Steve Jobs – He knew “It was Personal”

In the mid 90’s the biggest technology companies in the world all knew that the revolution was over and that the “PC” business had matured – the innovation phase had ended and it was all about cost reduction and marketing.Then, IBM saw that its CEO/CIO clients had lost interest in employee machines and quit the business.  DEC focused billions on a single chip inside their machine and then folded.  Compaq fired some engineers and hired a few extra finance executives and consolidated.  And Henry Ford was reincarnated in the person of Michael Dell who understood that winning this phase of the “PC” industry would happen on the factory (and call center) floor.Of course, nobody needs to go to a store just shop for a commodity – toilet paper is toilet paper – a PC is a PC – and you don’t need to consult an salesperson to decide what color cover to put on you Dell notebook.   So CompUSA and the other PC stores were no longer needed and they died of natural causes.Meanwhile in Redmond, they were celebrating the safety of their position safe above the fray of the hardware guys and had their “leadership” focused on defending their cash flows against innovative disruption.  People start flocking to browsers – they gave one away – people start flocking to search engines – same – people start playing computer games on dedicated machines – they built one.  Follow and imitate to protect the rent money.The foregoing history is an over-simplification – but it is accurate.   100’s of billions of dollars were being spent by America’s technology companies on R&D, product marketing and strategic planning all while embracing the absolute truth that PC’s were a commodity with no possibility of achieving competitive advantage by providing the customer with a better experience.  The world’s leading tech companies were focused on CEO’s/CIO’s or faster chips or more efficient factories or protecting monopolies or anything but the Persons using the machines.  They were all wrong.  As it turns out, in the mid 90’s the PC was just beginning its innovation phase.The PC revolution had just begun and if you gave the customer a better experience, you could still create the most valuable company in the world.  Steve Jobs knew it.  Apple has always been about the user and the computer.  Make no mistake – the iPod is a computer – a PERSONAL computer with hardware and software totally optimized for listening to music.   The iPhone and iPad are PERSONAL computers as well.Ironic that as it turns out, the Mac was the only PC because Steve knew “it was Personal.”RIP

Posted on October 7, 2011 in Insights, Technology Industry