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The Apple effect: How Steve Jobs & Co. won over the world

UPDATE: Steve Jobs passed on Wednesday. In this cover story, first published last month, Alan Webber explores what made Steve Jobs (and Apple) exceptional. Apple knew what consumers didn't want and understood the power of being itself. A look at what the company can teach corporate America.

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Germans are lined up in Munich to buy the iPad2 in this March file photo. This is the cover story for the Sept. 19 weekly edition of the Christian Science Monitor.

AP Photo/John Kehe illustration

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The one and only time I met Steve Jobs was back in 1991. I was managing editor of the Harvard Business Review (HBR), and I'd made the trip from Boston to Silicon Valley to see for myself what was going on. I'd just wrapped up a presentation in one of the classrooms at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., when Mr. Jobs materialized and started a conversation.

"That was a great article," he told me. "One of the best things I've ever read. It's absolutely right. It's not computers. It's computing."

He was talking about an article that we'd just published in the July 1991 issue of HBR, a piece written by Andy Rappaport and Shmuel Halevi called "The Computerless Computer Company." It was a provocative piece that came at a time when the United States was nervously watching Japanese companies win more than 40 percent of the American market for laptops, assert leadership in the production of memory chips, and rival US companies in the production of supercomputers.

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