Alan Kay: Apple ‘requires a charismatic leader who will shoot people in the knees when needed’

“Alan Kay thinks that Apple the loss of Apple’s dynamic leader, Steve Jobs, may have left the company without a leader capable of making decisions,” Karen Haslam reports for Macworld UK.

“Kay was a key member of the Xerox PARC lab that Apple’s late co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs visited, and came away with the idea of a graphical user interface and computer mouse. Kay joined Apple as an Apple Fellow in 1984,” Haslam reports. “He also conceived the Dynabook concept, a 1972 proposal for a personal computer for children of all ages, which is predominantly what he is discussing in an interview by historian David Greelish on Techland.”

Haslam reports, “Towards the end of the interview, Kay comments that organisations like Apple: ‘Require a charismatic leader who will shoot people in the knees when needed.’ Without this leader ‘no group can come up with a good decision and make it stick just because it is a good idea,’ he adds.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Charisma is nice, but not required for Apple to thrive at this stage.

As for decision-making capabilities: Ask Scott Forstall how his knees feel.

Related article:
Alan Kay: ‘Much of the iPad UI is very poor in a myriad of ways’ – April 3, 2013

40 Comments

      1. Exactly. Anyone who has read the story of Cook asking an operations exec “why are you still here?” in a meeting should understand that Cook is not exactly a pushover.

    1. Actually Mr. Cook needs to start aiming for the knees of so called industry analysts that make claims with no data to support their positions. I think they may be able to to get enough evidence for a libel case if the false reports of problems at Apple continue from certain market analysts.

      1. He didn’t yell at them last summer when they were going crazy with their praise and expectations of AAPL. So it would look foolish for him to yell at them now just because the stock has plummeted. If the analysts weren’t prejudiced and clueless last summer as AAPL shot up to the stratosphere then why would they be prejudice and clueless now?

  1. Good article! Tim Cook is a capable executive who is also a liberal progressive who sometimes exhibits weakness and doesn’t mind using Apple’s great success on controversial social issues that alienate and offend half the country. Good executive, yes! Charismatic leader and visionary on par with Steve? Hell no!

            1. “I think you knew what I meant, fucktard.”

              So we have to read your mind when you post, cu? We’ll keep that in mind. As for the rest of your invective . . . .

              ““When a man uses profanity to support an argument, it indicates that either the man or the argument is weak – probably both.” Yup.

    1. What “controversial social issues’, exactly? And which half of the country? Please explain, clearly and sussinctly, so that we all know what it is that you’re referring to. No beating about the bush, or euphemisms, or obfuscation now.

  2. Hmm yea MDN, I agree. I haven’t seen any waffling on decision making. Apple as has always been the case studies the issue deeply and makes a “value” based judgement, not the short term optimal other public companies seem to make.

  3. Tim Cook is to charismatic leaders what Sarah Palin is to scholars.

    This guy is white bread, bland, boring and antiseptic. He has all the personality of a wet dishrag!

    He hasn’t done a blessed thing since he took over, except drive billions out of the market cap.

    This guy is as interesting to watch as a Chinese reality show.

    I hope Apple wakes up and gets a real CEO; not a Steve Jobs errand boy.

    1. I disagree. I think the calm we’re currently interpreting as “doing nothing” is simply the calm before an onslaught of amazing new product introductions. At least that’s what I’ll choose to believe.

      1. What evidence do we have to place our faith in a wave of exciting new products? In some product lines, we are currently experiencing a record long gap between product refreshments — and Apple is completely silent about what to expect. I don’t place any faith in analyst crystal balls, especially Gene Munster’s annual prediction of an Apple TV.

        Does anyone want to buy a copy of iWork ’09? There is simply no excuse for such pathetically slow software updates.

  4. Again we see evidence that vast numbers of Wall Street analcysts Just Don’t Get Apple. Again I must state what a great thing it is that Apple Just Doesn’t Care what clueless Wall Street analcysts have to spew about them. Apple made itself #1, not these gangs of lame brain analcysts.

    Clue to the clients and customers of lame brain analcysts: DUMP THEIR SERVICES.

  5. Apple already has a charismatic potential visionary leader in place — Jonny Ive. He has taste, is respected — and was personally in product development groomed by Steve Jobs himself.

    Now, he’s the company’s acknowledged new leader in critical elements of both hardware and software design. Ive doesn’t often speak publicly, but when he does, he is measured, articulate, on point — and people listen. I’d say he is even revered.

    As long as Tim Cook is willing to give Ive the visionary and product development role, Ive doesn’t have to be the CEO.

    We’ll know more when the next round of Apple products hit the streets. If Ive can successfully put his imprint and aesthetics on a new generation of integrated software and hardware that pushes Apple to the next level, consider this issue resolved.

    1. Yup. Apple lost some steam with user experience under Forstall. Although I was a fan of Forstall’s very obvious passion for his work, some of the decisions that came out of his team are not up to par. I’m confidence those details will be corrected under Ive.

  6. I’d take Alan Kay more seriously if he had ever met or worked with Tim Cook. But it appears he is basing his news-attention-gathering comments on news reports.

  7. If Alan Kay was a hugely successful, charismatic, leader his opinion would count for something. The world is full of “armchair experts” who snipe from the sidelines.

    Tim Cook’s supply chain expertise is about to be tested: South Korea is about to go to war and there will be huge disruption to manufacturing facilities and probably a complete shutdown of their airspace.

    1. Disruption? Not really. Unlike 1950 we aren’t unprepared for a North Korean invasion, and more importantly, Korea’s lifeline (China) isn’t prepared to lose manufacturing profits over some tin-horn dictator’s delusions. A North Korea prompted war would be short and decisive, with the North Korean Army being crushed by US and ROK troops, and the government being eliminated by China.

      1. Short & decisive? North Korea has an enormous array of artillery within easy reach of Seoul and will do enormous damage to infrastructure in the opening salvos of a war. They have the world’s second largest standing army. Last time there were more than 1million casualties. Fifteen minutes of NK artillery fire and missiles will be enough to bring the South to a standstill but a bombardment will likely continue for many weeks, perhaps longer. If the North can get their army through the DMZ they will be very difficult to stop, and the South will be fighting street by street. The US has held back from military action to stop the North’s nuclear ambitions because of the likely enormous casualties in the South. This is not a video game!

        1. Sunbeamrapier, you really are totally ignorant about that region. Do you honestly think, for one second, that China and Russia would allow such a conflict to take place right on their borders? NK gets 80% of its food from China, and most of that goes to it’s armed forces.
          How long do you think it would be before they continue to support a leader who’s actions suddenly mean they and their families go hungry?
          A sudden ‘accident’ or ‘illness’ befalling their Dear Leader would rapidly de-escalate things.
          Don’t imagine that it couldn’t happen, with China whispering into the right ears.

          1. I live in the region (Australia). Russia has no influence on North Korea. China has a great deal of influence, but has been unable to persuade NK to abandon its plans to acquire nuclear arms, or to stop its missile and nuclear tests. The new Chinese Premier has issued various statements calling for restraint, but if the North Korean administration decides to provoke South Korea there is little that China can do to prevent the outbreak of war. What China will do then is anyone’s guess – they may cut off all supplies to North Korea, which would limit the time NK can wage war, but would not prevent wholesale damage to South Korean commercial centres and huge loss of life. China may decide to keep the supply lines open, in part to ensure that they do not become a target of NK missiles. Reading the minds of any of the protagonists is impossible – the world has little viable intelligence of China’s policies, and less of North Korea’s. It boils down to whether the new NK administration accurately determine how far they can go before prompting a significant retaliation. The concern in this region is that NK will overstep the mark and find themselves in a full on war.

            I find myself wondering whether Apple has decided to bring forward its transfer of supply for processors and memory to Taiwan, and whether this will be achieved before war disrupts the South Korean economy

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