SJ's return meant that the company was coherent again.

      In fact there's an HBS case study on this written many years ago.

      • Steven Noyes

        Likewise, Apple did not get fully infused with Steve's DNA. He was never the CEO. He never got to fully guide the company.

      • Chris

        If a change of management can render a company incoherent with its lower-level DNA, then given time incoherence is simply unavoidable, CEOs not being democratically elected from below.

        To look at this another way, wouldn't we have to say that Jobs could never succeed as the CEO of any company that he had not founded, his management necessarily clashing with any pre-existing DNA and so rendering the company incoherent with itself?

        If companies have DNA, then we can also think of them as being born, growing, maturing, declining and ultimately dying. Perhaps we might better ask what to expect from Apple once it moves from vigorous youth to middle age with its best days behind it. Microsoft, like IBM before it, once seemed to have a lock on the future…

      • chano

        I disagree in one detail Horace.
        Pre-1985 The Jobs DNA gene sets were acting out their messages in all directions. There were some sets that resulted in visions of sheer brilliance and others that were pure disruptive influences.
        Post the wilderness years of exile, when Jobs returned to Apple, the gene sets were truly aligned, fully congruent and expressing themselves fluently – and Jobs put Apple on a mission to stellar success that is still unfolding today.

  • Mark Hernandez

    Wonderful post. Succinctly revealed. Thanks for giving us all a reminder.

  • bbajarin

    I agree Horace. Steve is brilliant at embedding a culture. Look at what he did at Pixar, that team believes so much about their product that they will go to extremes to make sure a quality product is put out each and every time. Something that everyone involved can be proud of and is willing to put their name on.

    As long as Apple's culture stays in-tact and smart people who believe in that vision and the promise of technology want to work there, Apple will be fine.

  • poke

    I recently found this 1996 quote from Jobs on why Windows beat the Mac: "A force of self-interest throughout the industry made Windows ubiquitous. Compaq and all these different vendors made Windows ubiquitous. They didn't know how to spell software, but they wanted to put something on their machines. That made Windows ubiquitous. … it was sort of an algorithm that got set in motion when everyone's self-interest aligned toward making this happen."

    Interesting to note that the same algorithm appears to be in motion in the smart phone market, where Samsung, HTC, Motorola, et al, clearly don't know how to spell software and Google has provided a solution. I think this might offer a hint of Apple's strategy, though; their job is to make it in the interest of developers and publishers for iOS to become ubiquitous. It all revolves around iTunes and the App Store.

    • WaltFrench

      “I think this might offer a hint of Apple's strategy…”
      Yes, and also of Google's. They seem to be philosophically opposed to the carefully assembled ecosystem of apps, media and connectivity Apple emphasizes, preferring the broader market's ability to get those pieces to fall into place.

      At least that's the only reason I can see for its almost criminal disregard for the cesspool of the Marketplace, their building GoogleTV with zero networks as partners, and their huge success in getting the carriers to push their phones. (The latter I take to be an opportunity presented only because Apple had to grant AT&T exclusivity to get the independence they sought, and so free-riding, but a huge success nonetheless.) This is a key difference between the Win/Mac battle: Apple has gotten the developers, media and other business partners much more in its camp, 180º turned around from the earlier contest.

      I've recently seen developers' comments around the current app opportunities: even with cross-platform tools, multi-platform development is a huge challenge. The apps that will appear for WebOS, Meego, QNX/Playbook and even WP7 will be few and far between. Android appears on the cusp: monetization looks to be a big unknown as yet; my back-of-the-envelope suggests a dime per app, leading to fewer written/used and more Android usage in the built-in maps, browser, etc. On Android, it's all about the browser, with the bulk of “development” done on the websites.

      So I think the turning point will be: is the future of smartphones all about the browser, or all about the apps? They each have their points so it will be interesting to see where the market goes.

      • dchu220

        I think one area where native will always beat the web is speed and that is a very 'sticky' attribute. This will be super important for 'jobs' you want to do that are repetitive.

      • Kizedek

        "So I think the turning point will be: is the future of smartphones all about the browser, or all about the apps? They each have their points so it will be interesting to see where the market goes."

        It doesn't have to either/or. In any case, iOS and Webkit Safari, is well able to handle web apps with the best of them.

        What will be interesting is if Google tries to limit connections to its services to devices running Android or Chrome. This will be like MS and IE with limited Active X websites all over again. Then everyone will see how "open" Google really is.

        It's one thing for Apple to limit its platform services, like App Store, to devices that run iTunes. It's similar for Google to have enhanced or special versions of its applications that use its own services (such as maps, docs, mail) that are unique to its Android platform or eventual Chrome OS. I have no problem with that.

        However, it is quite another thing to deny access to what is touted as open, standard technologies (web apps with HTML, Java, etc.) on an open platform — the web. Google is already showing its true Colors with the H.264 retraction, and with their collaboration with Verizon on limiting net neutrality for mobile devices.

        I can develop web pages now that include a Google API for maps, etc. Everyone can see it and use it. If a web developer creates a great web app and finds that certain features are not usable on Webkit browsers, then I would be pretty disgusted with Google (assuming Webkit keeps up with published and proposed w3c specs as they do). Google really would be no different than MS, no matter how many times they protest their "openness".

      • Hamranhansenhansen

        That is a false choice that Google typically pushes. The future is about both native apps and Web apps, not one or the other. They are a yin yang. You can't have a complete app selection without both. The Web will always be behind native in capabilities, and native will always be behind the Web in ubiquity.

        For example, the Web has almost no audio features, but my most-used iPhone app is FourTrack, a multichannel audio recorder that is used by a lot of songwriters for quick on-the-go demos. FourTrack is not going to run on the Web for 5-10 years, and even then, Cocoa will have other features that the Web doesn't yet have. On the other hand, my photographer friend is about to launch an app that enables a user to view his "elevator pitch" portfolio, 20 photos that anyone who is considering hiring him should see. Of course it is a Web app, he wants ubiquity, he wants anyone to be able to run it, and a photo slideshow is well within the capabilities of HTML5.

        If we go to desktop systems it is even more obvious. How long until I can run Logic Pro and Ableton Live on the Web? Surely, Google Chrome will enable apps to simultaneously play 48 tracks of 24-bit 96kHz audio while recording another 16 as well as recording 16 MIDI tracks over a wireless MIDI network? Google Chrome will run Avid and Final Cut Pro, right? Sometime in 2025 maybe.

        So the right answer is for a platform to have 100% support for powerful native C apps on a cutting-edge framework (i.e. Apple Cocoa) side-by-side with 100% support for standardized HTML Web apps (i.e. Apple WebKit). Then no matter what kind of app, developers have a platform to build it on, users have a way to run it.

        Also, HTML5 adopts and standardizes native features. Part of the enthusiasm around HTML5 geolocation is due to seeing geolocation work so well in native apps. Similarly, we'll see gyroscopes standardized, and maybe one day, some multichannel audio, but I'm not holding my breath.

      • r00tabega

        > That is a false choice that Google typically pushes. The future is about both native apps and Web apps, not one or the other. They are a yin yang.

        This is highly insightful… after all, without native coding, how can you make a browser that is fast? (yes, HotJava ran on java, but it was sure slow).

        The web-layer relies on a fast native layer. Some things need to be native.

  • TedJCranmore

    A great time to read this again. This time, all management is thoroughly aligned with Steve's ideals to the very core as are those that make up the body of Apple. Those that don't share that dna (whether by nature or by gene splicing), are no longer at Apple. A Papermaster, nö matter how smart and appearing to share the vision on the surface, cannot stay if he doesn't share the same ideals to the absolute core.

    I'm confident Steve has learned the lessons of the past and that the real 'secrets' of Apples success will live on though at least another decade. I hope Steve has enough time left that he can sit back, spend some time with his family, and watch his creation continue to thrive as if he were still in the office every day. It would also be nice if he was celebrated as a true hero of American business while he was around. It would be nice for him to make some visits to schools who just finished a case study on Apple, and give the class a chance to ask some questions personally. It sure would be nice to  have a few more new geniuses thrive in locations other than One Infinite Loop!

    Sent from my iPad

  • rashomon

    I've been involved with a couple of magazines as either executive editor or editor-in-chief over the last few decades, and I was always struck how thoroughly the "DNA", the patterning, stuck to these over decades. It was not immutable, but a complete change of personnel didn't erase it. To try to set new patterns took consistent and enduring work, as well as vision. Similarly, some product and engineering consulting companies I've worked for have imbued new employees with their ways quickly and thoroughly, with little conscious intent. I continue to be impressed with the role of story and culture in successful — and unsuccessful — organizations.

    • dchu220

      I don't think it is hard to get employees on the bus when your company has a vision worth fighting for.

      Example: Anything other than creating shareholder value.

  • MattF

    One thing to bear in mind is that Apple's present rate of growth is simply not sustainable for the long term. There will have to be change in Cupertino in another four or five years– and the challenge at Apple will be to find the right person to lead that change. It won't be Steve Jobs.

    • Joe_Winfield_IL

      Matt, what are the grounds for this statement? You speak very definitively; what do you see occurring 4-5 years from now that will lead to revolt? I'm curious what unavoidable fate awaits Apple under Steve Jobs that can be rectified under necessarily different management.

      • MattF

        I think it's just a basic rule that exponential growth has to come to an end at some point– the growth curve has to turn, sooner or later. Exactly when and exactly why– I don't know; people often discover the identity of the critical variable only when it hits them.

        I'm not making a definitive prediction of any specific thing– I'm just saying that the orders of magnitude are getting big and have to hit saturation eventually. What's interesting analytically is that, broadly speaking, the turn of the growth curve is the point at which a -qualitative- change occurs. But, again, what that will be, I don't know. As we all know, it's hard to make predictions, particularly about the future :-).

      • 21tiger

        "I think it's just a basic rule that exponential growth"

        So you have nothing. If Apple was just a computer company, they would STILL have a ton of room to grow (eg. 10% marketshare, 20% marketshare etc) but they're not! They own the MP3 player market, and the PMP market, but they still have lots of room to grow in the Smartphone market (as, of course, the vast majority of consumers have dumbphones, and many are buying Android phones)
        So what's next? How big can the tablet market be?… How about the AppleTV?

        The answer is, of course exponential growth won't continue forever, but predicting some kind of problem in 5 years (barring the … oh shit where do we put all these gold bars problem) is just ludicrous. They would have to have about 95% marketshare in all those markets i mentioned.

        And while all that's happening, Apple is getting a 30% rake on all the iOS apps and MAS apps… It's just beautiful.

      • kevin

        If Apple sold one product, they would hit saturation eventually (that being the reason you offered up for why exponential growth having to come to an end). But Apple doesn't just sell one product. They sell multiple products, of which the three key products (iPhone, Mac, iPad) have a long way to go before saturation occurs, as none have even passed 5% market share. And the cell phone is re-bought every 12-24 months.

        Plus, Apple has an innovative culture. With innovation, there will be new variations of old products, and completely new products (new categories). The current products are not the be-all, end-all. There are still many more consumer products to be developed and sold.

      • dchu220

        I understand your argument. I would just say that it's impossible to know where the world will be 4-5 years from now. We don't know what's in Apple's development pipeline. Maybe WebOS will take over the world. Who knows.

        My biggest worry about Apple is that they won't be able to grow fast enough to meet the demands placed on them by the market. Apple likes to stay as 'small' as possible and has long development cycles. I don't think they can structurally scale as fast as other companies.

        For example. The iPhone4 has been out for over 6 months now and there's still a backlog in Asia. Tons of potential customers have bought an Android because the iPhone was out of stock. Those are lost dollars.

      • Hamranhansenhansen

        The exponential growth of the iPod came to an end, but by the time it did, the iPhone was growing exponentially. Throughout the past 10 years, at one point Apple made more than 50% of its profits from the Mac, then the iPod, then the iPhone. Maybe in a couple of years, 50% of their profits come from iPad. Apple keeps growing exponentially because they are not too in love with any one product or wedded to their past. They are always ready to build the next computer.

        So I think your statement is right if you apply it to individual products, but not if you apply it to the whole of Apple. We are very early in the computerization of the world, and Apple is so far ahead in terms of software (OS X, iTunes) and consumers (Apple Retail, Genius Bar) and design (iPad, MacBook Air) and content (iTunes Store, QuickTime) and production (iMovie, Logic Pro) that there are plenty of opportunities left for exponential growth.

  • Abelardo

    “Apple is getting a 30% rake on all the iOS apps and MAS apps… It’s just beautiful.”

    It’s only beautiful if you are an Apple shareholder. If not, that sounds more like voyeurism.

    • FalKirk

      Frist, I'll assume that you did not mean to use the word "voyeurism."

      "Voyeurism: a person who gains sexual pleasure from watching others when they are naked or engaged in sexual activity."

      I get excited when I watch the trajectory of Apple's corporate rise, but I don't get THAT excited!

      Second, I disagree with your assessment that watching Apple's growth can only be exciting to an Apple shareholder. Apple's products provide me with great value. I am happy to pay my money to them and have them maintain their high margins because a) I know that I can't get the same or better for less; and b) I want them to continue to stay profitable so they can continue to stay in business and continue to keep doing what they're doing because they do what they do so damn well.

  • Abelardo

    “Apple is getting a 30% rake on all the iOS apps and MAS apps… It’s just beautiful.”

    It’s only beautiful if you are an Apple shareholder. If not, that sounds more like voyeurism. If you were an app developer I’m sure you wouldn’t get that much excited about that 30%.

    • kevin

      When Apple chose 30%, it was far better than the 40-60% other digital "stores" took from a developer.

      Distribution costs money, even for digital goods. There's a reason why Wal-Mart is one of the largest companies in the world.

    • Hamranhansenhansen

      Only a small fraction of that 30% is profit. Credit card companies make more from an app sale than Apple. And free apps ride free the whole trip … store, servers, service.

  • Tim Hadley

    Don't forget that all Android (Paid APP) developers are also keeping 70%…just like iOS developers. That's BEAUTIFUL for the developers! It costs Apple (and Google) money to provide the platform, marketing, etc. Their share of the income is a reasonable proposition, while creating for the developers, a potentially steady stream of income. The vast majority of Android apps happen to be free though, and you can blame that on both the developers themselves, and the market they are trying to sell to.