Five of Steve Jobs’ biggest mistakes

“It’s a great disservice to everyone, especially young people, that the stories that we often hear about the most accomplished entrepreneurs sound so effortless,” Peter Sims writes for Harvard Business Review. “The truth is just the opposite, even for visionary creative success stories like those of Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, Howard Schultz, Wendy Kopp, and even the legendary Steve Jobs.”

“Like any creative process, any entrepreneur who wants to invent, innovate, or create must be willing to be imperfect and make mistakes in order to learn what works and what does not,” Sims writes. “It took Dorsey years of experimentation before he finally latched onto what ultimately became Twitter. Wendy Kopp started Teach for America, initially as a conference, on a shoestring budget after graduating from college. And Howard Schultz, while he had great foresight to recognize that Americans needed a communal coffee experience like those that existed in Europe, failed on his first try. As I wrote in Little Bets, when his first store opened in Seattle in 1986, there was non-stop opera music, menus in Italian, and no chairs. As Schultz acknowledges, he and his colleagues had to make ‘”a lot of mistakes’ to discover what would become the Starbucks we know today.”

Sims writes “Despite what we may have read, Steve Jobs was no different.”

Five of Steve Jobs’ biggest mistakes:
1. Recruiting John Sculley as CEO of Apple
2. Believing that Pixar would be a great hardware company
3. Not knowing the right market for NeXT computer
4. Launching numerous product failures

MacDailyNews Take: Blaming Jobs for the Newton and Macintosh TV, both of which were launched by Apple long after Steve Jobs was gone building what would become the basis for Apple’s salvation, Mac OS X, earn Sims two demerits. iMac’s hockey puck mouse, not Newton or Macintosh TV, should have been on Sims’ list of Jobsian product failures.

5. Trying to sell Pixar numerous times

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: No quibbles with the bozo headlining Sims’ list, we can assure you.

MacDailyNews Note: Today is Martin Luther King Day in the U.S. and the markets are closed. As usual on such trading holidays, we will have limited posting today.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Fred Mertz” for the heads up.]


    1. Well, Apple did improve the thing so you could actually hold it accurately in the dark.

      The ORIGINAL hockey puck mouse was a brave FAILed experiment in design over function. After its death it was consigned to a special circle in hell for particularly silly technology. The Mac Cube resides there as well. Cute and cuddly but not good tech.

      1. Cube was too far ahead of it’s time… tech wasn’t small or cheap enough to make it work. He wanted it to be what the mac mini is now. Was (and still is) a beautiful thing tho…

  1. “Today is Martin Luther King Day in the U.S. and the markets are closed. As usual on such trading holidays, we will have limited posting today.”

    What does a trading holiday have to do with Mac Daily News? This site is not ‘AAPL Trading News’ and there are Mac news items around the world that are not centred in the US and not related to trading stocks.

    1. Thank you. My initial thoughts, however most of the focus of this site over the last year or so has more news about APPL financials, and Political flame bait. Rarely anything on good product rumors

      1. “Political flame bait” <– Sadly yes.

        "Rarely anything on good product rumors" <– 2011 and 2012 were particularly inane years for Apple rumors. 2013 appears to be slightly better if only because so many stupid rumors in 2011 and 2012 were proven to be idiotic fabrications. For example, rumors about the mythological 'iTV' have been considerable tempered of late.

        Maybe the cycle-of-stupid is turning back around to fact-oriented reporting. I'd enjoy that immensely, in technology AND politics! 😀

    2. That would be “centered.”

      For those of us following MDN for many years, they like most of the workers in the U.S., take a holiday.

      Hard to believe you have a problem with that.

          1. I was under the impression that this was a forum to discuss such matters. After all, this site is here to serve the readers and attract ad clicks. If the readers want it to change, MDN and the readers would be served well if we discussed what we want.

      1. “That would be ‘centered'”

        Unfortunately, the US is not the centre of the universe. The proper spelling in the rest of the world is ‘centred’. British, Canadian, South African, Indian, Singaporean, etc. all spell it the right way. It is only the Yankees who can’t spell.

  2. I contend that appointing John Sculley as the CEO of Apple was not as big a mistake as it’s made out to be. Anyone appointed CEO of Apple in that time period would have failed spectacularly. Witness Michael Spindler and Gil Amelio take Apple down to the lows. Spindler was an Apple insider from Germany so he didn’t lack the Apple DNA. Amelio was an alumni of National Semiconductor, Bell Labs and Fairchild Semiconductor and so had years of industry experience. Neither could turn Apple around until Steve returned in 1996 and simplified the product line in 1997.

    Apple’s problem wasn’t of Sculley’s making – it simply priced itself out of the market without offering anything extra on Windows 3.1, Windows 95, etc, which ran on cheap Intel machines and benefited from the growth phase of PCs in the 1980s and 1990s.

    Apple only really started to grow in 2007 after the introduction of the iPhone. Prior to that its revenue stream was about half that of Microsoft. It was the advent of the iPhone that propelled Apple into the stratosphere. Therefore, Sculley cannot be cast as the villain for destroying value at Apple. Apple was on a self destructive path anyway.

    Read ‘Infinite Loop’ by Michael Malone. It defines the Sculley and early Jobs era at Apple very well.

    1. Of course BLN, nothing is as simple as we’d like it to be. But I have to point out that Sculley, Spindler and Amelio were not entrepreneurial. In the case of Sculley, he had just about no experience with inventing anything. Spindler allowed Apple’s most infamous Marketing-As-Management blunder of all time to occur: The $1 Billion in warehoused, unwanted Mac Performas that triggered Apple’s period of severe decline. Amelio added in his own nasty blunder, the licensing of Mac OS to third party hardware manufacturers. That was a go-with-the-flow move to please the outside dunderheads who had no comprehension of the value of Apple’s approach to marrying hardware and software.

      At least Amelio had the guts to get Apple to buy NeXT and bring Jobs back into the company. Amelio’s departure was honorable from most accounts. So I have to at least tip my hat to him for getting Apple through the worst, despite contributing to the problem

      As for the comment ‘priced itself out of the market’: Pure, cobweb covered rubbish as proven time and again. That worthless and ignorant concept has been blasted to smithereens. Just look up ROI and TCO. Apple won at both, making Macs consistently CHEAPER than any corresponding PC. What stymied Apple was the fact that the typical computer buyer looked at the shelf price and thought that was the ACTUAL and FINAL price of the computer. Nope! Buy a Windows box and the suffering and costs had barely begun.

      “Apple only really started to grow in 2007 after the introduction of the iPhone.” No. The growth started again with the iMacs. I remember well as I was in the thick of it periodically doing Mac demos for Apple at CompUSA. The iPod was THE new product that kickstarted Apple’s future beyond the Mac. Neglect it not! The iPhone came directly out of the iPod lineage, as did the iPad.

      “Sculley cannot be cast as the villain for destroying value at Apple.” No, but he didn’t have the personality, skills or interest in technology required to kick Apple in the butt when it started circling the drain. He didn’t know what to do or how to do it. The fiasco of Mac OS 7 is the single best illustration of the problem. I well remember the horror of Mac OS 7.5. Meanwhile, Apple desperately went into scattershot mode to try and find a way to turn Mac OS 7 into a state-of-the-art multitasking OS and FAILed miserably. The promises of Copland then Gershwin went on for years with no viable result. It took turning Mac OS into UNIX to solve the problem, thanks to the work of NeXT and the open source Mach kernel project.

      Sculley, Spindler and Amelio could never have seen Apple through the UNIX-ification of Mac OS. It took the NeXT folks to do it, and even then the transition from Rhapsody to a quality Mac OS X 10.2 took years of work. Only Steve Jobs could have seen it through and keep it on track.

      Let’s hope our new Apple with Cook at the helm can be just as self-directed, technically smart and determined.

      1. Your recollection of Apple history is detailed and well done, sir. Equal kudos to BLN.

        Unless I’m wrong, seems to me the unanswered question is the beginning of Apple growth or is it rebirth?

        iMac? iPod? iPhone?

        Don’t know, but its working. 🙂

    1. The first generation hockey puck mouse, as I ranted above, was a big fat FAIL. The second version was at least usable.

      I have to agree with the Might Mouse. I have successfully avoided it, despite it having some innovative value. Instead I am a huge fan of the Magic Trackpad. I’ll give up my Magic Track when you pry it from my cold dead hands. 😉

      1. It was nearly impossible to hold the first generation hockey puck mouse correctly. You want to just grab the mouse and go. Doing that commonly resulting in bizarro behavior on screen. NOTHING oriented your hand to hold it correctly except visually noting when the mouse cord was pointing in the proper direction, inline with your hand. It was a nightmare and deserves all the derision it gets.

        The second generation hockey puck mouse was a different story. You could actually FEEL when it was correctly oriented in your hand. Effectively the circular hockey puck shape had been removed in favor of something that actually FIT in your hand properly.

  3. What a nonsensical list.

    1. Recruiting John Scully lead Jobs to found Pixar, to invent computer on which WWW was created, to find his wife that had his children. There is just no way how it is “mistake”.

    2. Pixar’s hardware and software were intervened in the early stages. If Jobs would not believe in hardware part of the company, then he would not really believe in software, too — he would only left to see the company as group of people like Lassetter, which are artists. Pixar Renderman software engine, which is used by the most of the industry to this day and that was cornerstone of Pixar’s big 3D films, would not exist, as the company itself.

    3. The same as with Pixar, Next would not be created at all if it would only be about software. So in both cases hardware was pivotal, absolutely necessary for companies to exist and succeed, even though without hardware in later stages. Also, there was “right market” for NextCube. This workstation was close to be perfect machine in its time, but B2B type of sales proved to be what Jobs hated the most: it is about wooden IT-“doofuses” that totally controlled by large corporate relations with biggest vendors. Once Jobs has drawn in IBM’s gigantic bureaucracy in his attempts to engage the company in supporting Next, the hardware was doomed. It is not retail sector, where actual users decide what to use and what to buy.

    4. Steven Jobs never launched “Apple Lisa” — this is blatantly ignorant nonsense from the author, again. He was ousted from the project long before it was became selling, and took over small “rebels” group that was designing Macintosh (though before Jobs joined them, under this term was lame concept by Jef Raskin, who later implemented while working in Canon — total useless failure). As to other products, those had nothing to do with Jobs, or was minor mistakes (hockey mouse and PowerMac G3 Cube — even though it was work of art).

    5. That mistake that he never committed. He may have tried selling Pixar, but he was never cheap about it since he knew its worth. He did sell it eventually once fair price was offered.

    1. I was once told by a former independent Apple dealer, that the cube was a proof-of-concept experiment for Apple to show that the components could be pack in such a way that they could fit in the soon-to-come half-hemisphere of the sno-globe iMac. May not be true, but it rather makes sense.

  4. “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

    Theodrore Roosevelt.

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