Would Jobs have made IBM deal? Not in ‘95

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Credit: Screen capture from 1995 interview of Steve Jobs by Robert Cringely

How might Steve Jobs have viewed the major enterprise partnership announced yesterday by Apple and IBM?

No one can say for certain, of course, since the Apple co-founder has been gone going on three years. But Jobs was known to speak ill of Big Blue – here’s a Bloomberg collection of quotes – not to mention the photo of him literally giving IBM the finger. Then there’s an interview Jobs gave to Robert Cringely in 1995 in which even what seem to be compliments are in fact back-handed jabs.

Here’s the clip, followed by a transcript of the pertinent parts if you’d rather read.

Cringely: When IBM entered the (PC) market was that a daunting thing for you at Apple?

Jobs: Oh, sure. I mean here was Apple a $1 billion-dollar company and here was IBM probably at that time a $30-some-odd-billion-dollar company entering the market. Sure it was very scary.

We made a very big mistake, though. IBM’s first product was terrible, it was really bad, and we made the mistake of not realizing that a lot of other people had a very strong vested interest in helping IBM make it better. So if it had just been up to IBM they would have crashed and burned, but IBM did have I think a genius to their approach in having a lot of other people have a vested interest in their success and that’s what saved them in the end. …

People get confused, companies get confused. When they start getting bigger they want to replicate their initial success. And a lot of them think, well, somehow there’s some magic in the process of how that success was created. So they start to try to institutionalize process across the company and before very long people get confused that the process is the content. I mean that’s ultimately the downfall of IBM. IBM has the best process people in the world; they just forgot about the content.

Maybe two decades later he’d have come to value process a lot more.

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