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The Work of Jobs

I figured that it was always my job to make sure that the team was excellent, and if I didn’t do it, nobody was going to do it.   Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson pg 570 If this biography is to be believed then it is clear that the love of Steve Jobs’ life was not his family, his friends, his Zen-god, his wealth or even himself.  The love of his life  was his creations, the work of his mind.  He was passionate about Macs, NeXT,  Pixar, iPods, iPhones, iTunes, iPads and all of those  iNventions.  He paid whatever price it  took for his creations  to be excellent–even his health. I will let you decide for yourself  what you think of the man as portrayed by Walter Isaacson.  Here I will give a few comments from the armchair of an economist. 1) Apple demonstrated in a few short years the Schumpeterian concept of creative destruction. Schumpeter said that innovation often created temporary monopolies but eventually they would be destroyed by competitors to create new wealth.  Not only did Apple monopolisticly compete with other high-tech firms, it also cannibalized its own products in favour of new and better ones. 2)  Profits matter even  if people say that they are creating something for the love of it , In order for Apple to do everything that it did, Apple  mastered the art of making big profits. For example, in 2010  Apple captured 35% of the profits with only 7% if the revenue in the market.  This also demonstrates the difference between sales and profits—-Sales only matter as they relate to profits. 3) Options are only worth something if the market price of the share is higher than the strike price on the option.  Unfortunately for Jobs, his options were priced just before a stock market crash rendering them useless because he would have to buy shares at prices far above what the market was charging.  Thus, you can’t always believe the salaries quoted in the news if options are part of the package. 4) Productivity matters and CEO’s have to figure out how to increase it.  Steve Jobs seems over-the-top tough but somehow the employees who survived thrived in this environment.  Team A types like to work with other A types and find B types annoying.  Jobs kept Apple filled with A type people who accomplished more than they thought possible.  Their efforts never seemed to surprise Steve however. 5) Sometimes supply creates its own demand.  When asked if Apple had done any market studies for its products, Jobs said that if Ford had done a market survey customers would have just asked for a faster horse. Customers don’t always know that they will love a new product.  It seems that many times the initial assessment of a new Apple product was lukewarm by the pundits until it hit record sales in the marketplace.

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