The hubris of Steve Jobs
Apple reported a banner quarter yesterday, posting $20 billion in revenues for the first time ever. So why does Steve Jobs sound so defensive?
Jobs surprised investors by joining the company's conference call yesterday, a run-of-the-mill task the Apple founder usually leaves to his deputies, because he "couldn't help dropping by for our first 20-billion-dollar quarter." But he wasn't there just to answer questions or savor the moment. Early in the call, Jobs launched into a five-minute rant about Google, Android and the iPad's competitors.
His tone was rather biting; his words, critical. "We think [Google's] open versus closed argument is just a smokescreen to try and hide the real issue, which is, 'What's best for the customer?'" Of Amazon, Verizon and Vodafone's different app stores, Jobs said, "This is gonna be a mess." And the new crop of iPad rivals? "Dead on arrival." Ouch.
It's rare to see CEOs trash their rivals in such a carefully orchestrated setting. Yes, some get caught on the defensive when provoked, or respond harshly after a probing question. But then again, this is Jobs, who's never shied away from talking up Apple. He came out swinging, offering up his little monologue before analysts even had the chance to ask him about his competitors. As Jeff Bercovici writes over at Forbes, "the Olympian posture of disdaining one's rivals as not worth the breath required to trash them" is not for Jobs.
But even for all of Jobs's swagger, it's clear that Android's good results--and good reviews--may be frustrating him. The Post's Cecilia Kang writes that in August, Nielsen found that 32 percent of new users purchased a device running on Google's operating system, more than double the portion of new users surveyed in January. That's compared to about 25 percent each for BlackBerry and iPhone.
I'm all for CEOs being a little more candid when it comes to discussing their competition. Some go out of their way to avoid even saying their rivals' names on the record (which can sound ridiculous), much less openly criticizing them. But there is such a thing as too much hubris--even for a company with results as stellar as Apple's--and a healthy respect for competitors should be something in every leader's lexicon. Most at least pretend they have it.
October 19, 2010; 12:15 PM ET |
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