John Sculley: ‘Steve Jobs was misrepresented in popular culture’

“It goes without saying that Steve Jobs is perhaps the most famous business leader of the century, if not of all time,” Rhiannon Williams reports for The Telegraph. “John Sculley’s legacy is an altogether quieter matter. The mild-mannered New Yorker acted as Apple’s chief executive for a decade until his departure in 1993, overseeing one of company’s most tumultuous periods during its bitter war with Microsoft, as well as bitter power struggles within his own team.”

“Sculley and his wife, on a recent trip to New York from their home in Florida, passed the balcony where Jobs famously propositioned Sculley with the immortal line: ‘Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life? Or come with me and change the world?'” Williams reports. “Sculley speaks wistfully of Jobs now, constantly referring to him as ‘brilliant’ and ‘very talented,’ speaking thoughtfully and at length about events more than 30 years old… ‘Steve and I had this amazing relationship, and my guess is when the new movie comes out people will get a much more accurate picture of what it was really like in those early days at Apple,’ Sculley muses.”

People exaggerate, it’s simple to summarize and exaggerate. I found Steve, remember – at the time we were friends, we were incredibly close friends, and… he was someone who even then, showed compassion, and caring about people. Didn’t mean he couldn’t be tough in a meeting and make decisions, and sometimes they seemed, y’know, overly harsh. But the reality was, the Steve Jobs I knew was still a very decent person, with very decent values. So I think he was misrepresented in popular culture. — John Sculley

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: While he’s correct in his assessment of pop culture’s exaggerations regarding Steve Jobs, Sculley forever remains the unprepared sugared water salesbozo who stupidly signed away the company jewels to Microsoft, consigning much of the world to the computer Dark Ages (still ongoing for far too many).

If, for some reason, we make some big mistake and IBM wins, my personal feeling is that we are going to enter a computer Dark Ages for about twenty years. — Steve Jobs, 1987

Bottom line: Steve picked the wrong guy. It wasn’t the last time, either (most notably: Eric Schmidt on Apple’s BoD).


  1. It’s incredibly difficult to find really good people. You don’t know what someone will do when presented with the opportunity to steal from ft Knox. Now we know eric t mole carries a wheelbarrow in the truck of his car so he’s ready at all times to cart away the loot.

  2. Bashing Sculley and Apple in the 80s for what they did to Steve Jobs is easy, but wrong. The failures inflicted on Jobs at the time are what made him the person who eventually took Apple to the top.

    His 12 years in the wilderness taught him humility. It allowed him open Next and create OS X. It also provide him the opportunity to buy Pixar where he learned how to properly manage creative people.

    Without these lessons, he would not have become the person he was when he came back to Apple–the person who would take Apple to heights that us old-times with original Macs in our closets would believe possible.

    1. It is *not* wrong to bash Sculley and Apple for their actions in the 1980s. They did not oust Jobs with the intention of making him a better person. Your post is based on a logical fallacy.

      1. Yet they were the agents of adversity who are necessary to the advancement of the hero, an age-old theme that resonates through millennia, recording the same harsh truth in book after ancient book of wisdom. Facts will always, and must be, reassembled into a recognisable primordial story. Logic is an afterthought.

  3. John Sculley is up to something. Releasing his own phone etc. If I had to put money on it, he’ll say anything to get in the press. I am not saying he’s a bad person, but he did kick Steve out of Apple – salt goes here. But just like a lot of people he has an angle and it’s not angelic.

    1. Sculley’s new company is Obi Worldphones. Maybe he’s trying to attract attention. A surefire way to do that is to make public mention of Steve Jobs. Otherwise, as he pushes 80, maybe he’s trying to detox his legacy.

    2. To be precise, SJ wasn’t kicked out of Apple at all. Sculley asked the board to decide which of them was running the company, and the board chose him. SJ resigned, he wasn’t fired.


  4. I find MDN’s perspective on John Sculley to be inaccurate, tiresome and, quite frankly, juvenile. During Sculley’s tenure, Apple’s revenues increased more than 10x and when he was (essentially) fired, the company was sitting on more than $2 billion in cash, with only $200 million in debt. For the late 1980s/early 1990s, this is an impressive performance. Under Sculley, the Powerbook was first developed and released (laptops would eventually become the majority of Apple’s Mac revenues). Heck, MacAddict – clearly not tied to MDN’s false narrative – called the period between 1989 and 1991 the
    “first golden age” for the Mac. Even Newton – with ambition beyond the available tech – led directly to Apple’s involvement in ARM chips, the direct predecessor of the current A series SOCs. I really would like to know who among the staff at MDN can boast even a single career accomplishment that is remotely close to these.

    The sound you hear is a lone cricket…

    1. Yes, Sculley oversaw a lot of great happenings at Apple. Apple even was the top supplier of desktop computers for several quarters in the 1989-1990 era selling more computers than IBM, Compaq, HP or any of the rest.

      However, your narrative is a little short. Sculley was ousted in1993 because everyone could see that Apple was on its way down, and the way down started BEFORE 1993. It was the beginning of a downward spiral that lasted until 1998. Sculley had no idea how to stop the downward trend and the board knew it so they asked him to leave. (Unfortunately, the next bunch of guys up until Steve took the helm had no idea how to stop the downward spiral either. Thus several short term CEOs at Apple.)

      What MDN is saying refers to Sculley personally authorizing the transfer of Mac System Software SOURCE CODE to Microsoft in exchange for Microsoft continuing to develop applications for the Mac. Gates threatened to kill all Mac development unless Sculley caved. Sculley caved. The rest is history.

      Would Microsoft have eventually had a viable GUI for their operating system? Absolutely. But, with Apple’s SOURCE CODE from Apple’s state of the art OS, Microsoft saved hundreds of millions of dollars in development costs and likely brought out various versions of the Windows OS (or originally, a skin for MS-DOS) several years earlier than they would have otherwise.

      That was Sculley’s big failure. It nearly killed Apple.

  5. Errrr… it was Steve Jobs himself that ended the legal battles between Apple and Microsoft when he returned in the late 1990s. You are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts,

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