As a longtime Windows and Office guy, getting used to the influx of Apple products and concepts -- not to mention problems -- has left me scrambling. Clearly, we're witnessing a tectonic shift.
Recently, I bumped into a fascinating interview with Apple's former CEO John Sculley on the Cult of Mac website. In it, the former CEO of Apple sheds a great deal of light on what Apple did -- and does -- differently. It's pretty easy to see, through Sculley's eyes, why Apple is doing so well.
To set the stage, you must realize that John Sculley and Steve Jobs -- once joined intellectually at the hip, finishing each others' sentences -- don't talk to each other. Following the 1985 ouster of Jobs from Apple, which left Sculley in charge, their relationship fell apart irreparably. Four months ago, Sculley said, "I haven't spoken to Steve in 20-odd years."
Few would dispute the fact that Sculley left Apple in shambles and Jobs brought it back to life.
That makes it all the more remarkable when Sculley says in the Cult of Mac interview, "When I think about different kinds of CEOs -- CEOs who are great leaders, CEOs who are great turnaround artists, great deal negotiators, great people motivators -- but the great skill that Steve has is he's a great designer. Everything at Apple can be best understood through the lens of designing." And that, to my jaundiced eye, neatly summarizes the reason why Apple has stolen the wind from Microsoft's sails. Or at least its market capitalization.
Sculley offers a story about a friend who had back-to-back meetings with Apple and Microsoft. "He went into the Apple meeting ... as soon as the designers walked in the room, everyone stopped talking because the designers are the most respected people in the organization. Everyone knows the designers speak for Steve because they have direct reporting to him ... Later in the day he was at Microsoft. When he went into the Microsoft meeting, everybody was talking and then the meeting starts and no designers ever walk into the room. All the technical people are sitting there trying to add their ideas of what ought to be in the design.
"Microsoft hires some of the smartest people in the world ... It's not an issue of people being smart and talented. It's that design at Apple is at the highest level of the organization, led by Steve personally. Design at other companies is not there. It is buried down in the bureaucracy somewhere."
I don't use iTunes, wouldn't be caught dead in the iTunes Store, and I've shouted obscenities at QuickTime for Windows for more than a decade. I don't own an iPod or an iPhone. Android works just fine, thank you.
But I'm envious of my friends' iPads -- heaven help me, it isn't rational, it's entirely emotional -- and from time to time I catch myself looking over the shoulder of folks using Macs.
I can't help but think there's an Apple in my future, too.