Steve Jobs, on customers and innovation

On the ‘tubes the other day, someone I follow retweeted David Trewen of DTDigital who had posted a Steve Jobs quote about customers:

Jobs said this at WWDC in 1997 in his amazing response to the guy who tried to troll asked a question about Steve’s return to the company.

Jobs also said, about customers:

  • You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new. (Inc Magazine, 1989)
  • I get asked a lot why Apple’s customers are so loyal. It’s not because they belong to the Church of Mac! That’s ridiculous. (Business Week, 2004)
  • We believe that customers are smart, and want objects which are well thought through. (Newsweek, 2006)
  • A lot of companies have chosen to downsize, and maybe that was the right thing for them. We chose a different path. Our belief was that if we kept putting great products in front of customers, they would continue to open their wallets. (New York Times, 2007)

But I like the 1997 one best (there’s a great transcript on Gary Tan’s blog). Because Jobs continues:

“What incredible benefits can we give to the customer? Where can we take the customer?”

I’m less impressed with “incredible benefits” but I love “where can we take the customer?” especially as it compares with Microsoft’s 1994 tagline “Where do you want to go today?

If you wanted to be uncharitable, you could say that it clearly pointed to Apple’s desire to be in control of their customers and the way that Microsoft is content to provide the platforms that people appropriate.  Or you could argue that the comparison showed the different perspectives on innovation at each company.


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