Steve Jobs has always been my idol in building great products. Lately, I have been reading a lot about his past and what I am going to share in this post are some startling patterns that became evident in the process. There are some great lessons to be learnt here.
Lets rewind back to 1980s when Apple was selling the Macintosh – it was a complete stack with the microprocessor, hardware, software and applications being built by Apple and sold as one big package. In contrast, the competition was going the horizontal with Intel building the microprocessors, IBM and several others building the hardware and Microsoft building the software. In this round, the consortium of Intel – Microsoft – Hardware vendors won hands down because of their open approach.
Jobs then moved on to Next and went to task again in building the entire computing stack, both hardware and software included. Jobs again made losses here and the company was finally acquired by Apple giving Jobs his second chance at Apple.
At Apple, Jobs again moved on to build the iPod, including all of hardware, software and middleware (iTunes) and its as if he was third time lucky. The iPod was an instant hit and rest is history.
If you notice, in all these stints, Jobs went about building the entire stack where conventional wisdom would suggest being the market leader in one part of the stack while partnering with other companies for the rest. And he did that not once, or twice, but three times, even after getting beaten twice by the Intel / Microsoft partnership. So how do you explain this?
The answer, as counterintuitive as it may sound lies in “Belief”. It seems like deep down, Jobs always believed that the user should not need to understand the intricacies of the device to use it and every time he went about building a product, this belief led him to take ownership of the entire stack. For his first two attempts, the market conditions did not let him realize his dreams, but finally it was his belief that led the move into consumer products market where it worked like a charm.
Its amazing that he stuck to his belief for 20+ years, isn’t it? Building a product is hard work and it seems like strong belief and perseverance to see it through is the only way to make it happen!
What do you guys think?