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Steve Jobs: Redefining The CEO 224

conq writes "BusinessWeek has a nice piece on how Steve Jobs is redefining the job of being a CEO. From the story: 'Just over a decade ago, Steve Jobs was considered washed-up, a has-been whose singular achievement was co-founding Apple Computer back in the 1970s. Now, given the astounding success of Apple and Pixar, he's setting a new bar for how to manage a Digital Age corporation.'"
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Steve Jobs: Redefining The CEO

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  • by CyricZ ( 887944 ) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @12:14PM (#14588106)
    Indeed, one of the facts of life is that everyone gets topped by somebody who is better, or by somebody who will take it to the next level. That is why I am very intrigued to see who will do that to Jobs. He has already set the bar pretty high, and whoever comes along afterwards will really have to do something spectacular to be noticed, and to earn their name.

  • by merger ( 235225 ) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @12:21PM (#14588130)
    Business Week also has a podcast [] where they talk with the author of the story to provide a litte more depth. It was a fairly entertaining discussion where they discuss a little of the history of how it all came about and the relationship between Steve Jobs and Disney.
  • by CyricZ ( 887944 ) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @12:21PM (#14588131)
    NeXT did reach a level of stardom within the engineering, scientific, and academic community. However, that was due to their innovative systems, rather than Jobs himself.

    Indeed, if you went into nearly any modern engineering firm or research lab around 1991 or so, you'd often hear about how many of the employees there wanted even just access to a NeXT system, if they couldn't have one for themselves. Often times the price of such a system was quite prohibitive, but those who did have access were often far more productive than their peers.

  • Disney (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Chromatic Aberration ( 926933 ) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @12:26PM (#14588155)
    I can't believe that the board of directors of Disney is going to include Jobs. Ten years ago I would have said, "When they pry it from Michael Eisner's cold, dead hands." So maybe it's a good thing that people are sitting up and noticing CEOs who aren't just businessmen with suits and a book by Jack Welch.
  • Steve Jobs (Score:4, Interesting)

    by greyrose111 ( 945171 ) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @12:33PM (#14588182)
    Steve Jobs is certainly a mastermind. There's no doubt that he's good at what he does. But the question is, where is he heading? For a long time now, there have been multiple sides to his maneuvering. One theory is that he trying to directly challenge Microsoft. Supporting evidence would be his switch to Intel processors, his continued development of iWork (many think Apple is working on a competitor to Excel), Apple's closed business model and their careful manipulation of the media world. However, to truly become a power player in the computer market they need to seriously drop prices. Another argument might be that Jobs is trying to take over the next big frotier, the TV. Although hundreds of companies have released DVRS and media center PC's, none (except Tivo, which has a monthly charge) have made a product cheap enough and easy enough to make it truly mainstream. Many think it likely that the Mac mini will be converted to a media center Mac based on front row. And then there's the iPod, which by itself has opportunity to explode into a dozen other markets. Many people see Apple entering the cell phone market. Other's see them becoming the single driving force in the upcoming explosion of mobile TV. Still others view the iPod as taking music one step further releasing iPod boom boxes and stereos (this type of speculation is still on the same level however as the Apple TV we kept hearing about). The next year will be the defining era of Apple, will they remain the iPod and high end PC maker, or will they come into the market in ways no one could have forseen in the past?
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @01:04PM (#14588307) Homepage
    The real question is whether Jobs will become CEO of Disney/Pixar. If he does, he'll probably have to give up Apple, and move to LA. Running Disney is a full time job.
  • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @01:49PM (#14588498) Homepage Journal
    So your complaint was that this vacious, airheaded, personality-obsessed article was presented in a particularly airheaded, vacious, design-over-substance way?

    Heh :)

    I thought the entire premise of the article was crap. It reminds me of the Wired "Ten Important Personalities Who Have Something Or Other To Do With A Technology We're Hyping Right Now" type thing (you know the sort? It always includes:

    1. a professor from MIT who invents knew uses for the prefix "Cyber" a lot (Probably Negroponte)
    2. a "hip" CEO of a small "hip" start-up
    3. a particularly stupid venture capitalist who'll put money into anything
    4. a lawyer who "gets it"
    5. a libertarian blowhard
    6. some guy who works at a high level for a giant, gray, corporation who's approved doing research into whatever-it-is and "gets it"
    7. an open source programmer
    8. a senator who once voted against a draconian copyright bill, or some other bill that's currently unpopular (though he voted for all the other ones, a fact not mentioned by the article.)
    9. that guy from MTV who writes a blog about his iPod
    10. Steve Jobs, Bill Joy, or Larry Ellison
    11. Forbes does these types of articles, with a slightly different make up, on a regular basis too.

      Essentally it works like this: The magazine in question doesn't actually know what to write about, and the editors rather like People magazine and other similar gossip rags. So they conclude the best way to bump up sales is to focus on personalities rather than actual facts and information.

      This is BusinessWeek doing their own version. This Jobs fellow is in the news rather a lot these days, I mean he's CEO of Apple and that was kind of interesting because he was fired from Apple and then came back, and now he's also the power behind the throne of the most famous media company, Disney, I mean, he's hip, and we ought to show everyone that we think he's hip. And how better than a content free slideshow? That way our readers don't have to read anything, we don't have to do any thorough fact checking, we can just regurgitate what everyone knows anyway with a few obvious observations, and everyone will read it and go "Gosh, BusinessWeek said exactly what I was thinking about this Steve Jobs fellow, truly they are an insightful magazine."

      This is why I don't read Forbes, or BusinessWeek, and why I don't read Wired any more. (On a similar note, New Scientist's habit of comparing everything to The Matrix in the year I subscribed to them is why I never renewed my subscription.)

      It's called the "media" because it's mediocre.

  • by Mistah Blue ( 519779 ) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @02:08PM (#14588564)
    How much PROFIT are those companies making? Cash is King in my book. A CEO should be judged on PROFIT, not revenue, how big is yacht is, etc. At some point in time, the market will realize a highly profitable company is worth owning and that will be reflected in the stock price.
  • by coleridge78 ( 603449 ) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @02:15PM (#14588593)
    They also own the third-largest (behind Clear Channel and Cumulus) lineup of radio stations in the United States. iPod Radio, anyone?
  • by jcr ( 53032 ) <jcr.mac@com> on Saturday January 28, 2006 @02:22PM (#14588641) Journal
    Why would he? Disney's a smaller company than Apple now, and it doesn't have nearly the growth prospects.

  • Losers. . . (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Fantastic Lad ( 198284 ) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @02:44PM (#14588754)
    He's conquered a whole 3% of the computer market. What a huge success. Not only that, but he's given away tens of thousands of dollars to charity, if you count Democratic politicians as charities.

    He's a bigger loser than he was a decade ago.

    Loser? When you're not in the game to 'win', losing only means not being able to continue playing.

    One of my favorite personality types is the one which pisses off guys like you by not caring about winning or losing in the boring conventional terms so many people think hold validity. Creativity is everything. Greed is a disease. --This, I believe, is a Universal truth which shapes our reality, and once you figure it out, you can fly.

    There's a reason why a fellow who has only 'conquered' 3% of the computer market is such a recognized name. It's because he's learned one of the key secrets of life; how to have fun while everybody else is agonizing over which way the ball is being kicked.

    Who would you enjoy meeting more at a party? --A boring conservative money-getter, or a 'loser' who isn't scared to dream and get excited about it? All my friends are technically 'losers', but they live happily, without fear or want, and they light up the world. All the money-getters I've met, by contrast, are like pre-fab appliances with 2-dimensional social skills. These are the 'winners'. Hmm.


  • by GregBryant ( 868930 ) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @03:47PM (#14589116) Homepage Journal
    During the Internet boom, we thought that computer companies would become fair places to work. Post-boom, we think that blogs & transparency will take over the world. But Jobs fires whole departments from Apple when there's a leak in some insanely trivial product announcement. The place is a dictatorship. Some of their products are ok, especially compared to products from other dictatorships. But I hardly think the Slashdot crowd, impressed by technical achievements & the promise of digital liberation, is interested in celebrating mean capitalists who run private tyrannies. If he represents the future, it's going to be terribly unpleasant in the digital age.
  • by thermopile ( 571680 ) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @06:05PM (#14589900) Homepage
    I'd say, "Mod Parent Up", but it's already at +5. Cheers nonetheless.

    Another shining example of where solid, technical management has proven to be spectacularly successful: Admiral Hyman G. Rickover. He is single-handedly responsible for building the United States Nuclear Navy, and he did it by getting his hands dirty, looking for and finding the devil in the details, and sweating the small stuff. (okay, I admit, there was a strong cadre of very smart engineers and scientists behind him, but they would never have been so successful without him) In 1982, he gave a great speech [] about how to do a job right, and how to manage it properly.

    He eschewed fancy management techiniques, deriding them as smoke and mirrors. Simply requiring his subordinates to understand their jobs and holding them responsible, for everything.

    Rickover could never make it today; he was too much of an irascible fellow. I don't think anyone enjoyed working for him WHILE they were working for him. But, then again, couldn't the same be said of Steve Jobs 1? By that I mean the head of Apple Computer from 1976 to 1984. What of those stories where people would get on an elevator with him and be fired by the time the elevator stopped? Or throwing engineers against the wall for falling asleep in front of their computers at 11 pm?

    Teh Jobs has come a long way, and has found another management "front" that allows him to be head of a successful company again. Kudos to him.

    Also keep in mind that Steve Jobs *almost died* from some form of pancreatic cancer a year ago.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 28, 2006 @06:38PM (#14590121)
    Balmer is going to fucking bury him!

    I think memories of Steve Ballmer will live on as more as jokes than for anything he's achieved. He could easily star in one of those frat-party-house movies. He'd make a good raging drunk. Like really... doesn't he seem like someone ya could sit down, eat pizza, drink beer, and fart with? Some of the video of him dripping wet even conveys smell. Not many CEOs can communicate that in video. What an image. Business attributes? He seems more like a highly driven used car salesman than someone that could be behind creating anything.
    I don't think I'd want his company for beer. He seems like the kinda guy that would spill my beer over and scare off the babes. Ballmer would fit in on one of those weight-loss reality shows, followed by a makeover by the gay team. And then he can go on to do informercials for anti-virus software or something. Or better yet, make Soylent bars for cats, and really be immersed in his product.

    Steve Jobs... what can one say but WOW? Why can't we find someone like him for president? Apply some of that insight to our problems, and tame the terrorists with that Reality Distortion Field.
    Actually I think the Reality Distortion Field is misunderstood. He doesn't take something bad and distort reality, he seems to be able to change reality. He seems to have the ability to throw away what I call "the best car in the junkyard" mentality. That's where people have a frame of reference comparing something mediocre against other things that are more mediocre, and believe they're onto something good. If Windows were the hot dogs of operating systems, a new release would have all the excitement of "Now contains 27% fewer mouse droppings and roaches!". It's like the products from some other companies are so bad, they've got to have a really fucked up frame of reference to see them as good. It's like saying dog shit smells good... compared to cat shit it does. But it's still shit! The recent Q&A with the Microsoft security guy comes to mind. It's amazing what seemed normal and acceptable to him.
    To me it seems it's actually the other managers that have reality distortion. They can't even see when they're wading in shit. It's like the mindset of Windows was bent by being sucked into some blackhole vortex of DOS and it's never crawled out. If they'd kept some mechanism for running DOS programs while COMPLETELY abandoning use of it in Windows, things could have been sooooo much better. So many times since then they could have started with a fresh vision, but it still hasn't happened.

    What company but Apple would have replaced the relatively new iPod Mini with a completely new model (Nano) while the Mini sales were climbing fast and it was the most popular player?

    Steve is so much more in touch with people, and obviously cares about every little detail. Sometimes it seems like Apple put more thought into the packaging (as in cardboard boxes etc) than other manufacturers put into their products.

    There's this popular excuse that goes around, saying that because Apple charges more only Apple can afford good R&D. If what I heard on a weekly PBS business show recently is true, that spending line is a total myth.
    They reported that Apple spends about 5% of revenues on R&D, the industry average is 7.5%!

    The industry problem isn't money. It's lack of vision. I'm sure among the huge staff at Microsoft there must be a number of really brilliant people. It must frustrate and embarrass the hell out of many of them to work there. With such large resources MS should have been able to come up with a dozen brilliantly designed operating systems. Look at Explorer.... MS sued successfully for 500 million dollars for stolen code, and even with that they STILL couldn't make a decent product.

    Compared to Steve Jobs, it seems most of the other guys haven't got a fucking clue. Worse yet, some have behaved as criminals. Intelligence is part of his success story, but attitude,
  • by Budenny ( 888916 ) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @06:50PM (#14590211)
    Gates had an insight which was denied to Jobs. His insight was that to realise the potential of his company, he needed at least one thing to be open. Since the software was not going to be open, becuase he was going to charge for that by the seat, that meant that the hardware had to be open. That was the one thing he could not supply the world with. He needed others to help do that, and he didn't need to manage them as they did it. To see that, took genius of a different order.

    Jobs on the other hand was going to keep his company whatever size it ended up being, as long as he could keep both the hardware and the software closed. However much he could make, that's how many were to be for sale. It turned out to be less than 5% of the market.

    One was a born religious leader who happened to end up in business and ran it like a religion. The other was a born businessman who ended up in business and ran it like a business.

    Gates is in the tradition of Carnegie, right down to his philanthropy. Jobs is in the tradition of....?
  • Micromanagers (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 7Prime ( 871679 ) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @08:36PM (#14590777) Homepage Journal

    For instance, Carter was famously a micro-managing president. Look how that worked out. The Soviet economy was micro-managed from the top (and they even started out as a culture with some very good designers). Results? Nada.

    The two examples of which you spoke aren't very fair, to say the least. Carter didn't fail as a president because he tried to micromanage (in fact, that's one thing I really appreciate about him), he failed because he did not find his legs in Washington, and couldn't communicate with politicians to save his life (not neccessarilly a bad thing, but a bad thing if you are one). The USSR was never designed to be micromanaged, in fact, the original philosophy was completely opposite. But one person changed all that, Stalin, of which all the original revolutionaries hated and advised the party not to trust. Unfortunately, the politician most suited for the job, Trotsky, was hunted down and killed by Stalin, who basically took over the country by force. There is little doubt that if Trotsky had become the rightful leader, as Lenin had suggested, there would have been no cold war. Fear of communism only started AFTER Stalin entered the picture. Fascists have to micromanage to stay in power. But that's not to say that micromanaging can't be used for a possitive outcome.

  • Re:Steve Jobs (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jbolden ( 176878 ) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @09:09PM (#14590917) Homepage
    You mention TV. The hot profitable area in TV right now is at the high end and very high end. Nobody is making much money in the >$500 TV market. The PC market may be the same where all the money is made on 5-10% of the sales while the bulk of PCs are sold at fully loaded cost.

    Steve Jobs is not Bill Gates or Michael Dell. If the battle is about price he loses.
  • focus, focus, focus (Score:2, Interesting)

    by randyjg2 ( 772752 ) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @03:30AM (#14592233) Homepage
    I knew Jobs back in the early days (and again, several times later in his career.) His one real obvious talent was the ability to focus, stay focused, and keep the people around him also focused on the task at hand.

    For some reason, that always seems to disappoint people. They wanted some sort of magic, focusing on any bright shiny slogan or technology associated with the current project. People expect CEO's to put on a great show, it is practically a job definition (no pun intended) these days.

    Most CEO's are chosen because they look and act like CEOs. Jobs sets a high bar simply by adding the ability to concentrate on the job to that short list.

    Take a look at other CEO's in this class, such as Mark Hurd when he was at NCR. Same thing; FOCUS.

    No matter how knowlegable, how micro managing a CEO is, he or she cannot have a significant effect on a corporation directly; there is only 24 hours in a day, and only so much they can do.

    But CEO's set the tone for a company. What they value, the company values. And if a company values focus, then the efforts of members of the company are all directed towards the same goal, and thats where success comes from.

    Not a magic slogan of "saving the world", not some high fashion techtoy, not some secret mastery of arcane knowledge. Jobs could have as easily been a complete dummy running a company producing coathangers in Nebraska, whose motto was "grab it all, control it all, squeeze it till it bleeds", and he still would have suceeded, because a small army of people, focusing on a goal, will always win against a much larger, unorganized mob.

    People forget that CEO's are, first and foremost, leaders, and the job description for a leader is pretty simple... LEAD!(i.e. get everyone going in the same direction.) Every other definition is just smoke and mirrors, no matter how much everyone would like to believe that it is more than that.

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