Apps-Driven: John Sculley on Steve Jobs as Apple’s System Designer

“Steve is a systems designer. He simplifies complexity.” That’s one of the ways John Sculley, outcast former Apple CEO, describes Steve Jobs in a Bloomberg Businessweek interview. In another recent interview published on Cult of Mac, Sculley lists Jobs’ 11-step methodology for creating great products:

  1. Beautiful design – “What a lot of people didn’t realize was that Apple wasn’t just about computers. It was about designing products and designing marketing and it was about positioning.”
  2. Customer experience – “The user experience has to go through the whole end-to-end system, whether it’s desktop publishing or iTunes. It is all part of the end-to-end system.”
  3. No focus groups — “Steve said: ‘How can I possibly ask somebody what a graphics-based computer ought to be when they have no idea what a graphic based computer is? No one has ever seen one before.’ ”
  4. Perfectionism – “He was also a person that believed in the precise detail of every step. He was methodical and careful about everything — a perfectionist to the end.”
  5. Vision – “He believed that the computer was eventually going to become a consumer product. That was an outrageous idea back in the early 1980′s because people thought that personal computers were just smaller versions of bigger computers. …It was not about big computers getting smaller… He was a person of huge vision.”
  6. Minimalism – “What makes Steve’s methodology different from everyone else’s is that he always believed the most important decisions you make are not the things you do – but the things that you decide not to do.”
  7. Hire the best – “Steve had this ability to reach out to find the absolute best, smartest people he felt were out there. He was extremely charismatic and extremely compelling in getting people to join up with him and he got people to believe in his visions even before the products existed. ”
  8. Sweat the details – “On one level he is working at the ‘change the world,’ the big concept. At the other level he is working down at the details of what it takes to actually build a product and design the software, the hardware, the systems design and eventually the applications, the peripheral products that connect to it.”
  9. Keep it small – “The other thing about Steve was that he did not respect large organizations. He felt that they were bureaucratic and ineffective.”
  10. Reject bad work – “It’s like an artist’s workshop and Steve is the master craftsman who walks around and looks at the work and makes judgments on it and in many cases his judgments were to reject something.”
  11. Perfection – “The thing that separated Steve Jobs from other people like Bill Gates — Bill was brilliant too — but Bill was never interested in great taste.”
    Systems thinker – “The iPod is a perfect example of Steve’s methodology of starting with the user and looking at the entire end-to-end system. It was always an end-to-end system with Steve. He was not a designer but a great systems thinker.”

The EDA360 vision is about the EDA industry getting more involved with systems development instead of being constrained to the chip domain. The above quotes from interviews with John Scully reinforce why that idea has power. In general customers do not buy chips, they buy systems. Big systems. The iPod is not just an elegantly designed digital music player. It is the integrated hardware client that sits at one end of a huge music delivery system that encompasses agreements and contracts with music publishers, an online store for distributing that music, marketing systems for getting the attention of the buying public (free downloads at Starbucks!), software that runs on Apple’s Macintosh computers (and PCs) so that the music can be downloaded—ready for installation into the iPod, and of course the many variations of the iPod itself. The application was originally music. Now it’s video and other media as well.

One of the aspirations of the EDA360 vision is to help all systems companies become as adept at letting applications drive design as Apple is. In the EDA360 world, other companies can become similarly adept, with a little help from their friends.


About sleibson2

EDA360 Evangelist and Marketing Director at Cadence Design Systems (blog at
This entry was posted in EDA360, System Realization and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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