Few American technology companies have a storied history to match Apple Computer, Inc. and Apple Inc. It’s a true rags to riches to rags to riches story. The kind of story that become the basis for movies and books.
What makes Apple somewhat more interesting than most technology companies is the starring cast, starting with co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Apple is as entertaining as a company as the products are delightful to own and use. If you’re an Apple history buff, then you’ll know the answer to the title question, ‘Whatever Happened To Steve Jobs’ ‘First’ Replacement CEO?’
Trick As Question
Assuming you’ve seen the movies and read a few of the books you’ll be forgiven if you wonder where in the world is John Sculley, the former Pepsi executive who was hand picked by Jobs to lead Apple to riches and fame way back in 1983.
It’s a trick question. Sculley did not replace Jobs as CEO because Jobs was not CEO in 1983. He didn’t become CEO until after he returned to Apple in 1997, and even then it was an interim CEO– iCEO– for awhile. Jobs was Apple’s CEO until shortly before his death when the reigns went to Tim Cook. That means Cook was Jobs’ first and only replacement CEO.
What of John Sculley?
He led Apple for about 10 years until being ousted in 1993 even though the company grew from $800-million in sales to more than $8-billion. How did Sculley do as the company’s third CEO?
Condé Nast Portfolio ranked Sculley as the 14th worst American CEO of all time.
Sculley did better than his successor and predecessor, for sure, but the company languished in the latter years of his reign, and performed terribly under Michael Spindler, and the only thing his successor did right was buy Steve Jobs’ NeXT company and allow the fox back into the hen house.
Where is Sculley today?
Funny you should ask. Basically, Sculley did what all fired executives do. They take their golden parachute money and invest it elsewhere. His history since 1994 is littered with a variety of technology ventures of nominal consideration and less memorable, including his latest venture, one that is designed to compete with the iPhone. Alright, I just made that last part up, but Sculley’s newest company has a line of smartphones which look remarkably familiar.
Obi Worldphone doesn’t really compete with Apple. The devices are aimed at what are called emerging markets– Asia, Africa, Latin American, and parts of Europe. Those areas where the average everyday citizen cannot afford a real iPhone, but might be happy to buy an iPhone-lookalike for much less money.
How much less? Obi Worldphones have a variety of models priced from $150 to $250. They run either Android or Android clone Cyanogen (which may include a number of Microsoft services pre-installed). One of the new smartphones, the MV1, was designed by a former Apple industrial design director who also happened to design some Beats headphones.
From what I can see, the newest Obi Worldphones are a knockoff mashup of the iPhone 6 and 6s line, a Samsung Galaxy-whatever, and a Nokia phone running Windows Phone, but without the Windows. In other words, they’re attractive Android-based smartphones which look familiar but different at the same time. The SJ1.5 size fits between iPhone 6s and 6s Plus and is otherwise unremarkable when compared to the large variety of Android-based smartphones. Unlike the iPhone, Obi Worldphone is a phone that does not sell all over the world. Go figure.
Did Sculley invest in competition for Apple’s iPhone? In a word, no. Android phones sell in vast numbers but do little to provide their manufacturers with a return on investment, let alone a profit. For better or worse, most Android phones are the same. They run various versions of Android in cases that range from cheap plastic to aluminum so they compete more with each other than with Apple’s iconic iPhone, obviously the industry’s only aspirational brand.
Maybe we should be happy that Jobs hired Sculley and that Sculley (and the board of directors) fired Jobs. A few years wandering the wilderness did much for Jobs and prepared him well for his return to oust Apple’s Pharaoh in 1997.