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Apple Businesses

How Apple Got Everything Right By Doing Everything Wrong 413

An anonymous reader writes "Wired has a look at how the good and bad of Apple, their Yin and Yang, have come together to form a company that actually works. The piece looks at Steve Jobs' unusual and abrasive management style, otherwise known as 'Management Techniques From the Dark Side'. It's essentially a list of counterintuitive, suspicious-seeming and downright evil management techniques that work - for them."
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How Apple Got Everything Right By Doing Everything Wrong

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  • by wass ( 72082 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @11:40AM (#22796086)
    I read the first of five pages of the article, and decided it's not worth further click-throughs.

    The author tries to come up with ways that Apple is evil, but really winds up taking jabs primarily at Steve Jobs. As a newfound mac user, I don't give a crap about Jobs, I care about using a computer that matches my needs and does what I want. For me that's Mac. And for most of the other 6-7% of the Mac marketshare it's a pretty similar situation.
    • by podperson ( 592944 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @11:50AM (#22796198) Homepage

      My favorite bit from skimming it: "even WIRED got it wrong" (referring to telling Apple to get out of the hardware business).

      This from the magazine whose cover story was "The Long Boom" the month that the internet bubble burst.

      Wired hardly ever gets anything right (not entirely its fault, since it makes lots of predictions), but still.
      • by ThousandStars ( 556222 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @02:17PM (#22798084) Homepage
        "even WIRED got it wrong" (referring to telling Apple to get out of the hardware business).

        Well, yes and no: Apple is more a hardware packager than maker, since it now just takes utterly standard components and puts them together. At one point it used unusual chips, had its own peripheral standard, etc., so Apple has taken many of the suggestions from others and conformed itself more to standard PCs.

        In addition, it's not clear whether Apple would be even more successful if it licensed its operating system to other companies willing to make less expensive boxes.

        • by Lars T. ( 470328 ) <Lars.Traeger@goog l e m a il.com> on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @03:16PM (#22798712) Journal

          Well, yes and no: Apple is more a hardware packager than maker, since it now just takes utterly standard components and puts them together. At one point it used unusual chips, had its own peripheral standard, etc., so Apple has taken many of the suggestions from others and conformed itself more to standard PCs.
          The few non-utterly standard components Apple had in their Macs always were there because the alternatives were either worse or more expensive. ADB - compared to DIN-plug keyboards and serial mouse interfaces? "Unusual" chips vs. dozens of chips in PCs (later replaced by only a couple of chips called "chip-sets", which amazingly did the same Apple (and others) did before with their "unusual" chips).
        • by toriver ( 11308 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @05:37PM (#22800374)

          In addition, it's not clear whether Apple would be even more successful if it licensed its operating system to other companies willing to make less expensive boxes.

          Actually, that is clear - since they once did, and almost went under because of it. One of the first things Jobs did when Pepsi-Sculley was out and he was back was to cancel all deals with companies like Power Computing.
    • by db32 ( 862117 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @11:50AM (#22796200) Journal
      No joke, I wish my mod points hadn't expired. This really is some twisted shit. This seems par for the course lately from Wired. They have been publishing absolute garbage lately. Air Force blocks blocks and other sites and suddenlty something that is an industry best practice for security becomes censorship?

      I also noticed that the people bitching about Jobs were "former" employees. Well holy shit...someone who left or was fired is going to bitch about their former boss for some media facetime? This is a 5 page article?!

      And maybe I didn't read enough, but "micromanaging" has nothing to do with demanding exacting detail from the output. Anyone who calls that micromanaging has NEVER been micromanaged and its an insult to anyone who has suffered through a real micromanaging boss.
      • by realisticradical ( 969181 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @12:59PM (#22797110) Homepage
        There was a pretty good fortune article a while back called The trouble with Steve [cnn.com] about Jobs. The basic commentary seemed to be, "Jobs is a really demanding man to work for but some of my best work came from that relationship." I don't see any reason why I can't like Apple's products and also be happy that I don't work there.

        Quite possibly the reason only former employees ever comment is because the current ones are terrified of their boss.

      • by clang_jangle ( 975789 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @02:25PM (#22798156) Journal
        Not just lately, who could forget the September 1998 issue of Wired, wherein they interviewed several "experts" and concluded that due to the Y2K bugs society as we know it would cease to exist? Yes, that was the very last issue I actually read, but sadly their crap still gets reproduced all over the place. Wired is the Inquirer for the semi-computer-literate crowd and has been for about a decade now. The fact that the Inquirer has the largest circulation of any publication in the world is clearly not lost on them.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Intron ( 870560 )
        It helps if you imagine John Hodgman's voice reading the Wired article.
    • The article says that Steve Job's evil ways are still useful in cranking out a product which people (like you) will buy. You as customer don't really care if people died during the process.
      I think, that his way is successful as long as there are many similar bosses, but when his workforce tends to drift away, you will be left without your Mac.
      And then, you might give a crap about Jobs, or just buy something else.

      • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @11:57AM (#22796296) Journal
        The main difference between Apple and other companies is who they design products for. Most companies try to identify a market segment, work out what people in that segment want to buy, and then produce a product for that market. Apple tries to produce products for Steve Jobs. He has fairly good taste and so often those are also products that other people want to buy. Sometimes, they are not. A classic example is the Cube - a computer everyone wanted but no one thought was worth the price (the down side of designing products for a multibillionaire). It remains to be seen whether the MacBook Air will fall into that category.

        Another company that used to work that way was Palm. Their flagship pilot was built to be something that the CEO would to carry around with him. There is a well-known story about him getting a block of wood cut which would fit in his jacket pocket and giving it to the designers as a maximum size for the device.

        • Most companies try to identify a market segment, work out what people in that segment want to buy, and then produce a product for that market. Apple tries to produce products for Steve Jobs.

          *nod* Most good software I've ever seen was designed to solve the specific needs of a very few people, often needs the software author h(im/er)self had. I think the focus group method is practically guaranteed to lead to mediocre or poor designs. There is nothing specific it's really trying to do, and it's hard to get enthusiastic over something and do a really good job on it when no individual seems all that excited over it.

          • by tknd ( 979052 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @01:52PM (#22797792)

            Take a step back and try to understand what you just said.

            Most good software I've ever seen was designed to solve the specific needs of a very few people, often needs the software author h(im/er)self had.

            Why is this true? I would suggest that the software is good because both the developer and the customer are the same person. There is no need to argue or communicate because you are the same person in both roles.

            I think the focus group method is practically guaranteed to lead to mediocre or poor designs.

            I would say poor requirements engineering will lead to poor designs; you cannot design something for which you don't completely understand. To make things worst, most customers do not understand engineering and sometimes they may not even know exactly what it is they want. But they will insist that they need something to solve their problem.

            It is practically impossible to get the requirements right the first time. I have found that the only way to remain on track is to continuously verify the resulting implementation against the customers. But this is an expensive process and everyone has been trying to find ways to make this process cheaper or use alternative methods. Apple it seems has an expert customer who happens to also be the CEO. Therefore verifying the design and implementation is actually fairly cheap (or required) for them.

        • by realisticradical ( 969181 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @12:50PM (#22797004) Homepage
          They do seem to learn from their mistakes though. The cube was too expensive and so it's turned into the mac mini. Maybe the Air will fail but there will probably be a sequel that will learn from the mistakes of the Air.
    • completely ignorant (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gnutoo ( 1154137 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @11:51AM (#22796208) Journal

      The author seems blissfully unaware of Apple's free software use. GCC, Darwin, Khtml and what not punch a few large holes in their central thesis.

      • by abigor ( 540274 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @11:58AM (#22796318)
        Not to mention original efforts like launchd, which Apple has released under the Apache license. There's also Bonjour, Darwin, etc. - see here: http://developer.apple.com/opensource/index.html [apple.com]
      • by peragrin ( 659227 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @12:03PM (#22796380)
        apple only uses free software to assist in rapid building of large software projects. Why build a custom MSFT SMB/CIF/what ever it's called this year Interface when Samba is free, works well with your base system, and only needs a custom GUI interface?

        KHTML, Cups, etc all fall into that category. While Apple routinely publishes it's open source code back as it is required under the GPL, the software that is BSD based doesn't get published as often. Where is the Darwin version for the iPhone? If it really is running a custom version of OSX then it exists, but you will never see it.
        • by 2nd Post! ( 213333 ) <gundbear@p[ ]ell.net ['acb' in gap]> on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @12:37PM (#22796814) Homepage
          Why do you think they won't release Darwin for the iPhone? The Darwin page has entries for the iPhone's webkit and java engine. I mean, the iPhone isn't even a year old and only has a beta SDK!

          People said the exact same thing about the Intel version of Darwin, yet they did release the Intel versions of Darwin!
        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @12:42PM (#22796894)
          "While Apple routinely publishes it's open source code back as it is required under the GPL, the software that is BSD based doesn't get published as often."

          You seem blissfully unaware that the BSD gave them this right in the first place, and you should be so lucky to see them repost any of their work at all. The fact is, it works out better for Apple to submit patches because that's one less thing they have to keep track of inside of their own infrastructure. In a sense, they're becoming a software company that's modeled around how most major Linux distributions work today; take from the community, put a tiny spin on it, push it as their own. Anything to lessen their workload and let them put their effort on fixing their own self-made software.

          This is why Apple submits to the LGPL and the GPL where applicable. It works very well for them because it's one less thing for them to have to worry about. Webkit would be KHTML: Qt-specific half-legible C++, unusable squaller to the greater community which now includes Google, Nokia, and several smaller software companies working on reintegrating it with GTK+ and Qt.

          Microsoft also has taken a ton of code from the BSD community, including their original TCP/IP stack. Do you think you'll ever see Microsoft release any of that code? And furthermore, why do you care so much? They've got their own reasons for keeping their code closed (bug fixing, internal documentation, huge gaping unimplemented sections, etc.), they don't particularly care about anything else at this time.

          They could do this very same thing with Linux if they wanted to, it would just have taken them much, much longer to get to market. Apple's playing book says "Get to market now, fix the bugs later." Whether or not you subscribe to the "with enough eyes, all bugs become shallow" law of software development, having thousands of developers come in and start asking hundreds of thousands of questions affects their ability to just Write The Damned Code.
        • by Niten ( 201835 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @12:50PM (#22797008)

          And this is supposed to count against Apple... how, exactly?

          If the authors of the BSD-licensed software used in Apple products were that concerned about getting every single bit of code contributed back by everyone who touches their software, then -- guess what? -- they would have licensed that code under the GPL instead. They are not only meeting, but actually surpassing, their pseudo-contractual obligations for use of the code.

          I'd say the fact that Apple continues to contribute anything back to these projects speaks well of them. Not that the company doesn't have its own faults, of course, but let's give credit where credit is due...

        • by Ma8thew ( 861741 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @02:51PM (#22798446)
          Apple actually bought CUPs, and hired its lead developer. If that's not support I don't know what is.
      • How is free software at all relevant to the article? Did you even read it?

        (Silly question around here, I know.)
    • Meh. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) * <Satanicpuppy@NospAm.gmail.com> on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @11:51AM (#22796214) Journal
      Where modern management philosophies are mainly about touchy-feelie crap and corporate culture is trending toward openness, Apple stands out as a company where management is aggressive and dictatorial and corporate culture is supremely secretive.

      If you want to call that "Evil" I suppose you can. I think, however, that design by committee only produces piles of steaming crap. There is definitely something to be said for a guy who has vision, and the force of personality to see it through.
      • Re:Meh. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ClosedSource ( 238333 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @12:09PM (#22796448)
        You can have vision and have the force of personality to see it through without being aggressive and dictatorial. Anyway, this is really a Post hoc ergo propter hoc argument anyway. It's quite possible that Jobs and Apple have been successful in spite of Jobs abrasive personality rather than because of it.
        • Re:Meh. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) * <Satanicpuppy@NospAm.gmail.com> on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @12:19PM (#22796570) Journal
          Well, that theory holds less weight given that we have a period of Apple prosperity under Jobs, followed by a period of decline after Jobs, and then another period of prosperity after Jobs' return. Say what you will about him, he does have a measurable effect.
          • Re:Meh. (Score:5, Informative)

            by ClosedSource ( 238333 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @12:35PM (#22796772)
            Actually the time between the introduction of the Mac and Jobs departure, Apple wasn't all that successful. It was his second coming that led to Apple's first big financial success following the Apple II. In any case, I wasn't talking about Apple's success as a function of Jobs overall performance, but rather about the claim that his being a jerk was the cause for Apple's success. What about Next? Wasn't he enough of a jerk there to be successful?
          • Re:Meh. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by jwiegley ( 520444 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @02:41PM (#22798340)

            But again, this sequence does nothing for proving that this success is due to Jobs' aggressive, dictatorial style. It is equally plausible that Jobs made some small positive change such has hiring some bright engineers upon his arrival. Or maybe made a decision that all products should be sleek and devoid of buttons and sharp edges and come in pretty colors. Either of those decisions could account for their success, both could be effective despite micromanagement or abusive management. One could argue that you should imagine how much better the products from these people would have been had Jobs had a different attitude. That, as the original respondent said, apple is succeeding despite Jobs.

            I have worked for aggressive, dictatorial people before. I am fully convinced that, while they might be able to establish a stable of employees with parental-appeasement issues that work hard and produce to gain the appreciation of an authority figure, there is nothing that will be produced that couldn't be with a fair, comfortable management environment.

            Should Jobs get the praise for whatever decision he made that did make apple a success? Of course. Should his management style be adopted by others? No. Not until it's proven that it was the reason for success. I don't believe that proof has been provided and there are far too many other companies such as Google that demonstrate that success is not tied to an abusive management style and thus provide a counter-example sufficient to suggest looking towards other reasons for apple's success.

        • Re:Meh. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Lemmy Caution ( 8378 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @12:21PM (#22796586) Homepage
          As far as I'm concerned, Apple is successful for one reason, and one reason only: they have hired some of the greatest designers in history to work for them, just like Google has hired some of the greatest programmers.

          I love Apple design. But that delicious, creamy center is wrapped up in all the corporate avarice, control-mongering (DRM, lawsuits etc), and nastiness that the contemporary corporation is capable of. I think that they are actually worse than Microsoft in this regard.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Niten ( 201835 )

            That's very unrealistic. Apple's product design was pretty good in the late nineties too, but nobody wanted to buy their computers back then. Frankly, this was because the computers were slow and the operating system was crap.

            Their recent success has had far more to do with the underlying technology than with design or the success of the iPod (although the iPod certainly didn't hurt). The influence of OS X's FreeBSD / NeXTSTEP underpinnings cannot be overstated. Just about every clique and every socia

            • Re:Meh. (Score:5, Interesting)

              by markov_chain ( 202465 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @01:32PM (#22797542) Homepage
              I disagree. Industrial design is a big part of it, and not so much technology as engineering. People don't go for OSX because it's BSD, they go for it because it's pretty, and because shit just works. The latter sounds simple, but is extremely hard to pull off-- it requires total vertical control, and the willingness in upper management to enforce a high standard. BSD was just one of the possible ways to meet this high standard, that Apple felt was best.

              • Re:Meh. (Score:5, Interesting)

                by Niten ( 201835 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @02:06PM (#22797968)

                People don't go for OSX because it's BSD, they go for it because it's pretty, and because shit just works.

                Yes, pretty is a part of it, but "because shit just works" is a far greater part of the equation for most people, in my experience.

                And to whom do people turn, when they're considering getting a new computer and they want to know which particular brand of shit just works the best? The same kind people who switched to Macs in droves a few years back, solely because of OS X. Such solicited recommendations have been the driving force behind Mac sales among most of my friends.

    • by esocid ( 946821 )
      Well Steve Jobs pretty much represents Apple so that's where the tie-in is. The rest of the article goes on to describe the management design he has within Apple as it is full of secrecy and how Jobs tied the software to the hardware, although I thought OSX will run on any hardware (someone correct me if I'm wrong). There were naysayers who said that idea would fail, but somehow it flourished. I won't spoon feed you the rest of the article, but it basically says he's responsible for the past 10 years of wha
    • by rijrunner ( 263757 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @02:12PM (#22798028)

      I think the author missed a lot. Was pretty far off base in a lot of areas. I have mainly worked large corporations and *none* had anything resembling worker empowerment..

      Take this phrase from the article:

      "Apple's successes in the years since Jobs' return -- iMac, iPod, iPhone -- suggest an alternate vision to the worker-is-always-right school of management. In Cupertino, innovation doesn't come from coddling employees and collecting whatever froth rises to the surface; it is the product of an intense, hard-fought process, where people's feelings are irrelevant."

      Umm.. I have yet to work anywhere where even technical merits win hard-fought processes.

      And I have never seen the worker-is-always-right attitude *anywhere*. If you have technically literate management, you *might* get a chance to pitch your side. Mostly not though. Then you run it by 10, or more, people whom all have the ability to veto, but not approve, your proposal.

      I would hazard a guess that large corporations tend towards "worker as cogs" as an overall style. Look at the number of people the last few years that have received notices that their jobs were going to India in 4 weeks. Not exactly worker as individual talent there, ya know. Some try to buck the trend, but they are the exception, not the rule. Smaller companies use different styles. Another line form the article said "More than anywhere else I've worked before or since, there's a lot of concern about being fired". Shoot, the author needs to get out more. A lot of larger corporations will lay off entire departments or outsource them. At least at Apple, the implication seems to be that doing a good job means you keep your job. Many people these days are working under far greater concern of being fired and there is no productivity or metrics for them to meet to change that outcome.

      Jobs is good at what he does. He spots future development and goes for it. That isn't a management skill. That talent at the level of a CEO would work under most management styles. And, his vision works because he does not have anyone to veto his proposals. You stick Jobs 2-3 management layers down in any large corporation and you would have all the problems of dealing with someone with his management style, but most of his ideas would be shot down by people who either did not like him, or his ideas.

      Basically.. "Jobs is Jobs. You aren't." should be the lessons here. He's a CEO. You aren't.
  • by Gothmolly ( 148874 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @11:41AM (#22796094)
    Given that most managerial types are ignorant tools whose rise to power is typically fuelled by a mediocre knowledge of PowerPoint and Project, its a no brainer that to succeed, be agile, and come up with good products, you simply do everything that 'traditional' techniques says to avoid.
  • Handicapped (Score:4, Insightful)

    by esocid ( 946821 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @11:41AM (#22796098) Journal

    If there's no easy-to-find spot and he's in a hurry, Jobs has been known to pull up to Apple's front entrance and park in a handicapped space. (Sometimes he takes up two spaces.)
    At the risk of being modded into oblivion, what a dick move. But then again how many handicapped people frequent their office?
  • by ptbarnett ( 159784 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @11:43AM (#22796120)
    Unauthorized parking in a handicapped spot is a violation of state law. In this case, the rules do apply to Jobs, regardless of the high opinion he has of himself.

    Jobs needs to make a few trips to the impound lot to bail out his car. He would probably create his own reserved parking place, but at least that would put an end to the myth of the egalitarian parking lot policy.

    • by sm62704 ( 957197 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @11:50AM (#22796186) Journal
      Unauthorized parking in a handicapped spot is a violation of state law. In this case, the rules do apply to Jobs, regardless of the high opinion he has of himself.

      To Steve Jobs, the hundred dollar fine he'd pay here for parking in a handicapped spot is akin to my putting a quarter in a parking meter. Chump change not worth worrying about.

      Fines should be based on net worth, or at least income. Since they're not, the richer you are the less the law applies to you.
  • by webword ( 82711 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @11:46AM (#22796138) Homepage
    Much of the success of Apple has nothing to do with Apple itself or Steve Jobs. Instead, Apple allows people to directly reject Microsoft. Linux satisfies this anti-Microsoft position as well, but Apple actually markets itself and has the financial backing to push this branding.

    With that said, Apple helps keep Microsoft out of even more legal hot water, for example, by directly backing Apple. It's a CYA tactic on the legal front.

    Bottom line: Don't just drink the Kool-Aid on the Apple story without taking 1-2 steps back to look at the marketplace, cultures, and end users.
    • by Life2Short ( 593815 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @12:06PM (#22796418)
      It's like the joke about the two lawyers in the woods who stumble across a bear. The first lawyer begins to run, and the second says, "Hey, forget it, you can't outrun a bear." The first lawyer yells over his shoulder, "I don't have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you."

      Apple has pulled their share of disasters as well, but when you look at Apple's competition, their products are often mind-numbingly BAD. VISTA? Earlier online music purchasing systems? Dell and Gateway computers?

      Apple isn't all that great, it's just that the competition sucks. I mean when the Asus eee-pc is the most encouraging thing you've seen come to the tech table in awhile...
  • After reading that I felt the way people looked after watching the movie 'swordfish' in the theaters. A profound WTF? look on their faces as they left the theater. Like him or not, Steve has managed to do what others have not. In business, if you're making money they call that 'doing it right'.

    Dr Spok told millions of Americans the 'right' way to raise their kids. Turns out he got rich doing it wrong too. According to the investors, Apple is doing it right, management style be damned. I don't even like App
  • Evil Works (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thomas.galvin ( 551471 ) <slashdotNO@SPAMthomas-galvin.com> on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @11:47AM (#22796154) Homepage
    I think the point of the article is that evil works, if evil is also very good at what it does.

    The whole point in allowing many different people to tackle a problem is to eliminate single-point-of-failure. If one company's product blows, we can choose another's. This is very important, both to the consumer, and to the market as a whole.

    But when one company is the best at what they do, people stop thinking about choice. If apple makes the best mp3player/music store, why go anywhere else? If their operating system is so good, who cares if it only runs on their hardware... as long as their hardware is great, too?

    Unfortunately, even evil geniuses sometimes fail. For instance, the iPhone SDK... I honestly don't see that going anywhere, unless the current license agreement is modified to something less draconian.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      The problem with the article, of course, is that there is nothing evil about any of it. It's just another terrible exaggeration, diluting the word until it becomes meaningless.

      And if you don't see the iPhone SDK going anywhere, you don't have much vision. Just sayin.
    • Re:Evil Works (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @11:54AM (#22796268) Homepage
      Jobs is good enough to pull off his "asshole" routine. This doesn't mean
      that it can work for anyone else. It also may not work for any other
      company. It happens to work for Jobs and Apple (apparently).

      On a similar note, there are plenty of people that are "google wannabes".
      They will pick up on something they've heard about Google's management
      style. They will try to implement it and be full of themselves. It ends
      up being a big fiasco of course because such people are just kidding
      themselves. They don't have the talent to be managers at Google or

      • Re:Evil Works (Score:5, Insightful)

        by NeutronCowboy ( 896098 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @12:12PM (#22796492)
        Thank you. I was wondering if I was the only one who thought that. I have a friend who worked at Apple, and quit because upper management was evil and insane. From the stories I heard about her particular project, I can only wonder how anything gets accomplished there. What Apple's success tells me is that Apple's management methods of screaming at employees and "hero-shithead rollercoasters" (to quote the article) yield results not because the management methods themselves are working, but because there is a bona-fide genius at the helm whose micromanagement is genuinely better than whatever else a group of people could come up with. I also think that this works only because Apple produces Steve Jobs products. Jobs at the helm of IBM would be a complete disaster.

        In short, Wired is trying to make Steve Jobs' business management methods into something that can work for everybody, which is complete and utter idiocy. If they'd have any experience with business management, they'd know that. What we have here is a person who is good enough with product development, deal making and personal leadership that he can overcome his absolutely craptastic management skills. Jobs is not a manager, he is a dictator. Just because he is a good one doesn't mean that you become good by emulating him. You need the rest of his skills as well.

        I also agree that what works for Google is unlikely to work across the board for others. You create management strategies around the people you have. If you can't do that, you need to hire people who fit your management style. But you cannot impose management strategies on people who don't respond to those strategies. That's just a disaster in the making.
    • Another way to say:

      Ends do justify the means if the result is good enough.
  • Better Link (IMHO) (Score:5, Informative)

    by webword ( 82711 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @11:48AM (#22796176) Homepage
    Read the entire article on one page... *

    http://www.wired.com/techbiz/it/magazine/16-04/bz_apple?currentPage=all [wired.com]

    So much better than flipping, flipping, flipping through pages and waiting for reloads. It's the print version, so you can use it that way too -- long article so print and read offline.

    * = Assumes you plan on actually reading the article. ;-)
  • I'd imagine that there are of course some grade-a asshole management techniques that work, I don't think there has ever been a question as to whether or not they do work. I think the real question is whether or not they work better than management techniques that don't involve the boss being a total douchebag.
  • by snowwrestler ( 896305 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @11:51AM (#22796212)
    Google runs its servers on Linux, but with propietary tweaks. The Google search ranking algorithm is at least as secret at Apple's product roadmap, and they are no more forthcoming with their product roadmap than Apple is (remember all the random answers and stonewalling that met questions about Google's plans on a mobile phone prior to the Android announcement).

    To be a large, public, consumer company you have to keep some things secret for a variety of reasons. You don't want to telegraph strategy to your competitors. You want to release things with a splash to earn unpaid media coverage. You don't want to be held legally liable for stock price movements based on R&D projects that might never get released. etc.

    Apple is very closed and secretive about some things, but quite open about others. Like Google their core OS kernel is open source. Like Google they employ commonly available technologies--http, MP3, H264, AAC, Unix, USB, ATA, 802.11, etc.--but put them together in unique ways to create new products.
    • by jedidiah ( 1196 )
      Apple is open enough up to a point. At least you can accomodate yourself to them.
      OTOH, the process of doing this can be rather annoying. Ensuring that all of your
      video data will "play nice" with Apple can be a considerable chore rather than
      just having Apple be accomodating enough to handle whatever you throw at it.
  • Homage in this usage means, "allegiance or respect for one's feudal lord."

    I want the minutes back I wasted on that story.
  • Luck plays a role. If Apple hadn't come up with the iPod and used its' UI skills to make it very attractive, the company would be dead.

    I don't think you can call the iPod a reliable result of make'em bleed management style. Yes, it can and did happen. But I doubt as likely as under a more open system.

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @12:36PM (#22796794) Homepage
      Not really.

      the iPod is not their saviour product. The problem is very few people get exposed to the Apple line. I recently let a big customer borrow my apple TV for a week. He's a huge Microsoft fan and has Media center PC's in every room.

      When I went to his house yesterday to install a new 58" set in his bedroom and asked if I can pick up my apple Tv he said. "How many of those do you have in stock?" He is buying 12 of them for his home replacing the media center PC's as the appleTv product kicks the ever living crap out of windows Media center.

      The fact you can "rent" a HD movie for $4.99 was his biggest love of the device. His wife loves that she can "buy" lost right away as well.

      If Apple had more exposure to people so they can actually TRY their stuff, they would kill Microsoft and everyone else overnight.

      Problem is, Apple doesnt have a "try it for a week for free" program, and your experience at the apple store is sanitized at best.
  • They may produce products that people want, but that doesn't mean working there is a good experience. I'm guessing that there's alot of voluntary Kool-Aid drinking done by the employees to coninve themselves that the hostile working environment is what it takes to succeed. Also, see "stockholm syndrome" for the workplace.
    • Man, I'm glad I'm not the only one to make a "Guyana Punch" reference in this thread!

      At least, I HOPE you know where "Drink the Kool-Ade" comes from...
  • by boristdog ( 133725 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @12:03PM (#22796374)
    Jobs may be a dick, but he's also a natural leader, which is always more important.

    I'm not a fan of Apple, nor of Mr. Jobs, but he has some serious leadership skills. The fact that he's also a dick is not a factor in his success. Apparently his leadership can outshine his dickishness.

    Fortunately Mr. Jobs decided to start a computer company instead of a religious cult in Guyana. Who knows what Jim Jones' "Kool-Ade OS" might have been like had he chosen a different path.
  • Been there (Score:5, Interesting)

    by overshoot ( 39700 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @12:03PM (#22796376)
    I've worked for an Apple supplier, and it's a bit creepy to have someone take mug shot of you because "Mr. Jobs wants to know what you look like." Not as creepy as getting a phone call at home late at night because they want hand-holding, but creepy.
  • After this little gem:

    Likewise, had Apple opened its iTunes-iPod juggernaut to outside developers, the company would have risked turning its uniquely integrated service into a hodgepodge of independent applications -- kind of like the rest of the Internet, come to think of it.
    Yeah, and who the hell's ever heard of this "rest of the Internet" thing.
  • The real difference (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @12:06PM (#22796412) Journal
    Say what you like about Steve Jobs. But he has _taste_.

    If CxOs are thinking of being the "the red-faced, tyrannical boss" they better not forget that important point. They're not going to do much good if they do the tyrannical part without the taste part. In fact to emulate Apple I bet the tyrannical part is optional, the taste part isn't[1]. And the taste part is _hard_ to emulate.

    Jobs knows the difference between good and great. Whereas most CxOs (or people in general) can't even seem to tell the difference between good and bad :).

    The typical committee might take weeks to tell you whether a piece of chocolate tastes good or not, much less even get around to the way it _looks_.

    The Techs? Many of the good ones might come with great _technical_ architectures and designs - but when the customer looks at it and tries to use it, it IS a piece of crap from their PoV.

    So even if the Techs at Apple don't like his abusive micromanagement, I bet they _respect_ it because Steve Jobs has taste.

    They can be confident that even if he's deciding on the "curve of a monitor's corners":
    1) The decision is based on making an "insanely great"[2] product (not a crony richer, or more powerful)
    2) He is 90% likely to be right about what the market will like.
    3) If he yells at you, it's not _just_ because he's an asshole, deep down you know know he is right - that what you just showed him is only suitable as "blah stuff" from Dell...

    Many (not all) techs can accept assholes who are right most of the time.

    Thing is I wonder whether it's a bit like abused spouse syndrome for them ;).

    [1] That said, I think a lot of people with taste AND an obsessive eye for detail tend to get very upset when stuff misses the mark.
    [2] Yes I know their products aren't really insanely great.
  • by varmint jerky ( 810306 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @12:11PM (#22796486)
    For years I've felt that Steve Jobs is kind of like Willy Wonka. You remember what happens when you cross Willy Wonka? Next thing you know, you're a freakin' snozzberry.
    • by wass ( 72082 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @12:40PM (#22796866)
      Oh please, I cannot allow such distortion of history to stand unchallenged. ;-)

      First of all, it was Blueberries that errant employees of Willy Wonka turned into. Not Snozzberries. Snozzberries were an item on the lickable wallpaper, where Mr. Wonka announces that 'we' are the music makers, and 'we' are the dreamers of dreams.

      But speak of a reality-distortion field. Who the hell has a freaky waterfall tunnel in the factory workplace that you need to travel through by paddle boat, showing pictures of chickens getting decapitated and worms on peoples' faces? What OSHA committee endorsed that?

      And don't forget testing experimental pharmaceuticals and novel synthetic candies on live Oompa Loompas. I believe this is what you were referring to in your comment. Putting Oompa Loompa after Oompa Loompa to a first-hand experimental safety test of the dinner gum, even after they have consistently turned into blueberries.

      How did Oompa Loompas ever stand to work for this guy? Oh yeah, that's right, the convenient displacing of thousands of Oompa Loompas from their native homeland, exploiting their addiction to cocao beans, playing upon their fear of the native fauna by promising them safety, and literally paying them beans for their extended labor in extremely unsafe work condictions.

      Yeah, it's pretty obvious I saw that Gene Wilder movie a few dozen times too many as a kid (read the book a whole bunch too). BTW, IMHO, Gene Wilder was a way better Willy Wonka than the Michael Jackson-esque Johnny Depp in the remake. And I say this as a huge Depp fan.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @12:33PM (#22796732) Homepage

    Don't compare Apple with Dell. Compare it with Sony or Nintendo. Those companies are equally closed and secretive. Akio Morita (1921-1999) was Sony's founder and the equivalent of Steve Jobs. Sony hasn't been doing too well since Morita died.

  • funny thing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @12:47PM (#22796978)
    The CEO who forced Jobs out wrote an autobiography and mentioned all of the mistakes Jobs wanted to make, how they were such terrible ideas. Jobs gets back into the company years later and does those very things and now Apple is an immense success again. It amazes me how sound logic and reason can sometimes be so wrong. "Stick to the knitting" is usually good advice because businesses typically go to shit when they try to expand into markets they know nothing about and refuse to hire people who do know the market to manage those divisions. My last died doing the same kind of stuff, the boss has a dozen side projects on his plate and he's ignoring the business' main money-making division.
  • by strangeattraction ( 1058568 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @01:04PM (#22797152)
    Having never worked for Jobs directly I have worked with many people that have worked for Jobs. There are certain personality types that are drawn to him. Usually it is a person that adores approval which at first sounds strange given what is said about him. The scenario generally works like this. Jobs take a look at your stuff and tells you it is shit. The employee becomes distraught and redoubles her/his efforts. The next time Jobs sees your stuff he tells them how fabulous it is. Getting the attention is such an ego rush the happy employee goes about trying to reproduce this often random response. Essentially is is very much like gambling addiction.

    For some this approach is extremely effective. For others is intolerable.

  • Douche (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Teflon_Jeff ( 1221290 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @01:47PM (#22797722)
    So jobs is a douchebag, but because he succeeds, that makes it okay? No, just because you're a visionary (which I'm not even sure he is) doesn't make it okay to be a dick. Notice how they talked to a lot of former employees? No current employees? Just like talking to an abuser's former spouse, but not the current.

    Everything in the article points to battered employee syndrome.
  • Look at this: Last year, Amazon.com began selling DRM-free songs that can be played on any MP3 player. [...] Not Apple. Want to hear your iTunes songs on the go? You're locked into playing them on your iPod.

    Amazon's DRM-free downloads started last September.

    Apple's DRM-free downloads started last April.

    Did the author of this piece do ANY research?

What this country needs is a good five cent ANYTHING!