John Sculley: "Newton was 15 years too early"

30th Oct 2008 | 09:40

John Sculley: "Newton was 15 years too early"

Ex Apple CEO reveals the secret of the iPhone's success

John Sculley was CEO of Apple between 1983 and 1993. He was at the helm when, in 1985, its board of directors effectively fired the charismatic Apple cofounder Steve Jobs, the man whose vision eventually gave us the iPhone. He's also credited with coining the term PDA (personal digital assistant), a term for devices such as Apple's Newton, Palm's Pilot and the iPhone.

Is the iPhone as important a device as the hype suggests?

"The launch of iPhone is very possibly bigger than the launch of the first Apple II or the first Mac. Steve Jobs's genius is his ability to use technology to create products that define fundamental cultural shifts. The Mac defined 'personal technology', and the iPhone defines 'intimate technology' as a convergence of communications, content and location."

What will the iPhone's place in the market be in five years' time?

"Cool devices like Motorola's RAZR come and go; Steve Jobs's creative methodology hasn't changed since we worked together 25 years ago. It was, and is, all about 'experience and beautiful design with no compromises'. I don't see any mobile device company who has figured out how to replicate Steve's design principles. What iPhone will be in five years only Steve knows, but I'll bet it's still the defining platform."

Which features is the iPhone missing, and which do you never use?

"For me what's missing is a physical keyboard."

What can Apple do to maintain the iPhone's momentum?

"Exactly what they are doing."

What will be its lasting legacy?

"The App Store is more important than anything else."

Would the Newton inevitably have become the iPhone if the original product had been left to grow?

"We had the right idea, but we didn't have Steve's unique talent to create a culture-changing product. Newton was also 15 years too early. Miniaturisation, digital cell phones, the web and cheap solid-state storage had not yet happened. Ironically, the ARM microprocessor was specifically created for the Newton and Apple owned 47% of the ARM company which they later sold for about $800 million, a fraction of its value today. So while Newton was ahead of its time and failed in the market, it was a very profitable outcome for Apple."

If you were in Steve Jobs's position as Apple CEO, what would be your next move?

"Stay the course and keep building an integrated Apple ecosystem of iPhone + iPod + iMac + iTunes + App Store + Apple TV. No one has yet demonstrated they understand how to create an 'experience-based ecosystem' as well as Apple."

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