Take Responsibility End to End
Jobs knew that the best way to achieve simplicity was to make sure that hardware, software, and peripheral devices were seamlessly integrated. An Apple ecosystem – an iPod connected to a Mac with iTunes software, for example—allowed devices to be simpler, syncing to be smoother, and glitches to be rarer. The more complex tasks, such as making new playlists, could be done on the computer, allowing the iPod to have fewer functions and buttons.
Jobs and Apple took end-to-end responsibility for the user experience—something too few companies do. From the performance of the ARM microprocessor in the iPhone to the act of buying that phone in an Apple Store, every aspect of the customer experience was tightly linked together. Both Microsoft in the 1980s and Google in the past few years have taken a more open approach that allows their operating systems and software to be used by various hardware manufacturers. That has sometimes proved the better business model. But Jobs fervently believed that it was a recipe for (to use his technical term) crappier products. “People are busy,” he said. “They have other things to do than think about how to integrate their computers and devices.”
Being in the Apple ecosystem could be as sublime as walking in one of the Zen gardens of Kyoto that Jobs loved.
Part of Jobs’s compulsion to take responsibility for what he called “the whole widget” stemmed from his personality, which was very controlling. But it was also driven by his passion for perfection and making elegant products. He got hives, or worse, when contemplating the use of great Apple software on another company’s uninspired hardware, and he was equally allergic to the thought that unapproved apps or content might pollute the perfection of an Apple device. It was an approach that did not always maximize short-term profits, but in a world filled with junky devices, inscrutable error messages, and annoying interfaces, it led to astonishing products marked by delightful user experiences. Being in the Apple ecosystem could be as sublime as walking in one of the Zen gardens of Kyoto that Jobs loved, and neither experience was created by worshipping at the altar of openness or by letting a thousand flowers bloom. Sometimes it’s nice to be in the hands of a control freak.
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