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With a Friend Like Ellison, Steve Jobs Didn't Need Enemies

By Chris Maxcer MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Nov 27, 2013 5:00 AM PT

This story was originally published on Aug. 15, 2013, and is brought to you today as part of our Best of ECT News series.

With a Friend Like Ellison, Steve Jobs Didn't Need Enemies

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison seems to think Apple is doomed now that Steve Jobs is gone. He essentially said so, publicly, to master interviewer Charlie Rose. He did it with a passively dramatic raising and lowering of his finger.

My first reaction was that Ellison, who is undeniably one of the most rigorous, ruthless and successful tech CEOs on the planet, must not have really known Steve Jobs all that well. Or that Ellison was a -- let's see, I need the right word that doesn't include body parts -- self-important jerk.

The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that Ellison has spent too much time in his cocoon -- or he's OK with stomping all over the memory and legacy of his friend, Steve Jobs.

'He Was Brilliant'

Ellison: He was brilliant. I mean, he was our Edison. He was our Picasso. He was an incredible inventor.

Rose: So what happens to Apple without Steve?

Ellison: Well, we already know.

Rose: What?

Ellison: We saw -- we conducted the experiment. I mean, it's been done. We saw Apple with Steve Jobs. We saw Apple without Steve Jobs. We saw Apple with Steve Jobs. Now, we're gonna see Apple without Steve Jobs.

Or, you can watch a clip of the moment yourself:

Wait a minute, you might be thinking, isn't Ellison saying that Steve Jobs was the reason Apple was successful? Isn't he elevating the performance of Jobs and implying that Jobs was so very amazing?

Yes, but it's a backhanded compliment.

Jobs' Most Important Legacy

For starters, there's no guarantee that keeping Steve Jobs around in 1985 -- assuming that the sugar-water CEO John Sculley who demoted/ousted him had not been on the scene -- would have resulted in an amazingly great Apple. In fact, Apple might never have risen to greatness. Maybe Steve Jobs needed a fall in order to become the man -- and leader -- that let him transform so many industries and change the world with the iPhone.

I believe that his fall from grace, so to speak, was a direct catalyst that enabled him to turn Pixar into a totally new movie-making company that churned out an astounding number of blockbuster movies. Long after Jobs exited Pixar, it is still doing amazing work -- and that's because of Jobs' vision for the business and creative environment of Pixar.

The same goes for Apple.

While Jobs had an astounding number of amazing product introductions, his most important legacy is the creation of today's current Apple culture and defining vision -- to elevate the product above all things, to build and create with maniacal passion.

Along the way, there's a fierce culture of secrecy and rigorous understanding of supply chain, cost, pricing and profit. There's also a consumer-facing culture expressed through the industry-leading retail Apple Stores.

Steve Jobs' greatest creation may very well turn out to be the company itself.

Ellison dismisses this, utterly dismisses the idea that Jobs could have produced something that has the potential to build the next generation of the world's greatest consumer electronic products: Apple.

Of course, when your ego is far larger than your head, it's hard to imagine that anyone can do anything without you -- so yeah, maybe Ellison is just projecting what he imagines would happen if he were not running Oracle.

MacNewsWorld columnist Chris Maxcer has been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and he still remembers the clacking Mac keyboards from high school -- Apple's seed-planting strategy at work. While he enjoys elegant gear and sublime tech, there's something to be said for turning it all off -- or most of it -- to go outside. To catch him, take a "firstnamelastname" guess at WickedCoolBite.com.

Which Big Tech CEO that testified at the Congressional Antitrust Hearing on July 29 is the most trustworthy?
Jeff Bezos of Amazon
Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook
Sundar Pichai of Google
Tim Cook of Apple
All of them are equally trustworthy to some extent.
None of them are trustworthy whatsoever.