Steve Jobs on why Apple’s customers are so loyal, innovation, and more

BusinessWeek Computer Editor Peter Burrows recently talked about the nature of innovation with Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Excerpts of a few of Jobs’ comments:

I get asked a lot why Apple’s customers are so loyal. It’s not because they belong to the Church of Mac! That’s ridiculous. It’s because when you buy our products, and three months later you get stuck on something, you quickly figure out [how to get past it]. And you think, “Wow, someone over there at Apple actually thought of this!” And then three months later you try to do something you hadn’t tried before, and it works, and you think “Hey, they thought of that, too.” And then six months later it happens again. There’s almost no product in the world that you have that experience with, but you have it with a Mac. And you have it with an iPod.

Not everyone knows it, but three months after I came back to Apple, my chief operating guy quit. I couldn’t find anyone internally or elsewhere that knew as much as he did, or as I did. So I did that job for nine months before I found someone I saw eye-to-eye with, and that was Tim Cook. And he has been here ever since. Of course, I didn’t tell anyone because I already had two jobs [CEO of Apple and of movie maker Pixar Animation Studios and didn’t want people to worry about whether I could handle three [jobs]. But after Tim came on board, we basically reinvented the logistics of the PC business. We’ve been doing better than Dell [in terms of some metrics such as inventory] for five years now!

We’ve got such great people [in the top executive team] that I’ve been able to move about half of the day-to-day management of the company to them, so I can spend half my time on the new stuff, like the retail effort. I spent and continue to spend a lot of time on that. And I meet weekly for two or three hours with my OS X team. And there’s the group doing our iLife applications. So I get to spend my time on the forward-looking stuff. My top executives take half the other work off my plate. They love it, and I love it.

Much more in the full article here.

27 Comments

  1. Jobs does a great job of leading Apple. Not only did he make the computers brilliant, he also made the new walkman and doubled to company share price.

    I can’t wait to see what the next generation iPod will be. When G5s go portable I am going to buy a laptop. Until then Apple can take its time to get these products right the first time.

  2. My favorite quote:

    So a different group of people start to move up. And who usually ends up running the show? The sales guy. John Akers at IBM (IBM ) is the consummate example. Then one day, the monopoly expires for whatever reason. But by then the best product people have left, or they’re no longer listened to. And so the company goes through this tumultuous time, and it either survives or it doesn’t.

    Q: Is this common in the industry?
    A: Look at Microsoft (MSFT ) — who’s running Microsoft?

    Q: Steve Ballmer.
    A: Right, the sales guy. Case closed. And that’s what happened at Apple, as well.

    Doh!!!

  3. What’s interesting to me is that on the one hand, Jobs has this rep for being self-centered and extreemly hard to get along with. But on the other hand, anyone following Macs knew long before this interview that Apple has a great team in place, and its members are sticking around and getting along with Jobs plenty good enough — Apple is on a roll, and no matter how much we dig Jobs, he isn’t doing this all by himself. Has he mellowed? Is he more civil with his team members these days? How does he keep them working together so well? His personality isn’t usually portrayed as that of a great facillitator, by any means, but the facts indicate that he’s a whole lot better at this aspect of management than I would ever have thought possible.

  4. I stay “loyal” to Apple because nobody else comes close to offering the complete package of hardware and software that they do. After living in the Wintel world for over 10 years, I was sick of all of the viruses and crashing. Now that I’ve had nothing but Macs the past 2 1/2 years, the days of having all of those problems disappeared. So unless things ever radically swing the other direction, I’ll remain “loyal” for the forseeable future.

  5. That was a great interview. I’d love to get a peek at the 1,000 things they said no to!

    I think Jobs has mellowed a lot. There are numerous stories about how arrogant and cut-throat he was back in the early days (just check out Folklore.org) but I think a combination of time and failures at NeXT have humbled him. I’m reminded of a quote from the first Indiana Jones movie, “It’s not the years honey, it’s the mileage.” I’d like to hear from some of the Andy Hertzfelds of today what he’s like to work with now.

  6. “We may not be the richest guy in the graveyard at the end of the day, but we’re the best at what we do. And Apple is doing the best work in its history. I really believe that. And there’s a lot more coming.”

    …and you STILL haven’t bought any Apple stock?

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