My iXperiences with Steve Jobs
By Esther Dyson
The opinions expressed are her own.
I don’t want to praise Steve Jobs prematurely, but he has always been ahead of our industry.
Basically, the regular rules don’t apply to him. Apple was never a democracy, but he’s leaving with a 97% employee approval rating, per www.glassdoor.com. People at Apple don’t mix much, but they are generally happy and respect both the people they work with and the products they are making. Steve never listens to customers, yet somehow Apple’s products almost always delight customers. And the people in his stores do too. I remember bringing my mother, a lady of a certain age, into the Palo Alto Apple store to buy a mouse a couple of years ago. They treated her as if she were the most important customer in the world, and answered her questions with the greatest of respect.
I first met Steve back in 1979 or 1980, at Ben Rosen’s Personal Computer Forum (which I later bought and hosted); for some reason, it was at the Playboy Resort in Lake Geneva that year (never again!). Regis McKenna, his PR agent then and for many years, set up the meeting. As I recall, the three of us sipped diet Cokes, served by a Playboy bunny. Even then, as a world traveler who had spent serious time in India, he had a better sense of the world outside educated, middle-class America than most techies.
At a later PC Forum, he could not attend or left early because he was being interviewed by Larry King. This was the mid-80s; the rivalry between him and almost everyone in the industry was bitter. He and Apple were considered arrogant loners; they didn’t play nicely with others. (And FWIW, yes, he had and has since been rude to me as well, when I failed to earn his approval for one reason or another.)
Nonetheless, a number of us gathered in a hotel suite to watch the show, and as he talked with Larry King, the mood in the room changed. Steve was no longer our competitor inside our market; he was one of us in a bigger, alien world, explaining our immature little industry and products to a much broader public than we could reach on our own. We cheered as he explained the effect personal computers could have on people’s lives in eloquent, simple terms, speaking for all of us.