[NTLK] Sculley explains why he fired Steve Jobs

Ryan newtontalk at me.com
Sun Oct 24 02:57:14 EDT 2010


This is actually in response to "Newton saved Apple".  My me aliases are all messed up, waiting on Apple to fix them.  So I have to send from an older computer that has some older NTLK threads on it.

While I'm glad Sculley has publicly admitted that Apple pretty much made a mistake in hiring him... he still seems to dogmatically farm out responsibility to others.

Now, I wasn't working for Apple at the time... but, from the research I have done on Apple and the Newton, it was actually because of the Newton, and various other R&D projects, that Apple got itself into the position it was in during the 90s.  That's because Sculley was not involved really much at all in any of the development of Apple's products.  He was detached and played "old school" CEO.  But in the business of consumer tech, it's the wrong kind of leadership because people at the top have to understand consumers, and have a future strategy, etc.

Sculley was simply an antiquated, anti-social executive with no experience in consumer technology.  By the time Newton launched, Sculley was admittedly tired and had been pondering leaving Apple.  His words...

Newton actually cost Apple much, much more than $100 million.  From my research, it's actually $500 million - $1 billion lost on the Newton alone.  This is calculated from 1987, the beginning of Newton's R&D, to the final year of sales in 1998.  I have references for these numbers if anyone would like to have them.  There are several references that, when all put together, equal the $500-1 billion estimate.

Bloated R&D costs, not only with it, but with other projects like Project Pink (multi-tasking operating system), etc.... Apple lost a lot of money because these projects failed to produce any real products.  And Apple really needed a new operating system.  But they couldn't produce one, even after all the money Sculley allowed to be thrown at Project Pink.

There's all kinds of quotes from people around at the time that, when connected together, tell the story.  For example, Jobs was quoted as saying that Apple never produced much innovation at all after the Mac was launched.  That they couldn't turn their research into actual products.  That's mostly true.  And that was directed, really, at Sculley.

Sculley would approve projects without knowing much about them at all.  It's like he just got swept up in the California sun.  Influenced by the hippy culture at Apple, he felt that if he let people have the freedom they were used to, then Apple would just continue to be Apple.  But the problem was, Apple needed leadership to steer the ship.  He never did that.  It wasn't in his DNA to be a leader at Apple.  He came from an entirely different era, and from an entirely different industry.

As out of control as Jobs was, Apple should have simply hired some consultants, or just made Sculley a temporary CEO for 1 year, then released him.  Jobs would have worked himself out.

I know that Apple 'may' have made money from their ARM holding dealings, but: 1. the amount of money they lost at Sculley's hand is astronomical 2. Apple almost went bankrupt.  

I see Microsoft, with Ballmer at the helm, as a sort of Sculley driven Apple.  Ballmer has no real vision or strategy, particularly in the mobile space.  Windows Phone 7 is not getting favorable reviews.  Office 2011 is also not getting very good reviews.  

I think what Microsoft has left that is of any value is: Excel; Windows 7: xBox.  More than enough to keep them in business... At least they're smart about downsizing when they have to.  I'll give them that.


On 2010-06-09, at 11:33 AM, Laurent Bourrelly wrote:

> Hi all,
> I found this article interesting, and while it includes the daddy of Newton, I felt like sharing with you.
> http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-06-06/why-i-fired-steve-jobs/full/
> Looking back, it looks like Jobs should have been CEO and Scully president.
> Au revoir,
> Laurent
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