This is an extraction of a set of exact words from Jobs, from his biography – by Walter Isaacson. I just made it available here. The note’s somewhat big and I can either offend this or defend this. But I just like the way it was.
At different times in the past, there were companies that exemplified Silicon Valley. It was Hewlett-Packard for a long time. Then, in the semiconductor era, it was Fairchild and Intel. I think that it was Apple for a while, and then that faded. And then today, I think it’s Apple and Google – and a little more so Apple.
I think Apple has stood the test of time. It’s been around for a while, but it’s still at the cutting edge of what’s going on.
It’s easy to throw stones at Microsoft. They’ve clearly fallen from their dominance. They’ve become mostly irrelevant. And yet I appreciate what they did and how hard it was. They were very good at the business side of things. They were never as ambitious product-wise as they should have been.
Bill likes to portray himself as a man of the product, but he’s really not. He’s a businessperson. Winning business was more important than making great products. He ended up the wealthiest guy around, and if that was his goal, then he achieved it. But it’s never been my goal, and I wonder, in the end, it was his goal.
I admire him for the company he built – it’s impressive and I enjoyed working with him. He’s bright and actually has a good sense of humor. But Microsoft never had the humanities and liberal arts in its DNA. Even when they saw Mac, they couldn’t copy it well. They totally didn’t get it.
I have my own theory about why decline happens at companies like IBM and Microsoft. The company does a great job, innovates and becomes a monopoly or close to it in some field, and the quality of the product becomes less important. The company starts valuing the great salesman, because they’re the ones who can move the needle on the revenues, not the product engineers or designers. So the salesperson end up running the company.
John Akers at IBM was a smart eloquent, fantastic salesperson, but he didn’t really know anything about product. The same thing happened at Xerox. When the sales guys run the company, the product guys don’t matter so much, and a lot of them just turn off. It happened in Apple when Sculley came in, which was my fault, and it happened when Ballmer took over at Microsoft. Apple was lucky and it rebounded, but I don’t think anything will change at Microsoft as long as Ballmer running it.