So what did John Sculley ever do for us?
Man and myth
One thing that struck me when reading the Steve Jobs bio was that way it completely skips over Apple's time when Jobs was absent. Quoth p295:
" For a few years after Jobs was ousted, Apple was able to coast comfortable with a high profit margin based on its temporary dominance in desktop publishing... Jobs was appalled, and he became angry and contemptuous as Sculley presided over a steady decline in market share for Apple in the early 1990s. "Sculley destroyed Apple by bringing in corrupt people and corrupt values," Jobs later lamented. "They cared about making money-for themselves mainly, and also for Apple-rather than making great products."
The common narrative seems to go: Steve Jobs starts Apple. Steve Jobs leaves Apple. Everything goes tits up and Sculley and his minions wreck everything Steve has made.
What's cooler than 1.9 billion dollars? Eleven billion dollars
Something just nags me that this is an extremely one-sided view. Jobs left Apple in 1985 when it had $1.9bn of revenue. Ten years later it had $11.0bn of revenue. Not bad for a bunch of guys who were failures (to be fair that fell to a mere $7bn two years later, precipitating Job's return as CEO).
But I think the view that Sculley basically wrecked the shop, while conveniently fitting the Jobs narrative, is bogus. Arguably some of Apple's best years (and let's be clear - best products) were in the late eighties and early nineties under Sculley. Yes things screwed up later. And yes Apple in those days is a mere shadow of what it is now. But that doesn't change the fact that Apple after Jobs made great products:
The great Apple products (that Job's wasn't involved in)
- For a start take Apple's dominance of the DTP market. Yes Jobs was instrumental in getting laser printers and cool typography and GUIs into the Mac, but he left barely a year after it had launched. The period when Aldus took over the world with Pagemaker is actually long after he had left.
- Similarly Photoshop which allowed Macs to dominate (and still dominate) the image editing market - launched 1988.
- And as I said, virtually all Apple Macs were produced after Jobs left. The Mac SE (and's killer son the SE/30) - nothing to do with him.
- Ditto the IIsi, and, much later, the LC and Color Classic.
- And let's not forget the IIfx, an absolute beast in its day (although most of you people probably weren't born when the idea of a 68030 @40Mhz was pretty much a supercomputer).
- The original Powerbooks - great machines in their day - products of the "wreckers" of the post-Jobs regime.
- Heck people even forget that the much-maligned Mac Portable was a revolutionary product in its day (first use of active-matrix TFT to get round the problem with blurring pixels, an integrated trackball and one which you could switched left and right). So yeah, the iPhone's not the only portable device with a revolutionary display and input mechanism that's been invented at Apple...
Look, that's not to say Job's didn't lay the groundwork. And its not saying that Apple didn't move on to bigger and better things when he returned.
And that's not to see things were mightily screwed up from the mid-90s onwards and that on Sculley's watch Microsoft won (although its arguable whether that would have been any different if Job's had stayed).
I just think that the popular myth just doesn't reflect reality.
<quick puts on flame retardant suit>