Larry Ellison on Apple: circa 1997

Flashback: In 1997, Apple was mired in questions surrounding it’s future, unsure of its footing within the computer industry and counting down its days of glory. In the words of Sir Wikipedia:

On July 9, 1997, Gil Amelio was ousted as CEO of Apple by the board of directors after overseeing a 12-year record-low stock price and crippling financial losses. Jobs stepped in as the interim CEO and began a critical restructuring of the company’s product line.

At the 1997 Macworld Expo, Steve Jobs announced that Apple would be entering into partnership with Microsoft.

Here’s the 38 mt. video of that MacWorld Keynote 1997 that started it all:

Two things to note in the video —

On Business Strategy: Between 14.23 mts and 18.26 mts, Jobs plays a taped presentation of the new board of directors discussing what Apple’s strategy should be. I found these quotes of Larry Ellison priceless, keeping in mind, how uncertain Apple’s future at that time was and how prescient his words seem on hindsight.

Larry Ellison (Chairman/CEO, Oracle):

I think Apple needs to worry less about competing with Microsoft and worry more about doing things that are different; that’s back to innovation, its back to creativity, its back to vision.

Apple is the only lifestyle brand in the computer industry. It’s the only company, that people feel passionate about. The important thing is to build products that are wonderful, or as Steve would say “build insanely great products”

And that insanely great product was a tiny little music player that changed the way we listened to music.

On Leadership: It’s easier to be a leader when things are fine than when things are in the doldrums. When Steve Jobs made the presentation in 1997 (above video), he was returning to the company he’d helped found, after being ousted in a coup in 1983. Steve’s comeback was an attempt to stem losses at Apple in ’97 amounting to $ 1.6 billion.

Adding to the tension was a satellite presentation by Bill Gates announcing a partnership, which was booed (31 mts into the video) by the Macolytes in the audience. You’d do well to watch the final part of Steve’s sugar-coated reproach, which will go down as one of the best impromptu responses ever:

Where we are right now, we are shepherding some of the greatest assets in the computer industry, and if we want to move forward, we have to let go of a few things here: we have to let go of this notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose, OK? We have to embrace the notion that for Apple to win, then Apple has to do a really good job.

And, boy did they do a REALLY good job or what?! Let me end with a quote from Jobs on being ousted in 1985:

You have probably had somebody punch you in the stomach and it knocks the wind out of you and you cannot breathe. The harder you try to breathe, the more you cannot breathe. And you know that the only thing you can do is just relax so you can start breathing again.

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