Steve Jobs believed his greatest legacy would be Apple the company, rather than the breakthrough products such as the Mac and the iPad with which he is most associated, according to an authorised biography published on Monday.
He also indicated that he had been working on new ground-breaking ideas until his last days at the company, including an Apple television set that would link seamlessly to the company’s other devices and the internet. Commenting on how easy it would be to use, he said: “It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.” The hint marks the first official acknowledgement that Apple has set its sights on the TV set as the next mass consumer electronics category it hopes to invade.
In the book, Jobs said he hoped he had infused Apple with a rare desire to keep putting products ahead of profit – the quality he held responsible for the success that made it the world’s most valuable technology company, with a stock market capitalisation now nearly two-thirds higher than its nearest competitor, Microsoft.
In an interview not long before he died from cancer this month, Jobs told biographer Walter Isaacson that other companies, buoyed by their commercial success, let their products atrophy and became driven by the sales staff. “The company starts valuing the great salesmen because they’re the ones who can move the needle on revenues,” Jobs said, citing IBM and Microsoft as examples. “I don’t think anything will change at Microsoft as long as Ballmer is running it.”
Although he told Mr Isaacson that the new Apple chief executive Tim Cook was “not a product guy, per se”, he expressed confidence in Mr Cook’s quiet leadership and the team of talented executives under him.
“I believe that Steve was able to embed in the genetic code of that company the ability to connect honestly with technology,” Mr Isaacson told the Financial Times, referring to an approach from the perspective of a non-technical user.
Jobs also mounted a strong defence of the integrated approach to technology that had always characterised Apple, which keeps control of all hardware and software components in its devices as well as many elements of the services on which they rely.
He conceded that an open platform system, such as the one for Google’s Android smartphone software, could lead to more rapid innovation than Apple’s methods. But he said integration was the only way he could make “perfect” products.
The book gives the fullest portrait to date of Jobs, depicting him as flawed but visionary. It also provides tantalising clues to the origins of his outsized personality and the company he created.
Jobs was adopted by parents who quickly recognised his intelligence and encouraged his curiosity and early business ambitions. His adoptive father was a mechanic who liked to restore cars, and he taught Jobs how to work with his hands. “He loved doing things right,” Jobs said. “He even cared about the look of the parts you couldn’t see.”
His intense interest in the smallest details to do with Apple’s products also made Jobs obsessive and hard to work with.
On the subject of the feud with John Sculley, then Apple’s chief executive, that led to Jobs’ forced departure from the company in the mid-1980s, Mr Isaacson related how the Apple co-founder was “frequently obnoxious, rude, selfish and nasty to other people”.
According to Jobs, however, the conflict with Mr Sculley, a former PepsiCo executive with no interest in the details of his company’s products, proved the superiority of his own approach to business. “I learnt that my perspective was right. Products are everything,” he said.