Originally Posted by zoetmb
He was intelligent and thoughtful, but he still almost killed Apple. During his tenure (and after, until Jobs returned), Apple had a number of serious problems:
- during the early part of Sculley's tenure, they released very few machines in the Mac line: Jobs left in October of 1985, so let's not blame Sculley for 1986. But in 1987, Apple released only an updated version of the Apple IIe
and three Macs: a II, II/40MBHD and an SE. In 1988, they released a very slightly enhanced version of the IIc
, called the IIc+
, which was the very last model in the Apple II
line and three new variations on the Mac: a Mac II 40MB with 4MB of memory, an SE with a hard disk and the IIx. In 1989, four more insubstantial variations: SE30, IIcx, IIci and another SE variant. Etc.
- One of the supposed big bone of contentions between Sculley and Jobs was that Jobs wanted to de-emphasize the Apple II
line in favor of the Mac. But even under Sculley, the Apple II
line only lasted another year.
- In 1993, Sculley's last year, Apple released an incredibly confusing lineup of 26 desktop Macs across five product lines (Mac, LC, Centris, Quadra, Performa) and 6 laptops. This was a huge marketing mistake as the product line was so confusing, even informed consumers had no idea what to buy and what the differences were. It was also Apple's "grey box" era where most of the computers comprised of clunky looking odd shapes.
- Sculley initiated the development of a next-gen operating system, but could never get the team to pull it off, although Sculley's replacements (Spindler, et al) were no better and it wasn't until Apple purchased NeXT that they were able to accomplish OS X. But during this period, Apple kept changing their approach to the next OS, which severely alienated developers and program producers and turned them away from the Mac.
-The Newton was developed under Sculley's tenure. And we all know what a great device that was.
- By the time Steve returned in July of 1997, Apple's finances were in such distress that the company was close to going under. Sculley can't take all the blame because he left four years earlier, but he certainly was part of the problem.
So while most historians of the era praise Jobs for recognizing that he needed an outside, experienced executive to run Apple, they criticized him (in retrospect) for hiring the wrong person and making the hiring decision based upon personality.
As for Sculley, Condé Nast Portfolio ranked Sculley as the 14th worst American CEO of all time. I've met executives like Sculley and they do very well when companies pretty much run themselves and have strong executive teams who actually manage the company, so they can simply act as the figurehead. They don't do well when they have to take an active role and/or when companies have severe strategic problems.