Photo courtesy of BBC
John Sculley, former vice-president and president of PepsiCo and CEO of Apple between 1983 and 1993, is adamant that Apple —not incumbents such as Samsung— is poised to change the first principles of the television experience. Sculley also confessed in an interview with BBC that has not read Walter Isaacson’s authorized biography of Apple’s late cofounder and CEO. Nevertheless, the executive turned investor underscored Apple’s history of past industry disruptions while opining that the television industry is about to experience Apple’s magic touch:
I think that Apple has revolutionized every other consumer industry, why not television? I think that televisions are unnecessarily complex. The irony is that as the pictures get better and the choice of content gets broader, that the complexity of the experience of using the television gets more and more complicated. So it seems exactly the sort of problem that if anyone is going to change the experience of what the first principles are, it is going to be Apple.
Sculely, 72, is a Silicon Valley investor nowadays, and dispelled some “myths” about his tense relationship with Apple’s cofounder. He said he did not fire Jobs, insisting they had “a terrific relationship when things were going well.” Heck, even Rupert Murdoch is commenting about Apple television, writing on Twitter this morning: “All talk is about coming Apple TV. Plenty of apprehension, no firm facts but eyes on their enormous cash pile”.
Steve Jobs was in search for a CEO in the early 1980s. Jobs and Apple’s investors needed someone reliable to run the trains on time and free Jobs to do what he always enjoyed the most— creating new products. Finally, following a series of secret interviews and long walks Jobs and Sculley enjoyed for months, Apple’s cofounder finally managed to persuade the then-young PepsiCo executive to join the team by famously asking him, “Do you want to sell sugared water for the rest of your life or do you want to come with me and change the world?” Sculley would later confess, “It was like someone just knocked wind out of my stomach.”
The company’s sales would increase under Sculley’s management from $800 million to $8 billion. However, a power struggle between Jobs and Sculley over the expensive Macintosh project would eventually pave the way for an unsuccessful boardroom coup Jobs secretly plotted behind Sculley’s back. The events culminated with Jobs’ removal from managerial duties on May 31, 1985. Shortly thereafter, Jobs resigned from Apple and founded NeXT Inc., the same year.
Sculley told BBC he did not fire Jobs and explained why their relationship deteriorated so badly:
When the Macintosh Office was introduced in 1985 and failed Steve went into a very deep funk. He was depressed, and he and I had a major disagreement where he wanted to cut the price of the Macintosh and I wanted to focus on the Apple II because we were a public company. […] Ironically it was all about Moore’s law and it wasn’t about Steve and me. Computers just weren’t powerful enough in 1985 to do the very rigorous graphics that you had to be able to do for laser printing, and ironically it was only 18 months later when computers were powerful enough that we renamed the Mac Office, Desktop Publishing and it became wildly successful. It wasn’t my idea, it was all Steve’s stuff, but he was just a year and a half too early.
While the Macintosh Office was a year and a half too early, the Newton project that Sculley pioneered was “probably 15 years too early.” As you know, Jobs would immediately axe the Newton project upon his return from exile. Last summer, Sculley credited Jobs for single-handedly launching the mobile revolution and perfecting the process of selling the experience of a lifestyle. A year earlier, he publicly expressed his “tremendous admiration” for Apple’s mercurial CEO.