One of my favorite Steve Jobs quotes is this:
“One of the things I’ve always found is, that, you’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology. You can’t start with the technology and figure out where you’re going to sell it. I’ve made this mistake more than anybody else in this room, and I have the scar tissue to prove it.” — Steve Jobs, 1997 WWDC.
It’s a simple, powerful concept. Start with the customer or the idea or the design, not the technology. Sure, the technology enables the creation of the idea, but the technology isn’t the product. The magic of software is in making that technology disappear. The challenge for us programmers is to solve problems the best way possible, despite limitations in the frameworks or platforms we depend upon.
Steve Jobs at the 1997 WWDC
Audience member: “Mr. jobs, you’re a bright and influential man.”
Steve Jobs: “here it comes [holds chair]”
Audience member: “…on several accounts that you don’t know what you’re talking about. I would like, for example, for you to express in clear terms, how say Java, in any of it’s incarnations, addresses the ideas embodied in open document, and when you’re finished with that, can you tell us what you personally have been doing in the past 7 years.”
Steve Jobs: [drinks]
“uhh… You know, you can please some of the people, some of the time. But, one of the hardest things when you’re trying to effect change, is that people like this gentleman are right in some areas. I’m sure there are some things that open doc does, probably even more that I’m not familiar with, that nothing else out there does. And I’m sure you could make some demos, maybe a small commercial app, that demonstrates those things, the hardest thing is: how does that fit in to a cohesive larger vision, that’s going to allow you to sell, 8 billion or 10 billion dollars of product a year.
One of the things I’ve always found is, that, you’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology. You can’t start with the technology and figure out where you’re going to sell it. I’ve made this mistake more than anybody else in this room, and I have the scar tissue to prove it. I know it’s the case, and as we have tried to come up with a strategy for Apple, it started with what incredible benefits can we give to the customer, and where can we take the customer. Not starting with: lets sit down with the engineers and figure out what awesome technology we have, and then, how are we going to market that. I think that’s the right path to take.
I remember with the laser writer. We built the worlds first small laser printer, as you know, and there was awesome technology in that box: we had the first cannon laser printer engine in the United States; we had a very wonderful printer controller, that we designed; we had Adobe’s post script software in there; we had AppleTalk in there; and I remember seeing the first printout come out of it; and just picking it up, and looking at it, and thinking, you know, we can sell this. Because you don’t have to know anything about what’s in that box, all we have to do is hold this up and go “do you want this?”. And if you can remember back in 1984, before laser printers, it was pretty startling to see that. People went: “Whoah! Yes!” And, that’s where Apple’s got to get back to, and I’m sorry that open doc is a casualty along the way.
I readily admit there are many things in life that I don’t have the faintest idea of what I’m talking about, so I apologize for that too. But, there is a whole lot of people working super, super hard right now at Apple: Avi, John, Greeno, Fred, the whole team is working, burning the midnight oil, and hundreds of people below them, to execute on some of these things, and they’re doing their best, and I think that what we need to do. And some mistakes will be made by the way, some mistakes will be made on the way, that’s good, at least some decisions are being made a long the way, and we’ll find the mistakes, and we’ll fix them. And I think what we need to do is support that team, going through this very important stage, as they work there butts off, we all getting calls being offered 3x as much money to go do this and that, the valley’s hot, and none of them are leaving, and I think we need to support them, and see them through this, and write some damn good applications to support Apple out in the market. Mistakes will be made, some people will be pissed off, some people will not know what they’re talking about, but I think it is so much better than where things were not very long ago, and I think we’re going to get there.”
NOTE: This video was posted by someone else on youtube. I did my best to transcribe the video by hand in my attempt to preserve it.