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Ex-Apple CEO John Sculley Details his Showdown with Steve Jobs to the BBC

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Former Apple CEO John Sculley spoke with the BBC at CES and gave his thoughts about the Steve Jobs biography. Jobs recruited Sculley from Pepsi back in the 80s with the famous challenge, “do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?”

In an interview with the BBC, Sculley sheds some light on when his relationship with Jobs turned sour:

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.

We had to have the profits of the Apple II and we couldn’t afford to cut the price of the Macintosh because we needed the profits from the Apple II to show our earnings – not just to cover the Mac’s problems.

That’s what led to the disagreement and the showdown between me and Steve and eventually the board investigated it and agreed that my position was the one they wanted to support.

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.

The Steve Jobs biography paints a picture of these two getting along marvellously in the beginning of their business relationship–and then turning downright ugly. Jobs actually attempted to oust Sculley before he could do the same to Jobs, noted by biographer Walter Isaacson:

“I think you’re bad for Apple, and I think you’re the wrong person to run the company…you should leave this company. You don’t know how to operate and never have.”

This is when Sculley polled the board room and said “It’s me or Steve, who do you vote for?” Sculley eventually won the poll, and Steve Jobs left Apple. The rest is history.

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  • Laserheart

    The biggest problem with most companies is that they are risk adverse, and continue to follow the same path because they think it’s for the good of the company and the shareholders.

    Had they considered something is on it’s last legs, and they need to radically invest in the future, they would have understood Steve Jobs’ vision.

    Oh well, hindsight is 20/20 – but why are most companies still trying to follow the old models?

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