Apple's ex-CEO on what drives Steve Jobs and how a superbrand was built

Summary:Interview: John Sculley on the early years of Apple and the tablet Cupertino was working on 20 years before the iPad...

John Sculley Apple

Ex-Apple CEO John Sculley says Apple is so far ahead of everyone else - "it knows how to sell magic"Photo: Hult International Business School

...launch advert for the Apple Macintosh 1984. The ad depicts a Big Brother figure delivering a sermon via a giant screen that is interrupted when an athlete throws a hammer into the screen - symbolising how the Mac's originality would smash the orthodox view of what computers could do.

"The advertising was effective and it got tremendous attention for the Mac," Sculley said.

The ad became an iconic piece of marketing, whose emphasis on selling the experience of using an Apple product is still at the heart of the company's adverts today.

"Apple is so far ahead of everyone else - it knows how to sell magic. Everyone else is trying to sell technology," Sculley said.

The cost of being a trendsetter

In those early days of Apple, there were occasions when the company's ambition outstripped its capabilities and, according to Sculley, the company pushed the hardware on the original version of the Mac a bit too hard.

"When the first Mac came out, nearly all the processing power was used up in making the user interface work," he said.

"Once it ran the graphics on the screen there wasn't much left over to do anything particularly functional, so it took several more years before Moore's law enabled processors to be powerful enough for Macs to be able to do things that were really useful from a productivity standpoint."

And if the ambitions for the Mac were years ahead of their time, then the Apple Newton PDA was released more than a decade before computer processing power and telecommunications technology could fully deliver the handheld computer the Newton's designers set out to create in the early 90s.

"One of the things I've learned in high technology is that many people can see where the future is going. The hard thing is to predict exactly when it's going to happen and who's going to do it," Sculley said.

Even further ahead of the technological curve was the Knowledge Navigator computer, a concept device devised by Apple in the late 1980s.

The device was envisioned as a gesture- and speech-controlled tablet computer that accessed information linked by hypertext with the aid of software AI helpers, foreshadowing both the world wide web and modern mobile computing devices like the iPad.

"There's a transformational moment for everything - with...

Topics: Hardware


Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.