Transcript of Knaster Interview, Part 4

On Steve Jobs (transcript)
January 20, 1999

Note: Transcripts have been edited for readability and are not word-for-word reflections of the audio sections.

S: I worked at Apple when Steve Jobs was there the first time, and I was there when he left. I was a huge fan of his while he was there, and I know pretty well what he does, what he means to the company, and his reputation -- both positive and negative. But when he left and Apple floundered, I always believed that he was what was missing. I'm not smart enough to ever have imagined that he would go back before he did, but if you looked at Apple in the middle of 1996 it seemed pretty clear that -- especially if you compared Apple to Microsoft, and being at Microsoft I thought about that a lot -- Microsoft was the Apple that kept its founder.

Both companies are the perfect reflection of their founders, and Microsoft's success is due is great degree to the fact that the founder was able to stay, carry on, and grow the company. Apple's lack of success through its bad period, I think, reflected the fact that it lost its center -- lost its way -- and part of that was because Steve Jobs wasn't there. Steve and Apple are like siblings, or parent and child.

People at Apple, before any other company that I heard of, talked about genetic code being passed from employee to employee. When you were at Apple you knew what was an Apple thing to do and what wasn't. And Steve Jobs, I think, was the source of that, so when he was gone it all went askew. Now that he's back, Apple can be Apple again -- Apple can be the best Apple it can possibly be because Steve understands it better than anyone else possibly could, in a similar way to how Bill Gates has guided Microsoft.

It's not a pure analogy; I would say that the way of being Microsoft is written down more and there's more process about it. And maybe that's a Microsoft thing -- at Apple there's not a lot of process stuff written down, it's just more of a knowing, and having Steve there helps to reinforce that.

Apple now seems to me a much more together place -- coherent place that knows what it's doing -- where things go from beginning to end, they make sense, and you can understand why they're doing them. And I love the fact that Apple can still surprise and shock people.

M: But they only surprise and shock and stun under Steve. You wouldn't use those terms to describe anything under Gil Amelio, Michael Spindler, John Sculley.

S: Exactly. What's remarkable, too, is that one of the achievements that Steve Jobs has brought back to Apple is keeping a secret. I wouldn't have guessed that. This is a new Steve Jobs, also -- a 1.1 or 2.0 Steve Jobs -- because now he's into making the company successful and profitable. Still making cool products, but he also understands a lot more about making the company successful.

And importance -- like the importance of operations -- the boring stuff. The importance of keeping a secret. Everybody knew about the Mac before it was announced, but nobody knew about the color iMacs. Okay, color cases isn't on par with introducing a Macintosh, but still, the fact that Apple can keep things secret before they're announced is pretty cool.






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Copyright (c) 1999 Polterzeitgeist Productions