April 6, 1939: John
Sculley is born in New York City. He will grow up to be hailed
as a business and marketing genius, eventually overseeing
Apple’s transformation into the most profitable personal
computer company in the world.

After a
remarkable stint as president of Pepsi-Cola, Sculley will take
over as Apple’s third CEO in 1983. He runs Apple for a 10-year
period, guiding the creation of the revolutionary
Newton MessagePad. During Sculley’s decade at the helm,
Apple sells more personal computers than any other company. But
he’s still remembered for his role in kicking Steve Jobs out of
Apple.

Selling sugared water, changing the world


Despite
having no background in selling tech products, Jobs lured
Sculley to Apple from Pepsi with one of the most famous lines
in business: “Do you want to spend the rest of your life
selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the
world?”


Although
Jobs didn’t technically run Apple as CEO until he returned to
the company in the late 1990s, the idea was that he and Sculley
would run it together like co-CEOs. Jobs and Apple’s engineers
would take care of the cutting-edge technology, while Sculley
would use his marketing expertise to legitimize Apple.

Unfortunately
this arrangement didn’t last long, and Jobs got squeezed out of
Apple after a failed boardroom coup. He
went on to found NeXT, a computer company Apple
eventually acquired.


Sculley,
meanwhile, resigned as CEO in 1993, having increased Apple’s
sales from $800 million to $8 billion. During this
period, the Apple II and Macintosh computers became
Apple’s biggest sellers, with the latter gradually overtaking
the former.

MessagePads and Knowledge Navigators


“One of the
issues that got me fired was that there was a split inside the
company as to what the company ought to do,” Sculley told
Cult of
Mac

in a wide-ranging interview. “There was one contingent that
wanted Apple to be more of a business computer company. They
wanted to open up the architecture and license it. There was
another contingent, which I was a part of, that wanted to take
the Apple methodology — the user experience and stuff like that
— and move into the next generation of products, like the
Newton.”

While at Apple, Sculley sometimes got painted as an
operations-minded outsider who lacked the world-changing vision
of someone like Jobs. Sculley will be the first person to tell
you he didn’t measure up to Jobs in this capacity, but he
actually oversaw some amazing R&D projects during his time
as CEO.

One of these was the Newton, which was often regarded as his
answer to the Mac — meaning that it was his first attempt
to launch a game-changing new product line during his tenure as
CEO.

“It was Sculley’s Macintosh,” Frank O’Mahoney, one of the Apple
marketing managers who worked on the Newton, told me when I
interviewed him for my book The
Apple Revolution
. “It was Sculley’s opportunity to do
what Steve had done, but in his own category of product.”

The Newton failed to take off immediately, but the concept for
such a mobile device formed the basis for the iPhone, which now
represents the bulk of Apple’s revenues. Sculley also
commissioned an R&D project called the Knowledge Navigator
— which predicted the arrival of tools like
Siri and the iPad,
almost down to the exact month.

Sculley stayed at Apple as chairman until 1995, before leaving
the company completely. Today he remains in tech as an
investor, particularly interested in smartphones for developing
markets.

What did you think of Sculley as Apple CEO? Leave your comments
below.

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