Home » Transcript: Steve Jobs Speaks at MIT Sloan Distinguished Speaker Series

Transcript: Steve Jobs Speaks at MIT Sloan Distinguished Speaker Series

Likewise, when we created NeXTSTEP, this revolutionary object-oriented software that we have, our target customer coming from the PC world, where shrinkwrapped apps were king, was Lotus and Adobe and WordPerfect and all the shrinkwrapped apps developers. And the purpose was to let them create their apps five to 10 times faster for these shrinkwrapped apps. And it worked.

We have a ton of shrinkwrapped apps, now. Best of breed in almost every category.

But it wasn’t until early in ’91, early last year, a little over a year ago, that some really big companies came to us and said, “You don’t understand what you’ve got. The same software that allows Lotus to create their apps five to 10 times faster is letting us build our in-house mission-critical apps five to 10 times faster. And this is the biggest problem we’ve had. This is a huge problem for every big company, and almost all medium-sized companies, and you have a solution in your hands, and you dummies don’t even know it.”

And it took them about three months before we finally heard it. And then last summer, we changed our whole sales and marketing strategy around to focus on that. And it’s taken off like a rocket. And we grew about 4x last year, and probably grow about 2x this year.

And our customer list is now very, very strong and growing like crazy. We just got back from spending a few days in DC and in New York. And we’re talking to customers we only dreamed of talking to a year ago. So that’s what we do.

And our arch enemy Sun, they want to kill us. Which is good. They should try to do that as soon as possible, because the sooner they do it, the cheaper it will be for them. I think it’s gone past the point where it’s possible.

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And the greatest thing is, hardware churns every 18 months. It’s pretty impossible to get a sustainable competitive advantage from hardware. If you’re lucky, you can make something one and a half or two times as good as your competitor, which probably isn’t enough to be quite a competitive advantage. And it only lasts for six months.

But software seems to take a lot longer for people to catch up with. I watched Microsoft take eight or nine years to catch up with the Mac, and it’s arguable whether they’ve even caught up. It takes a long time. And we think that the soonest we’re going to have a true competitor is probably four to five years.

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?

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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.


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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