Today I finished Steve Jobs’ biography. It was an incredible read, and learning about one of the most world-changing individuals in the last century was amazing. Two of the passages that stood out to me the most are excerpts from Jobs himself at the end of the book:
Apple vs Microsoft
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, if 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 the liberal arts in its DNA. Even when they saw the Mac, they couldn’t copy it well. They totally didn’t get it.
I hate it when people call themselves ‘entrepreneurs’ when what they’re really trying to do is launch a startup and then sell or go public, so they can cash in and move on. They’re unwilling to do the work it takes to build a real company, which is the hardest work in business. That’s how you really make a contribution and add to the legacy of those who went before. You build a company that will still stand for something a generation or two from now. That’s what Walt Disney did, and Hewlett and Packard, and the people who built Intel. They created a company to last, not just to make money. That’s what I want Apple to be.
To me, these two quotes show the essence of Jobs and subsequently the core values of Apple. I’ve read countless Mac vs PC opinions and even attempted a few myself, but I can think of no better and eloquent way to describe it than what Jobs observed above.
His points about entrepreneurship really hit home for me. It’s unbelievable how many startups have such a short-term focus. It simply doesn’t seem “cool” to build a company that’s supposed to last; everyone seems to be headed in the direction of either an IPO or being acquired. Sure it’s difficult to launch a startup and even more difficult to maintain one, but the real challenge is building one that lasts.
Regardless of your view of Steve Jobs, there’s no argument that he was passionate about the product and knew the importance of prioritizing it over profit. He wasn’t the best designer, engineer, programmer, or manager. But he knew how to lead, how to challenge people to their best performance, and how to bring industry-leading teams together. Though we probably don’t want to imitate Jobs’ personality, we all owe him for improving our lives and pushing the technology industry forward.