Archive for September, 2011

Learnings from Steve Jobs

September 1, 2011

Apple CEO Steve Jobs stunned the world on August 24, 2011 by announcing his decision to resign as the CEO of Apple. No other company has been so closely associated with the CEO for so long – Steve Jobs led every product, took every key decision and even did many of the key products launches! Though his resignation was not unexpected, as he is fighting his rather serious health problems for more than a year, his announcement did cause a lot of shock. Business leaders, academics, techies, analysts and many of Apple and Steve Jobs’ admirers, have written a lot already. Here is a quick take on what you – students – can learn from an outstanding professional career of Steve Jobs.

  1. Be bold

Steve Jobs dared to be different. More than a decade back, he took the bold decision that Apple products will NOT support floppy disk drives; recently, he followed it up with the decision NOT to have optical drives (CD / DVD) on Mac Books. He created a lot of problems to many by deciding not to support “Adobe Flash” on iPhone / iPad. Apple was the first to bet on HTML 5 on iPhone and SSD (Solid State Disk) for Mac Book Air. In many such instances, the entire industry followed Apple. Steve Jobs also made no secret that Apple does not believe in “market research”; Apple creates products that the market has never seen; Apple products being so good, the market laps them up when launched! Even at a personal level, very few CEO’s would talk about their humble early days in public; that too in the graduation ceremony at the world’s richest university; do read his Stanford University commencement speech titled “Stay hungry, Stay foolish”

  1. Combine design and engineering

Apple’s USP is that every product has a design appeal. There were many personal computers, but Apple Macintosh stood out; Apple iPod stands out among a crowd of MP3 players; Apple iPhone is a tall leader among many smart phones; Apple iPad has practically no competitor in the past 18 months! What makes Apple products special is their exemplary designer touch. Apple products are extremely well engineered too! Often in India “design” is confused with “flimsy” ideas often through “looks” with no enduring quality. Steve Jobs ensured that design AND engineering are combined to produce lasting products with exceptional appeal.

  1. The importance of hardware & software

The hugely successful products from Apple combine hardware and software to deliver exceptional value to the customer. Way back in early 90’s, Steve Jobs ensured that floppy disk in Apple Mac computers would “pop out” by “software click” rather than “pressing a button”. The run away success of iPod, iPhone and iPad is the hardware AND software integration, where Steve Job’s company controls the destiny of both hardware and software evolution, so that Apple product deliver superior customer delight year after year. Steve Jobs may not win the “religious war” of “open systems”, but Apple customers who have enjoyed the delightful products from Steve Jobs’ company have voted overwhelmingly for such hardware + software! The Microsoft & Nokia partnership announced in February 2011 and Google acquisition of Motorola Mobility on August 15, 2011, overwhelmingly vindicate this trend.

  1. Be brutally honest

Steve Jobs had his failings too. But in every such occasion, he admitted the mistake and even atoned for them. When iPhone 4 had “antenna” issues, Steve Jobs had a thorough Radio engineering work in the impressive Apple Labs, made a personal appearance, clarified the issue and offered a “case” free of cost. When the first set of iPhone customers were upset with the sudden drop of price from $ 699 to $ 499 with the launch of iPhone 3G, Steve Jobs announced cash refund to all the early customers.

  1. Bet on patents

Free software movement and the hugely successful “open source” philosophy are nice. Steve Jobs over the years has benefited from “open source” and Apple contributes to “open source” too; for example, Mac OS is derived from BSD Unix and Apple contributes to WebKit browser component. Yet, Steve Jobs has no confusion that when it comes to business success, what matters is the intellectual property protection through patents. Apple has a very large patent portfolio; often, Steve Jobs and his company do not shy away from legal battles when Apple needs to protect its interests; they can even go after Chinese factories, though Apple critically depends on them for their iPod, iPhone & iPad production!

These are some key lessons from an extra-ordinary CEO who broke every stereotype. He did not go to the best college; he did not pursue CS degree; he is not even an engineer, let alone a computer engineer, though he engineered some of the best computing products, that too both hardware and software! Indian students should take a special note that Steve Jobs does not have an MBA (Bill Gates does not have it either), though he is undoubtedly the most successful businessman of our times. Last month Apple had more cash than US Government, if you have any doubt about his company’s business success!

Go discover more about this amazing designer, get inspired and practice it in your own professional career.

Best of luck!

Professor Sowmyanarayanan Sadagopan is the Director of IIIT-Bangalore. These are his personal views. He can be reached at ss@iiitb.ac.in