This is John Sculley. You might know him as the man who helped Pepsi overtake Coca-Cola, but you more likely recognise him as the infamous Apple CEO who fired Steve Jobs back in the 1980s.
Despite eventually being ousted himself in 1993, and being named one of the worst CEOs of all time by Business Insider, Sculley has remained in the tech industry, consulting on ventures in everything from mobile to healthcare. At an event in London this week, he talked at length about his experiences, the origins of Apple and where he sees tech heading. Read on for what he had to say.
On the differences between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates
“They both believed in a noble cause, that you had to define what you were doing around a way to change the world.”
“Steve’s metaphor for it was that the personal computer was going to be the bicycle of the mind…Steve said ‘no compromise, I want the computer to be the easiest thing you ever used’, and to do that, you had to control the whole experience. If you look at Apple today, it’s still got those same principles…Steve always believed that the most important decisions were not what you put in, but what you leave out.”
“Bill was all about landgrab. He built this entire company Microsoft around shrink wrapped software…By the way, he made more money than Apple did on the MacIntosh [Through Office for Mac].”
How that permeates both Apple and Microsoft today
Apple and Microsoft have “completely different cultures, and I could see that back pretty much thirty years ago. Steve Jobs leads through design…it’s all about experience. Microsoft is powerful, it’s highly confident, but its understanding is different.”
(Sculley relates a tale of a friend who runs a Shenzhen-based peripheral company. At a meeting at Infinite Loop, Apple’s California HQ, when Jony Ive walked into the room, everyone “went silent and listened. Design takes the lead. By contrast at Microsoft, execs are bartering, “You support my feature, I’ll support yours”).
Why Steve Jobs hired a man who marketed sugar water
“I wasn’t the first choice…but he and I hit it off because he believed computers would eventually need to be sold like packaged goods [IE Pepsi].”
“I said, Steve, let’s sell the experience of a lifestyle [As Sculley did with the Pepsi Generation campaign]. It was always about selling the experience and that was what interested Steve.”
(Sculley cites the famous 1984 Superbowl advert as an example). “There was no computer shown…it ran on the networks for weeks, we estimated it was about $45m of free advertising. The board hated it, they thought I was supposed to be the adult supervision.”
“If you look at Apple today everything is sold on experience.”
On the modern mobile era
“The hard part in technology is not figuring out what’s going to happen, the hardest part is finding out when it’s going to happen, and who’s going to make it happen.”
“Now we’re in a new era, mobile, and it was launched by one person, Steve Jobs.”
This era, Sculley said, is marked by ever shortening time for technologies to go mainstream. “It took two years for the iPhone, it took one year for the iPad….there’s never been anything like that…The speed of adoption in this mobile era is totally unprecedented.”
“When the iPad 2 came out and all the Android tablets came out, Apple actually ended up even further ahead….it’s Apple’s game to lose.”
On why the US is today’s tech power-house
“It’s because we have a culture that gives permission to fail…if you’re intelligent and you’re smart you learn from it.”