There was a time, way back in the day, when I was an addict. Perhaps you were an addict, too. Many of us were addicted to email and messages on our ‘crackberries.’
The de facto standard among business smartphones from just a few years ago has fallen on hard times. What happened to BlackBerry? It was once the darling of corporate IT departments. What did Apple do in just a few years to become the most used smartphone platform of the enterprise?
The Man Behind The BYOD Revolution
Bring your own device is all the rage these days in IT departments, the enterprise, and pretty much any business that manages smartphones, tablets, and PCs for employees.
BYOD. ‘Bring your own device‘ means the IT department will support what the employee decides to use (within reason) and the iPhone was high on the list almost immediately after launch in 2007.
Why? What made the iPhone so special that it uprooted entrenched corporate IT departments and launched the BYOD revolution?
The iPhone became so popular that customers– starting in the executive office– wanted to use it at work. That pressure became so great– and Apple responded by making the iPhone more secure, and easier to run company applications– that IT departments caved in and BYOD was born.
What did Steve Jobs know about products that could uproot entrenched institutions?
Add to the aforementioned desire a little passion and love. Jobs from 2004 (before the iPhone):
I think back to Detroit in the seventies, when cars were so bad. Why? The people running the companies then didn’t love cars. One of the things wrong with the PC industry today is that most of the people running the companies don’t love PCs. Does Steve Ballmer love PCs? Does Craig Barrett love PCs? Does Michael Dell love PCs? If Michael Dell wasn’t selling PCs he’d be selling something else. These people don’t love what they create. And people here do.
That is one of the fundamental distinctions I see between Apple as a company and most of the company’s major technology competitors. How did Jobs get products that were instantly desirable by a large number of people?
You know how you see a show car, and it’s really cool, and then four years later you see the production car, and it sucks? And you go, What happened? They had it! They had it in the palm of their hands! They grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory! What happened was, the designers came up with this really great idea. Then they take it to the engineers, and the engineers go, ‘Nah, we can’t do that. That’s impossible.’ And so it gets a lot worse. Then they take it to the manufacturing people, and they go, ‘We can’t build that!’ And it gets a lot worse.
Many years ago I learned the difference between personal power and position power in corporate life.
The boss can get some things done because he’s the boss and exercises personal power, but employees may begrudge the directives. The best work comes when employees are motivated to do their best work, and that often comes from managers with passion– and personal power to motivate. Steve Jobs used both.
Why does Apple want to control ‘the whole widget?‘ That came from Jobs’ experiences.
Things happen fairly slowly, you know. They do. These waves of technology, you can see them way before they happen, and you just have to choose wisely which ones you’re going to surf. If you choose unwisely, then you can waste a lot of energy, but if you choose wisely it actually unfolds fairly slowly. It takes years. One of our biggest insights [years ago] was that we didn’t want to get into any business where we didn’t own or control the primary technology because you’ll get your head handed to you.
Good examples are Apple’s switch from PowerPC CPUs to Intel CPUs. Another example is Apple designing its own ARM-based A-series CPUs for the iPhone and iPad. And, of course, the primary example is Apple blending operating system and hardware into a cohesive, desirable product– the whole widget.
Take this quote from Steve Jobs’ interview in Playboy, circa 1985.
Companies, as they grow to become multibillion-dollar entities, somehow lose their vision. They insert lots of layers of middle management between the people running the company and the people doing the work. They no longer have an inherent feel or a passion about the products. The creative people, who are the ones who care passionately, have to persuade five layers of management to do what they know is the right thing to do.
Apple captured the enterprise with a product that is so desirable that it changed how industries behaved toward employees. Bring your own device (BYOD) is real, and the world can thank Steve Jobs for making it happen.