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back to article Ex–Apple CEO John Sculley: Ousting Steve Jobs 'was a mistake'

Ex–Apple CEO John Sculley, who engineered Steve Jobs' removal from managing the company's Macintosh division in May 1985 – a move that eventually led Jobs to resign that September – now thinks it may not have been such a good idea. "I think, in hindsight, for the founder to leave was a mistake and I was a part of that," Sculley …

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...and in other news...

Water is wet and the sky is blue.

In all seriousness, hindsight is only 20/20 when you let it; you can't let today's knowledge judge yesterday's.

There's no saying that Jobs would have become what he did had those events never happened. You can never second guess, because the path you took is the one that got you where you are. Only that sequence of events resulted in Jobs being who he was, and Apple becoming what it is.

More interestingly, this sounds like a little remorse, even if twinged with a sense of lost profit opportunity; a seeming rarity among top executives. For that, I'll give due credit, such small amount it might be.

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Re: ...and in other news...

I think the most interesting part of this was Sculley talking about the piece that caused the incident being using the profit margin of one device to bring down the price of another. When the iPhone was first announced, Ballmer said that people would never pay that much for a phone and it would fail. The media likes to selectively quote him on the subject, but in reality Steve Jobs heard what Ballmer said and realized Ballmer was right. That is why he worked with AT&T to subsidize the phone.

All in all, Jobs hadn't learned the lesson Sculley had tried to teach him, but he learned enough to listen to the wiser men in the room. That is why he followed Ballmer's word to the letter, and the iPhone became a success as a result.

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Umm, not so sure.

Everything I've read about Steve Jobs in the early days suggests that he was a number 1 prick, and deserved to have several years outside Apple learning a thing or two.

I believe Apple succeeded when he returned because he was a slightly different person, and Apple itself was more open to his return. Remember that his return was like the mythical lost leader coming home. Had he not left, he wouldn't have commanded such respect, and it's doubtful he would have lasted as long.

The other thing to remember is that after Steve Jobs left in 1985, Apple was still a great company, and the Macintosh was still a fantastic machine. Apple only really lost the plot in the middle of the 90s when they were unable to figure out how to make a Mac stay up for more than 15 minutes without that dreaded bomb.

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Re: Umm, not so sure.

More importantly, had he not left, he wouldn't have founded NeXT, whose software provided the foundation for what became OS X, which became iOS.

There's no telling what would have happened if things had gone differently back in 1985. Its too bad he believed too strongly in alternative medicine thanks to his hippie background, so by the time he consulted real physicians for his cancer it was too late, because we also don't know what else he might have accomplished if he had been around another few decades. Say what you will about Jobs as a CEO, at least he was no Ballmer!

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Re: Umm, not so sure.

He consulted real doctors, that's how he got his diagnosis. They told him he was full of cancer. He told them they were full of shinola. Guess who was right?

I mistrust people who are always right. They are usually the last to know differently.

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Boffin

Re: Umm, not so sure.

Had Steve Jobs not been ousted from Apple, Apple would today be in the same place NeXT is - gone. I know a lot of people who spent 30+ year-long careers at Apple, starting in the early 80's. I also know people who were at NeXT. Jobs made mistake after mistake at NeXT, and those mistakes were fatal. While Apple ended up buying NeXT, that was really part of Job's return to Apple while NeXT was circling the drain. Had Jobs not been booted from Apple and founded NeXT, all of the lessons learned at NeXT, at NeXT's expense, would have been on Apple's dime (if they were learned at all), and Apple would have gone down the drain. I have no doubt that Apple would not be the company it is today had Job's not been booted and really broken his teeth on NeXT.

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Re: Umm, not so sure.

I believe Apple succeeded when he returned because he was a slightly different person, and Apple itself was more open to his return. Remember that his return was like the mythical lost leader coming home.

Similarly, I think the ouster and return was important for boosting the Cult of Steve among consumers. Had he stayed at Apple the whole time, that narrative would have been a lot less compelling. It's impossible to test this sort of supposition, but my feeling is that Apple's commercial success following Jobs' return owes a lot to that story.

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Paris Hilton

Pension?

Is Sculley after his pension from the Apple?

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Boffin

Re: Pension?

Pension? At Apple? Are you joking?

Have you ever even been to America?

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Re: Pension?

In America CEOs still get pensions. The regular workers don't.

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Boffin

Re: Pension?

"In America CEOs still get pensions. The regular workers don't."

Sorry bucko, but that so far off, it can't even be elevated to the status of "wrong". And don't try to conflate a golden parachute with a pension.

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Say what you will about Jobs as a CEO, at least he was no Ballmer!

And this implies that Ballmer is no Steve Jobs. Most unfortunate for Microsoft for which I shed only a small tear!

Otherwise:

+1

Any my stock is doing nicely, thank you.

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Coat

Read "The Macintosh Way" by Guy Kawasaki

Now the apple fans know who Guy Kawasaki is. The main thing you see in the book is how much better the Employees working on the Macintosh were treated compared to the people working on the product that made money. This is one of the reasons that Steve Wosniak left the company. Job's actions were making key people leave.

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Stop

Re: Read "The Macintosh Way" by Guy Kawasaki

1) technically Woz never left the company, he's still on the payroll

2) the aircraft crash in 1981 (which messed his memory up) and not wanting to get involved in management were more the cause of him wanting to move on to other things like teaching.

3) Woz wasn't interested in the money part of the business, why would he have been concerned over which products made money?

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Camp ...

Why do they look so camp in the photo?

And how can you tell if they are wearing suspenders?

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Re: Camp ...

markw:, in the 1980s, camp was de rigueur.

I’m sure that you know this, but for the sake of those for whom English is not the mother tongue: Rik is American, so his suspenders (US) = braces (UK). Were he referring to suspenders (UK), he most likely would have used garters (US).

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Joke

@markw - Re: Camp ...

Wrote :- "And how can you tell if they are wearing suspenders?"

Gets three downvotes ?! Lighten up you Americans, and remember this is a British website, and in Britain "suspenders" are not merely the things used to hold up ladies stockings before tights were invented, they remain today as an icon of S&M activity, as worn by Miss Whiplash and co.

The reference to supenders in TFA photo caption was I suspect meant as a subtle joke in itself, but the whole thing has obviously gone whoosh past some people. Even Mr Spock explained to us once what a joke is - "An anecdote with a humerous climax".

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why, not that ugly photo again...

P.S. If Sculley didn't fire Jobs, the Apple would sustain even heavier losses trying to produce and sell $10000 (a la NeXT) and $135000 (a la Pixar) computers.

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Maybe so, but I think you missed the observation that having got rid of Jobs, Sculley then proceeded to 'do a Ballmer' and just started spending the cash reserves.

I agree that Jobs had to go, his ego had got in the way of his vision and it did take 12 years in the wilderness to cure that. However even with his ego issues, surely Jobs could have done a far better job than Sculley, Spindler and Amelio put together?

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bex

what's done is done and without Jobs jaunt to Next there may have not been OSX or IOS

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Or Ethernet

Bill Krause of 3COM:

"We had put Ethernet on a card, and instead of having to screw a tap we had a connector that looked a lot like the one you screw into your cable box and TV. And were all excited about it. We set up four PCs, and we called Steve Jobs who was a good friend and told him, “You have to come over and see this demo.” Steve comes over and we hook it up and show it to him.

It was a classic Steve response: “Who’s the brain-dead asshole that came up with this shit? This is dreck, this is crap. You want to make it easy to install, just plug it into the telephone jack for cryin’ out loud.”

Why didn’t we think of that? No one knows to this day that Steve Jobs deserves the credit for creating Ethernet the way it is today, and it is a part of why it beat out other competing technologies. It was another one of his brilliant insights around user-interface.

"http://a16z.com/2014/02/06/40-pound-calculators-the-birth-of-ethernet-and-a-100-billion-mistake-a-conversation-with-bill-krause/

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Paris Hilton

Re: Or Ethernet

That doesn't make any sense at all. Ethernet for ages used thick coaxial cable and thin coaxial cable and it worked very well unless the terminating impedance fell off. There were even cheap coaxial Ethernet kits coming in something like pringle boxes that you could order up to connect your cheap Taiwan-made PCs together. It took a bit for Ethernet to be moved to UTP cabling and that was done not because of pluggability by the unwashed masses but because administrators liked the star topology. Although the university departments suddenly needed large cable ducts running along corridors...

Course, the coax was killed dead once one needed a medium able to survive high bandwidth while not locking up due to contention.

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Re: Or Ethernet

Funny how back then the Messiah didn't get upset about a connector which has to be the right way up and has an annoying tab which makes it almost impossible to pull from a tangle of wires.

If this story is true, it's sad because had he been a bit calmer, he might have given himself the time to ask what might the properties of an easy-to-use cable be, and let his team work on that instead of just implementing a copy of an existing but flawed telephone style socket.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Or Ethernet

God only knows what he said when he saw SCSI

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Re: Or Ethernet

It does make sense.

It was indeed a pain in the backside making connection to real Ethernet cable, drilling the hole and the rest of it. But BNC had its own major downside. A simple loop topology meant you had to have a BNC tee at the Ethernet card; the end unit had to have the terminating impedance. Disconnecting a PC meant remembering to remove the entire tee with the connecting cables; thoughtlessly unplugging each cable in turn caused lack of Ethernet.

We had an Australian engineer who used to do this regularly leaving two cables dangling in his office and causing much annoyance, especially to people in the middle of a large file transfer.

The advantage of the RJ45 type connector and the star topology was that it was easy enough to use for the instructed, but sufficiently formidable looking that clerical staff didn't like to unplug it.

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@Arthur Jackson - Re: Or Ethernet

Wrote : "Steve Jobs deserves the credit for creating Ethernet the way it is today, and it is a part of why it beat out other competing technologies. It was another one of his brilliant insights around user-interface."

What's this? We are now supposed to admire Jobs for creating the Ethernet plug? The dam stupid thing that you can easily mistakenly try to get into the phone socket, when feeling round the back of a system unit under the desk? Why didn't they adopt a jack plug instead?

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Re: Or Ethernet

> God only knows what he said when he saw SCSI

Well, the Mac had the usual SCSI Centronics port IIRC.

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Re: Or Ethernet

Thanks for the link, Arthur. I enjoyed reading the article.

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Biggest Mistake?

Maybe, maybe not.

I think their biggest mistake was killing off the Power PC clones.

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Re: Biggest Mistake?

You are kidding? The biggest mistake they ever made was in allowing them in the first place. Apple has always been in the business of selling hardware. Licensing their OS out, then having to compete with the clones on price nearly finished them. The clones weren't good pieces of hardware either, so they tarnished the brand.

Microsoft grew from the opposite direction, licensing software and making little in the line of hardware. They have had precisely the same kinds of problem trying to get into the hardware manufacturing business. Surface and Windows RT did badly in part because they were competing with their own OEMS.

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Re: Biggest Mistake?

Compete? They could have been getting royalties AND still selling OS's.

And thanks to the lesser cost of the Power PCs, more companies were adopting them as the basic desktop tool.

Were. Once Apple killed them, the x86 platform became, by default, the cheaper platform.

Apple also had a nifty little server at one time, the Xserve. Again, for price and performance, it beat the pants off anything in its spec range. Killed off by Apple.

Kidding? I was there. I saw first hand how they sabotaged themselves over and over in the enterprise market and then the business market in general.

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Re: Biggest Mistake?

How much money do you think they could sell a license for? Now how much money do you think they made selling a Mac? (Hint: look at what Microsoft can charge for Windows). Almost every clone sale was a lost sale to Apple and netted them less money. The market wasn't growing to any significant extent and Apple was competing against their own OS. I'll say this again, it was a bloody stupid idea. Microsoft could licence software because that was their business model. They didn't care about OEMS competing against each other because they'd already been paid. They can't however start selling their own machines without significant backlash.

Microprocessors have always been subject to economies of scale. Apple and Apple clones would have had to increase their market share many times in order for PowerPC to compete with X86 on cost, but the reason that Apple decided to move was one of power consumption. There was no roadmap forward for the PowerPC that involved both a significant improvement in speed and a reduction in power. The G5 was pretty hot, and late, and it didn't look like Motorola or IBM were going to be able to meet Apple's future requirements. Because of this they jumped to Intel, and the resulting machines are much faster on a lower power budget. That's a win for users whatever religious view you hold about x86.

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I doubt Apple would be where it is today, had Steve stayed at Apple right through.

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FAIL

Jobs and Gates

Gates spent his entire career copying Jobs. It is my sincere hope that the career of Bill Gates ends the same way the career of Steve Jobs did -- and SOON!

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Re: Jobs and Gates

You realize Gates' foundation is spending beeellions on eradicating diseases and improving sanitation in the 3rd World. So whatever you think of his former career at Microsoft, I'd quite like his new career to be a long and successful one.

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