On Steve Jobs pursuing greatness

This nugget from an Esquire piece on Steve Jobs stood out to me:

For another, he pursues his unitary vision through binary means, like all great despots. He says yes. He says no. He has established a personal dichotomy by which a thing is either great or it’s shit, and he holds to it. He starts there. Jobs’s “first go-round at Apple, the company used to pride itself on being the first,” says another former employee. “Like Newton. Remember Newton? It was the first PDA. It might not have worked, but it was the first. That’s not what they do now. Now they start with what makes an existing experience crappy. And that’s where Jobs is a genius. That’s where his ruthlessness comes in. He’s ruthless with himself, ruthless with other people — he’s also ruthless with technology. He knows exactly what makes it work, and what makes it suck. There were MP3 players before the iPod, but they sucked. So he’s like, Okay, what do we have to do so that they don’t suck? Same with the iPhone. A lot of phones had Web browsers before the iPhone, but nobody used them. Why? Because they sucked. Now even people without iPhones are using the Web browsers on their cell phones. But that’s because of the iPhone. And that’s what he does. He makes the experience of technology better.”

The heart of what made Apple so great under Jobs 2.0 is that it focused on making really great products and not being the first at something to say they were the first. The iPhone was not the first smartphone — although many would say that pre-iPhone smartphones weren’t very smart — but it changed the game completely.


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