Steve Jobs: Apple almost ruined by ‘sales guys’ in mid-90’s

The Mac is 20! Steven Levy writes for Newsweek, “Even now for its 25 million users, the Macintosh is a source of passion. (Journalists know that a disparaging word about an iMac or a PowerBook will unleash a hundred flames from rabid Apple-heads.) Steve Jobs thinks he knows why. ‘In the modern world there aren’t a lot of products where the people who make them love them. How many products are made that way these days?'”

Levy writes, “If that’s so, then why is the Mac market share, even after Apple’s recent revival, sputtering at a measly 5 percent? Jobs has a theory about that, too. Once a company devises a great product, he says, it has a monopoly in that realm, and concentrates less on innovation than protecting its turf. ‘The Mac-user interface was a 10-year monopoly,’ says Jobs. ‘Who ended up running the company? Sales guys. At the critical juncture in the late ’80s, when they should have gone for market share, they went for profits. They made obscene profits for several years. And their products became mediocre. And then their monopoly ended with Windows 95. They behaved like a monopoly, and it came back to bite them, which always happens.'”

Levy writes, “A wicked smile cracks the bearded, crinkly Steve Jobs’s visage, and for a moment he could be the playful upstart who shocked the world 20 years ago. ‘Hmm, look who’s running Microsoft now,’ he says, referring to former Procter & Gamble marketer Steve Ballmer. ‘A sales guy!’ The smile gets broader. ‘I wonder… ‘ he says.”

Full article here.


  1. Who the hell does this Jobs guy think he is suggesting that Macs were overpriced? Obviously he knows nothing about the quality of Mac computers, that they last 15 times longer than PC’s and that you get what you pay for.

    Boy, thus really burns me up. Some out-from-left-field jerk suggesting that Apple sold overpriced, mediocre machines. What a piece of crap. This guy, whoever he is, should be taken out and shot.

    MAC IS THE BEST NO MATTER WHAT THE PRICE. $4000 for a beige box with an inpenetrable model number? NO PROBLEM EXCEPT THAT IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN $8000.

    If Apple had just made their machines twice as expensive as they were, they could have made sure that the only people buying them would be people that didn’t care how much something cost, and then we wouldn’t have had WHINING like from this Jobbs guy.

    Trust me on this–I’m right, because I have a VERY high IQ.

  2. Yes, I can spel. My fingers must have slipped. Or something. Anyway, it is a little strange, Jobs saying that Mac should have gone for market share. I wonder if he would have, way back then?

  3. Jobs point was that Apple stopped innovating, and concentrated on ways to make high profits. They could do that because the Mac OS was enough to entice customers to pay a premium.

    When Win 95 came out, the Mac OS stopped being enough. Suddenly the premium seemed like a really stupid way to go, and Apple lost a lot of ground. Then Motorola started screwing around, and that’s all she wrote!

    Back to Jobs’ point: the downturn started when Apple stopped trying to make the best, and tried to make money. If Jobs’ had remained in charge, OS X (its equivalent) would have been introduced in 1990 or so, because he saw the value in Unix in the 80s and he would have gone there regardless of the cost. Where would Windows be today if Win95 had to compete with OS X rather than System 7 ?

  4. the “can’t spell” knock is so childish. I mean, of course we all type too fast sometimes, and sometimes we don’t bother to be uber anal and check everything we type. Plus, if you have an extra brain cell available, you would check the mis-spelling (sp? haha) and deduce using your logic program that indeed it was a typing error by the other characters involved in the error.


  5. Ahhh, the joy of riducule.

    Seriously, it’s easy to look back and think about how it should have been – rather than how it has turned out to be. I remember when the Mac first appeared. I was using a “really cool” AT&T (remember them?) DOS unit. With a whopping 10BG drive. I never did learn the command line…

    My first Mac was an SE-30. With system 6.something, it was pretty fast. It was a great machine. I instinctively knew how to use it to, you know, actually do things. Accomplish something with it. Format stuff. Write reports, do email (then rather new – there wasn’t the www. for the rest of us then), draw pictures, use simple databases.

    Then, later, came a Centris, then a beige G3, followed by a Lombard and iMac and now a (rather dated) Pismo. Love this Mac. Actually, I love ’em all. How can you not appreciate and admire something that becomes a part of you when you use it? And I can’t think of a single Dell or HP or whatever-Wintel user that can say that – then or now.

  6. I thought opinionated jerk was being “sarcastic”. Sounds like the joke is on MKG (nice name). Jobs is right of course and its good to have him back in the driving seat. Sounds like prices might be getting funky in the near future too. Cool.

  7. So Steve Jobs says in effect at a particular point in its history Apple (through its sales orientated leaders) became complacent, took its eye off of its priorities and failed to push ahead as it should because it didn’t have to when the opposition was so poor, and some jerk (spelt however you like) explains that as actually saying that the Mac has always been over priced, always poor quality, always unreliable and mediocre. Yup sounds like your typical objective PC press doesn’t it lol.

  8. 1. Yes, my post was sarcastic. It was my rendition of what would have been posted here ad nauseum had the person being quoted in the interview been anyone other than Steven Jobs.

    2. My studious use of the past tense and specific reference to beige machines made it clear to anyone above the age of 12 that I wasn’t writing about “always.”

    3. For the life of me I can’t figure out the “objective PC press” reference.

    4. My reason for posting in the first place was my utter shock at Jobs stating, straight out and without qualification, that Apple gave up the chance of increasing market share by selling overpriced, mediocre machines, given that anyone suggesting here that Macs were ever overpriced or mediocre would result in a public lynching.

    5. The Jobs matter of factly made a statement that would have been a hanging offense not long ago (days ago) makes me really wonder what Jobs might say five years from now, and the choice Apple has to make now–try squeezing any more life from incremental G4 speed increases or switch the iMac over to the G5.

  9. Re point 5:

    For a couple of years before the G5 was introduced, Apple’s high-end products definitely were seriously overpriced for the CPU power you got with them. I don’t think many Mac fans would dispute that. In the midrange, Apple gets a bigger chunk of the customer’s money than any Wintel OEM, but as one TCO survey after another shows, the customer easily saves the difference on Norton plug-the-holes-ware & $65 tech-support calls.

    At the low end . . . well, Apple doesn’t really have low-end products, so no valid comparison can be made. ‘Hey, look, I can buy a piece-of-crap toaster PC with no OS or warranty for $200 from a guy in Taiwan! I’ll install a pirated copy of Windows, & it will be almost six months before the whole system craps out & I have to buy another one! Apple sucks, huh-huh, huh-huh!’ Don’t low-end PC wonks remind you of Beavis & Butthead?

    Today, ‘the choice Apple has to make now’ has nothing to do with G4 vs. G5. Moto lost that battle by default; it’s just a question of how fast the product line can be moved over to G5. I’m predicting a G5 iMac replacement (possibly called an iMac, possibly not) well in time for Christmas. IBM has stated its intention of shipping 9xx-series PowerPC chips by the tens of millions, which means they’ll make ’em cheap like borscht. Motorola can’t compete with that & don’t even want to. And according to IBM’s official roadmap, the PPC 980 will be shipping in quantity before the end of this year, leaving the 970 series as the low-end consumer chip.

    Meanwhile, Jobs’ point is dead on. John Sculley & his executroid clones pissed away a grand opportunity in the late 80s, by idiotic moves like charging $7000 for the Mac II.

  10. Random: It is hell of a long time before next Christmas/end of this year. Three weeks short of a year, in fact. Like I said, Apple’s gotta decide whether to go consumer G5 now, or try to squeeze another 40-48 weeks out of the G4. That is a heck of a long time considering that their consumer machines are suffering the sales decline the pro machines were suffering prior to the G5.

  11. A tech company especially the one that relies on innovations like Apple can’t be ruled by sales types. Sales types never understands that sometimes you have to take risks in producing something that hasn’t been done before and therefore, there is no precedence in guaranteeing its success. It’s a big gamble, but the pay off is the products can transform the whole insdustry. Inventing technologies by a committee of technologically challenged executives always spells disaster.

    The moment a tech company is ruled by sales types, that is the moment the company becomes just a manufacturer of tech devices.

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