Transcript: Steve Jobs Speaks at MIT Sloan Distinguished Speaker Series

So we’ve got that amount of time to grow ourselves a $1 billion to $2 billion company so that we can compete with them on scale. See, today we can’t compete with them on scale. We never have as many salespeople as they do, as Sun does. We don’t have the ad budgets that they do. So we’ve got to have a better product.

And I hope we always have a better product, and I think we can. But I’d also like to be able to at least give them a run for their money on scale. So we’ve got the next three to four years to run really fast, so that by the time they even get close to having a competitive product, we’re at a large enough scale to where we can start to compete with them. And that’s what we’re doing with our lives right now, spending a lot of time with customers, spending a lot of time making NeXTSTEP better, and that kind of thing.

So that’s the strategic basis of what we do. Does that make any sense to you?

Have you run across the concept of sort of operational custom applications at all?

I mean, most of you have come from companies where you’ve had work experience, right? And you’ve all done that? So do you have this problem in the companies you come from, of a lot of pressure to write these operational custom applications and hardly anything coming out of the spigot to satisfy this thirst?

How many of you from Wall Street? Good. Good

How many of you from manufacturing companies? Excellent.

Where are the rest of you from? Consulting.

How many from consulting?

Oh, that’s bad. A mind is too important to waste. You should do something.

QUESTION-AND-ANSWER SESSION

AUDIENCE: Why is that bad? A consultant can come into a company and use your system, and basically build their applications in predictably short amounts of time, and show them a working product.

STEVE JOBS: The only consultants I’ve seen that I think are truly useful are the ones that help us sell our computers. No seriously, I don’t think there’s anything inherently evil in consulting. I think that without owning something, over an extended period of time — like, a few years — where one has a chance to take responsibility for one’s recommendations, where one has to see one’s recommendations through all action stages and accumulate scar tissue for the mistakes and pick oneself up off the ground and dust oneself off, one learns a fraction of what one can.

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Coming in and making recommendations and not owning the results, not owning the implementation, I think is a fraction of the value, and a fraction of the opportunity to learn and get better. And so you do get a broad cut at companies, but it’s very thin. It’s like a picture of a — I’m a vegetarian, so I won’t use steak.

But it’s like a picture of a banana. You might get a very accurate picture, but it’s only two dimensional. And without the experience of actually doing it, you never get three dimensional. So you might have a lot of pictures on your walls. You can show it off to your friends. You can say look, I’ve worked in bananas, I’ve worked in peaches, I’ve worked in grapes. But you never really taste it. And that’s what I think.

You’re also a variable expense. And in hard times, you find yourself — you find yourself variable, right?

AUDIENCE: If it’s the software that’s going to make or break your company, how come you’re putting out on platform. Why don’t you put it on Sun’s? They have a much larger base.

STEVE JOBS: Right, very good question. I’m going to generalize your question. Why don’t we just become a software company, right? That’s a very good question. It’s a subtle question. I’m going to try to go through some several things, and I’m sorry if I jump around.

We got a lot of requests from customers last year that they would love to see NeXTSTEP on other platforms, and primarily, Intel-based platforms like the 486. So we decided to do just that. And we have ported NeXTSTEP to the 486, and we’re finishing it now. And it will ship in the September, October timeframe. And it’s exactly the same stuff we run in our own computer.

Same app, same user interface, same training, same development environment. And we’re going to sell it for $9.95, and we’re OEMing it to a bunch of companies whose names you’ll recognize quite easily, and OEMing it to them at a much cheaper price. And everybody’s coming out of the woodwork to help us. We’re getting help from Novell. We’re getting help from all the developers. Intel’s really helping us. And they really want us to succeed.

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Why is that? Right. They all want to make sure that there’s a choice out there, and they’re all really scared about Microsoft. And they see NeXTSTEP as the only thing on the horizon that can challenge Microsoft in system software for the next several years. So we’re enjoying a lot of help, and boy we need it, so that’s good.

Now, we’ve also had a lot of requests from companies to port NeXTSTEP to other platforms. And we’re talking to some of those companies right now. Now, we’ve got a lot of requests from Sun customers the port NeXTSTEP to Sun. So a lot of them are saying, look, we may not want to buy them anymore, but we already bought 500, and we don’t want to throw them in the bay. So can we put your software in them? Because Sun’s falling behind in software.

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