Joining other reactions on the web to Steve Jobs’ sudden resignation as the CEO of Apple yesterday, Google’s vice president of engineering Vic Gundotra recalled on Google+ a particular Sunday in January 2008 when Apple’s boss asked him to call his home. The reason? The Google logo on the iPhone:
So Vic, we have an urgent issue, one that I need addressed right away. I’ve already assigned someone from my team to help you, and I hope you can fix this tomorrow. I’ve been looking at the Google logo on the iPhone and I’m not happy with the icon. The second O in Google doesn’t have the right yellow gradient. It’s just wrong and I’m going to have Greg fix it tomorrow. Is that okay with you?
The following day, the world’s greatest product developer followed-up with an email message with the subject “Icon Ambulance”, directing Vic to work with Greg Christie to fix the icon. MacRumors dug up the Google logo icon back from those days, shown below. Of course, Steve Jobs’ penchant for calling people in the middle of the night is legendary. Gondotra acknowledges that “it was customary for Steve to call during the week upset about something”. A 2004 Bloomberg interview quotes Jobs’ approach to product design and calling unexpected ad hoc meetings:
Innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea, or because they realized something that shoots holes in how we’ve been thinking about a problem. It’s ad hoc meetings of six people called by someone who thinks he has figured out the coolest new thing ever and who wants to know what other people think of his idea.
Vic, who is in charge of engineering at Google and as such had been in direct competition with Apple’s former boss on multiple fronts, has more praise for Jobs’ leadership qualities:
Since I was 11 years old and fell in love with an Apple II, I have dozens of stories to tell about Apple products. They have been a part of my life for decades. Even when I worked for 15 years for Bill Gates at Microsoft, I had a huge admiration for Steve and what Apple had produced. But in the end, when I think about leadership, passion and attention to detail, I think back to the call I received from Steve Jobs on a Sunday morning in January. It was a lesson I’ll never forget. CEOs should care about details. Even shades of yellow. On a Sunday.
Cross-posted on 9to5Google.com