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Summary:

Steve Jobs was fractionally more candid than usual at an Apple press conference this morning. He shared some nuggets of wisdom which I feel are universal, regardless of how you may feel about Apple, Jobs and the company’s response to the iPhone 4 debacle.

This morning, Apple hosted a press event which included a 45-minute Q&A session with CEO Steve Jobs. (Watch the video.) Jobs, who returned from a vacation in Hawaii to host this conference, was pretty open (i.e. he was spinning a little less and was fractionally more candid.) During the conversation with reporters, Jobs shared some interesting observations and anecdotes about Apple, his relationship with customers and of course the iPhone 4 debacle. When looking over my notes I saw some nuggets of wisdom which I feel are universal, regardless of how you may feel about Apple, Jobs and the company’s response to the iPhone 4 debacle. I have edited and clumped together some of Jobs’s responses for ease of reading.

Jobs on Solving Hard Problems

The best ideas win here at Apple. We have healthy debates in this company. We debate how to tie shoe laces and we even debate about what great is. We’re an engineering company, we think like engineers and scientists, and we think it’s the right way to solve real, hard problems. We try to have our cake and eat it too, we try to have great design and great performance. If you look at our products, that’s what we deliver. We are working really hard and we can’t run really faster. There are cars in the parking lots at all hours, people have cots in the office.

Lesson #1: Hard problems are solved by hard work and no compromises.

Jobs on Software & Apple’s Edge

When someone owns a primary technology and you use it, they are eventually going to beat you on it. In the computer business, we quickly realized that we didn’t have to make processors and hard drives. Instead it was the software that was the most important thing. We are pretty good at making software for iPods, PCS and the cloud and making them work together.

And while others like Palm pioneered, we knew software was the primary technology for the phone business. We brought that software to the phone business in a way we’d never seen before. One of the things we did was make the process of updating your software an order of magnitude easier than it was before. We can frictionlessly distribute those updates… everybody’s copying Apple now, but we’re the first to do that in a practical way.

Lesson #2: Knowing your core competence and building on it is key to success.

Jobs on Customers

We care about every user and we are not going to stop till every customer is happy. When you love your customers, nothing is off the table. But we want to be data driven. There are some things we know that we did learn here. One thing is how much we love our customers and how we are going to take care of them. And when we succeed users reward us by staying our users. That is what drives us. When people are criticizing us, we take it very personally. When users have a problem, it is our problem.

We were stunned and upset and embarrassed by the Consumer Reports stuff, and the reason we didn’t say more is because we didn’t know enough. If we’d have done this event a week and a half ago, we wouldn’t have had half the data we have today. We take care of our customers. We appreciate them and we don’t take them for granted. I get a lot of email, and my address is out there. I can’t reply to all of these emails but I reply to some because they’re our customers, and I want to communicate with them.

Lesson#3: Regardless of your business, it is always has been, and will always be, about happiness of the customers.

Jobs on Investors

There are some customers who are happy. There are some customers who are not happy. And I apologize to them and we try and make them happy. We want investors who are in it for the long haul and are for the character of the company, not investors who just saw some news cross the wire and invested in the stock. (This was in response to a question regarding if he would apologize to investors who lost money as the stock declined.)

Lesson #4: Paying attention to short-term thinking (and thinkers) is only going to keep you relevant for a short time.

  1. Perceptive! Thank you for your analysis!

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  2. These are great ideologies for companies to follow. I know that some people will jump on Apple and call them a bluff and that they’re still evil, and this is just talking the talk.

    From the live event, it was interested how one of the guys pointed out the antenna problem. They can’t just “put a band-aid on” and provide a temporary fix. The issue is larger than.

    While giving away the cases is cool and all, it’s good to know they’re still working their asses off on REALLY fixing the issue in future iPhone models.

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  3. Customers and the marketplace will decide as usual. 99.99% of which could care less about analysts, pundits and trolls.

    That has already been demonstrated by the low return rate.

    My favorite chuckle was Gruber asking Jobs and the Apple crew if any of them were using a bumper or a case on their iPhone 4?

    The answer was “no”. Then, Gruber said, “Me, neither!”

    Har.

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  4. I wouldn’t take too seriously advice from Steve Jobs, whose Macs are around 10 percent of the desktop market, and whose iPhone never passed Blackberry in the US, and the iPhone is going to get buried soon by Android. The Apple stock bubble is deflating.

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    1. Jealous much, Tim?

      You keep on saying Apple is going to fall, stock is going to fall. Well, then what do you say about Google’s 30+ point decline today? According to your logic, Android must be failing because of the massive decline in Google’s stock price.

      Wise up. Apple’s been growing 50% per year for like the last 4 or 5 years, which is faster than Google. You should take the time to learn what that means.

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    2. Funnier than ever.

      So, let me know where I can get more Apple stock at $89. Because that’s what I paid when I calculated we were at the bottom of the Bush recession.

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    3. a little lesson for you Apple stock fanbois: Apple stock inflates on iPhone mania- that iPhone will eventually top Symbian as the most popular smartphone OS on the planet. The inevitable horror to Steve “you’re holding the wrong way” Jobs fanbios: combined Android assault by Google, HTC, Samsung, Motorola, hordes of Chinese Androids, etc. on the iPhone. Apple stock comes down to earth as iPhone gets relegated to some minor niche in mobile, just like Macs are in desktop. By the way again, Steve, how really is your health?

      89? hey, you said it, not me

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      1. Dude, you’re as ignorant about the Market as you are about the marketplace.

        Any significant Market position should always be protected by a stop loss order. Though in the case of Apple, that’s significantly higher than it would be in the case of, say, Microsoft.

        I know you’ll have to Google it to find out what it means – but, I passed the point quite a while back where I’m playing with House Money on Apple.

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      2. Good thing that the combined assault by every consumer electronics company (including Samsung, Creative, Sony, Microsoft, and Chinese copycat maker in the world) killed Apple’s iPod business. Oops, I forgot, Apple has had record profits every quarter for the last 3 years and is still selling more iPods than its competitors together can muster (and is making more profit). Good thing there’s no market for tablet computers. Ooops, sorry, Apple has already sold 5 million tablets. Nokia sells 10 times more phones than Apple, Blackberry sells many more phones than Apple. Ooops, Apple makes more profit from the “few” phones it sells than Nokia makes from the zillions of phones Nokia & RIM sell (not to mention Motorola, Palm, Sony Ericsson, etc. which have finally stopped losing money). Last time I checked, companies are in the business of making profits not coming up with the most super insanely advanced products that people return because they don’t know how to root their phone or transfer music from their computer.

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      3. Just keep on making a fool of yourself, Tim. Your belief that iPhone stock is “inflated” is based on a myth perpetuated by Joe Wilcox. But keep on believing it, since no amount of facts would convince you and you apparently get your jollies by living in your world of delusion.

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      4. Apple fanbois living in Steve Jobs’ walled garden perpetuate their reputation so easily

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    4. You poor delusional little bastard….You just keep believing the fandroid bullshit..

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    5. History will record Apple being at the right time, right place and right product at the confluence of consumer mass adoption of technology and infrastructure in place to enable that adoption to take place. Others might come up with similar products but Apple is the brand name that consumers want. The company has totally reinvented itself since the release of the iPod and I see great things coming from the company going forward. Apple has a great understanding of consumer spending habits and patterns and is moving in that direction to create new products like iPad, iTV etc and the future looks good. Apple has also been making head way in the enterprise space – where departments are buying Apple products and they are getting support from the CXO level – so the potential is good. For the long term I am very bullish on Apple.

      Disclosure: I own a significant amount of Apple shares.

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    6. Greg Patterson Tuesday, July 20, 2010

      Wow. Very slanted and ill-informed comment…

      Blackberry is on life support and still resting on its Laurels. Apple will pass them in total market share soon enough. And Google like any young company is trying to do too much too fast. Even their CEO has quietly admitted this. Like it or not Jobs is a good CEO.

      Have you heard of those new-fangled devices called iPods which are so engraved in everyday life people mistakenly call Zune’s, iPods. And still outsell any other like category device to this day?

      I think you need to spend some time running a business before you can comment on rather or not one is or will be successful.

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  5. [...] Read this article: Four Business Tips From Apple & Steve Jobs [...]

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  6. Though the iPhone has sold extremely well, its potential market is still far larger. I think Steve Jobs is far more concerned about that.

    For those of us who’ve been there since the beginning, this was about as bad as it could be, short of him calling us all stupid fanboys.

    FWIW my take: http://brianshall.com/content/my-dearest-steve-jobs-its-over

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    1. Oh please. Talk about grandstanding.

      In most cases, the only people I see calling anyone stupid are people like yourselves telling us happy and satisfied iPhone users we are too stupid to decide for ourselves. I think more of us are insulted by people like you trying to tell us what’s good for us.

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      1. To be fair, I didn’t call all iPhone users stupid. Just you.

        My comment was all of about 50 words. It appears you didn’t read any of them. Not a one. If you are as happy and satisfied as you claim, good for you, although you sure have a lot of hostility built up.

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  7. Vikram Singh Friday, July 16, 2010

    I think you missed the most lesson about running your business after today’s press conference -

    Lesson #0 Never compare your product with competitor’s products when you can when all you to prove is that your product is not better than them.

    Today Apple lost some credibility, you can’t claim you have the BEST product the human kind have ever seen and then 22 later say … actually it is not better or worse than our competitors.

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    1. Yes, this is the most important lesson. By far. Apple has lost his aura of perfection.

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      1. And that’s the price to pay when you’re no longer a niche player…

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  8. lambrettamike Friday, July 16, 2010

    Good analysis. To put things in perspective for USA centric people. There is HUGE and unabated demand for the iPhone 4 in the wider world. For example, O2 here in the UK sells out of iPhone 4 weekly, including this week, almost as soon as the stores are stocked.

    I know of people rushing by car around the UK trying to locate available iPhone 4′s at Apple Stores, O2 stores, Orange stores, Tesco’s, Vodafone stores …. you name it, people are trying to find this elusive phone WITH ALL THESE PROBLEMS. Let’s face it, Nokia, RIMM et al would love this type of problem (running out of stock), but then they all play it safe and have left their antenna’s inside the case for the last 20 years. But then, once Apple Inc. sorts out their antenna design for the iPhone 4, the others will copy. Apple are pushing the ‘bar’ (forgive the pun).

    Apple Inc. are the innovator and customers love their products.

    Nokia and RIMM are the incubators (keeping their antenna’s nice and warm inside the phone case); they will move from being incubators to the incinerator in this race, which is ALL ABOUT INNOVATION.

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  9. The main impact of Steve Jobs’ overall approach was that he got everyone to appreciate that reception and antenna issues are fuzzy and there is no one easy solution for all situations (comparing smartphones weakspots, showing how their labs try to simulate conditions for testing).

    So now when people ask if the iPhone is like other phones- why give bumpers… it does not mean it is a flawed device. There are advantages of the bare phone, and advantages of a covered one and minuses of both… this is a domain of fuzzy thinking not categorical logic.

    The good news for iPhone 4 users is they can use the phone bare when that helps reception and they can use it covered when that does better.

    @saumilzx

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  10. [...] announcement that current customers will receive a free bumper guard for their iPhone 4 devices. I like Om’s take on the press briefing – a look at lessons from Apple CEO Steve [...]

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