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D10: Larry Ellison, Ed Catmull discuss Steve Jobs legacy

post #1 of 24
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After appearing separately in interviews at All Things Digital, Disney-Pixar Animation president Dr Ed Catmull and Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison sat together to discuss "the Lessons of Steve Jobs."

Dr. Ed Catmull on Pixar and Disney

In his initial interview with Kara Swisher, Dr. Catmull described his background in studying physics before helping to lay the groundwork in CGI as a grad student, working in an ARPA-funded program to build the initial frameworks of rendering complex computer-generated images.

After being recruited to join George Lucas' computer graphics division of Lucasfilm in the early 1980s, Dr. Catmull met Jobs just after his ouster from Apple. He described Jobs interest in what would become Pixar at a time when the unit was principally a hardware company attempting to sell advanced imaging systems.

In 1991, five years after Jobs bought Pixar, the company signed a deal with Disney to produce a series of CGI films. At the time, CGI was entering the mainstream as films such as Terminator 2 and Beauty and the Beast arrived using technology developed by Pixar.



By 1995, Pixar had its first full length CGI movie in Toy Story. Dr. Catmull pointed out that the film intentionally focused on toy characters to avoid the problems in depicting realistic human faces, which the existing technology simply couldn't do well.

He also noted that Pixar focused on the goal of making good movies with a compelling story, while others were focused on solving technical problems. For Pixar, technology was not the goal, but rather the infusion of technology into the artistic process.

Dr. Catmull also described Pixar as intentionally focusing on storytelling, abandoning or completely rewriting projects that weren't telling a compelling story.

Pixar benefited early on from its proximity to Silicon Valley he said, particularly from seeing other companies fail after making poor decisions. Even after begin acquired by Disney, Pixar remained a separate entity, being far enough away from Hollywood to remain independent.

Despite managing both Pixar Animation and Disney Animation, Dr. Catmull noted that each group is run independently, and the two groups were designed to be unable to help each other, even when facing serious problems. That independence helped both units to grow stronger.

Larry Ellison at Oracle

Following Dr. Ed Catmull, Walt Mossberg introduced Ellison, who has served Oracle as its chief executive since 1977. Ellison detailed the progressive evolution of cloud computing, starting with attempts to replace complex PCs with simpler NCs or Network Computers in the late 1990s.

Ellison contrasted the Internet, a complex network supporting complex client PCs, with the water, telephone and electricity networks where network complexity allows for simple devices on the client side. Ellison has long worked to realize a future where Internet clients were simple, something that has only recently appeared with Apple's iPad and smartphones.



"The PC is a ridiculous device," Ellison stated as he described the emergence of network server-based "software as a service," referring to Facebook as "a brilliant piece of technology," and discussed the monumental efforts of Google.

Ellison also discussed modern marketing, where social networks allow companies to get immediate feedback, stating that "consumers are instrumented" before marveling that the consumer market is now larger than the enterprise market. He also pointed out that Oracle's acquisition of Sun has already paid for itself, and that "hardware is mostly software," noting that the iPhone is differentiated and valuable principally because of its sophisticated software.

Catmull and Ellison on Jobs

After their individual interviews, All Things Digital presented a video of a series of clips of Steve Jobs' appearances at the conference, and invited the two speakers to talk together about their experiences and recollections of working with Jobs.

Both men met Jobs shortly after his ouster from Apple in 1986 a quarter of a century ago. Among their observations was that Jobs had the ability to learn from mistakes. Ellison particularly noted that Jobs' departure from Apple was largely the result of Job's poor negotiation skills with Apple's board of directors.

Apple's board "made a terrible mistake" largely because of a personality issue, Ellison noted, before pointing out that, because of Jobs' past, today's generation of young leaders in Silicon Valley "don't trust their boards anymore," specifically noting that Google's Sergey Brin and Larry Page and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg can fire board members but can't be fired by their boards.

Jobs' ability to learn from his mistakes or from efforts that weren't working prompted Dr. Catmull to observe, "when you test the boundaries, what do you do with it?" Particularly at Pixar, Jobs' focus on the importance of people resulted in an original design of the company's headquarters, rather than just being a lip service concept.

Ellison noted that "in addition to his genius, he had a single mindedness and attention to detail," describing Jobs as "a bit of a control freak," and saying "he wanted to engineer every aspect " of not only the user interface of devices, but also how you paid for it in the store, how it looks in the box, the experience of opening it, how you bought apps and so forth.



"Steve was a god of perspiration, how he applied that horsepower until the problem was solved," Ellison said. "There are a lot of good ideas, but translating that into a great product is unbelievably hard," he observed, particularly noting the fiction that Jobs simply copied the Macintosh from Xerox PARC.

Ellison said he was familiar with using the Alto computer PARC had been working on, but that "finishing the Alto and turning it into the Macintosh was enormously complicated," adding that "Henry Ford didn't invent the car, but he made it cheap and accessible."

Dr. Catmull noted that Jobs "never came to a story meeting. He trusted that others knew things he didn't." He added that Jobs' "heart intellectually was inside Apple. He knew the difference of when to be in it and how to support others."

Despite frequently arguing with employees over the merits of a particular design decision, Jobs could be convinced that he was wrong. "The best idea wins. You had to persuade him, but he would listen. He wanted to build the best possible products."

Ellison added that despite not being a programmer, Jobs "had enough knowledge and understanding of the complete system to work with engineers as a great editor," adding that Jobs had "Picasso's aesthetic and Edison's inventiveness."

Asked how others could copy Jobs' secrets of success, both agreed that "if you're copying the surface your copying the wrong things," with Ellison noting that "Apple became one of the most valuable companies on earth and it wasn't even one of his goals!"

Jobs was obsessed with making great, beautiful products, and was always talking about products, the next big thing. Both also described Jobs' "brilliance of not being a follower," with a "contrarian nature. If everyone is doing this, what if they're wrong?" Ellison said.
post #2 of 24

I really wonder if there will be another person like Steve Jobs ever again.  From what I have read about the man he is a one of a kind.  Something you will never see again.  With 7 billion people on this planet you would think there may be another like him with the same capacity for design and engineering.  What did he call it.  Liberal Arts and Technology.  Makes sense.

 

Wonder if they preserved his DNA and maybe try to clone him in the future.

An Apple man since 1977
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An Apple man since 1977
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post #3 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by tylerk36 View Post

I really wonder if there will be another person like Steve Jobs ever again.  From what I have read about the man he is a one of a kind.  Something you will never see again.  With 7 billion people on this planet you would think there may be another like him with the same capacity for design and engineering.  What did he call it.  Liberal Arts and Technology.  Makes sense.

 

Wonder if they preserved his DNA and maybe try to clone him in the future.

 

I'm sure there's many with an incredible capacity for design and engineering. But these were only a couple of many ingredients that made SJ what he was and what he was able to accomplish. You also need the personality skills to get brilliant people behind you, motivate them, and push them to the edge to execute your vision. So no, there won't be anyone exactly like him, and even if there was theres no chance they will be as influencial just due to the specific intersection of history and circumstance that SJ also inhabited. 

post #4 of 24

People easily forget the many failures of Apple and hence Steve Jobs.  As they said Jobs learned from his mistakes which was a good thing.  While his competitors were arrogant he made adjustments that they didn't see coming.  The Mac Cube and the iPod (fatboy) Nano come to mind on the hardware side. MobileMe on the service side was a bad implementation.  Software-wise I'd say OSX 10.0 was released too early as it was a dog of an operating system.  Apple needed at least another year before its release which turned out to be OSX 10.2.  We were all beta users before then.

 

I'm concerned that Tim Cook lacks the vision.  If Apple comes out with another blockbuster market changing business then I'll be a believer in Tim Cook.  Otherwise he's just holding the steering wheel steady and not really driving innovation.

post #5 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Slurpy View Post

 

I'm sure there's many with an incredible capacity for design and engineering. But these were only a couple of many ingredients that made SJ what he was and what he was able to accomplish. You also need the personality skills to get brilliant people behind you, motivate them, and push them to the edge to execute your vision. So no, there won't be anyone exactly like him, and even if there was theres no chance they will be as influencial just due to the specific intersection of history and circumstance that SJ also inhabited. 

True.  It's to bad he died.  Imagine what he could have accomplished if he lived longer.  At least we will see his genuine ingenuity and drive that was put into the Apple Television.  I am curious to see what it will be like.

An Apple man since 1977
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An Apple man since 1977
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post #6 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacTel View Post

People easily forget the many failures of Apple and hence Steve Jobs.  As they said Jobs learned from his mistakes which was a good thing.  While his competitors were arrogant he made adjustments that they didn't see coming.  The Mac Cube and the iPod (fatboy) Nano come to mind on the hardware side. MobileMe on the service side was a bad implementation.  Software-wise I'd say OSX 10.0 was released too early as it was a dog of an operating system.  Apple needed at least another year before its release which turned out to be OSX 10.2.  We were all beta users before then.

 

I'm concerned that Tim Cook lacks the vision.  If Apple comes out with another blockbuster market changing business then I'll be a believer in Tim Cook.  Otherwise he's just holding the steering wheel steady and not really driving innovation.

I agree.  It is like Henry Ford.  Henry ford failed twice.  But eventually he became a master at making cars.  We learned allot from him.  I loved it when OS 10.0 came out.  Playing with it and trying to get it to work on a Beige G3 Desktop.  Wow.  Then 10.1.  Waiting in line at midnight to get the free copy of it.  Cool.  Kinda like waiting in line to see a Star Trek movie.  But when os 10.2 came out I saw a work of art and man it was nice.  And every new release after was even better.  I loved that.  Sad part was one had to buy a newer expensive Mac.  Makes one think huh?  But now I am a hacker and can get OS X to run on most intel mother boards.  Pretty cool.  I have gotten Mountain Lion to work on the old EP45-UD3P really well and fast.

 

Yes but Tim Cook has Johnny Ives and the other VP's that helped make the products we see today.  I am sure that Tim will take their work and ideas into consideration.  I do agree with you tho that Tim may lack the ability of vision.  But maybe that will change with the Board of Directors who will keep the ship steered in the right direction.  I honestly think that Tim doesn't make up Apple and it's sole direction.  There's too many interest out there to make sure Apple stays the course.  One could only hope though huh?

An Apple man since 1977
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An Apple man since 1977
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post #7 of 24

MOst people will never work on one life-changing device. Jobs worked over at least 6 - Apple II, Macintosh, iMac, iPod, iPad, iPhone - and a full scale revolution in Hollywood. 

 

I wouldn't worry about Tim's vision. Right now, and for the next several years at least, Jobs' vision is going to lead the company. I see voice communication with machines as being closer now then ever before. I see better screens that let people interact like never before. I see a change in how "professional" systems are built - no more big boxes, but smaller components using Thunderbolt technology. A processing unit the size of a mac Mini connected to a graphics card break out box, with another for high-def video input, and another for huge storage (while the CPU box has a smaller, flash-based storage for the OS and programs). Imagine those all stacked up. It would be powerful. It wouldn't take a Steve Jobs... but a Tim Cook I could see making it.

post #8 of 24
I don't normally complement the articles, but nice article. Wish I was there.

"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
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"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
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post #9 of 24

I'm not so sure about the comparison with Edison. The only real similarity is a genius for self-promotion. Edison set the US back decades because he didn't understand AC. That sounds more like Bill Gates than Steve Jobs :(

 

Jobs may have made some very significant mistakes but on the whole he knew to use the best talent available for the stuff he didn't understand.

 

Although he took the original Mac project a long way from Jef Raskin's original concept, the iPad is remarkably close. I wonder if he knew that he was remaking the Mac in something closer to Raskin's original idea of an appliance computer. Many years after the event (and Rasking died in 2005), he may have had a subconscious recall of Raskin's ideas at the very least, that pushed him in that direction.

Philip Machanick creator of Opinionations and Green Grahamstown
Department of Computer Science, Rhodes University, South Africa

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Philip Machanick creator of Opinionations and Green Grahamstown
Department of Computer Science, Rhodes University, South Africa

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post #10 of 24

No Link to video? 

post #11 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by dmarcoot View Post

No Link to video? 


Here's the link: http://allthingsd.com/20120530/oracles-larry-ellison-and-pixars-ed-catmull-on-their-friend-steve-jobs-video/

 

The video wasn't up initially.  The All Things D site puts up a summary first and the video later.

post #12 of 24

When will anyone just let the man die already

post #13 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by micken View Post

When will anyone just let the man die already

While I get what you are saying, we are still in year one, so anything that Steve would have been, or, like this conference, historically has been a huge part of, will spend time reflecting. It's only natural.

I think Jobs will always be there. The great visionaries always are.

Think of Walt Disney. He is still ever present. He thought differently. He changes the world. Same with Jobs.
post #14 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacTel View Post

I'm concerned that Tim Cook lacks the vision.  If Apple comes out with another blockbuster market changing business then I'll be a believer in Tim Cook.  Otherwise he's just holding the steering wheel steady and not really driving innovation.

 

Two words: Bob Iger.  When he was tapped to replace Michael Eisner at Disney, people thought he was an able lieutenant but unsuited (i.e. lacks 'vision') to be CEO especially after the flashy Eisner who revived Disney after so many years of post-Walt floundering.  

 

Well, Iger turned out to be a great CEO and is one of the few execs whom Steve said he respects.  So there are many ways to skin a cat. Tim might not have the far-reaching vision of Steve (who does?) but like Iger he seems to know enough to seek out and listen to those who do, and hopefully, to choose the right course among competing visions.  In the end though, nobody knows until we see results or lack thereof.   So far the signs have been positive though.

post #15 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by philipm View Post

I'm not so sure about the comparison with Edison. The only real similarity is a genius for self-promotion. Edison set the US back decades because he didn't understand AC. That sounds more like Bill Gates than Steve Jobs :(

 

Jobs may have made some very significant mistakes but on the whole he knew to use the best talent available for the stuff he didn't understand.

 

Although he took the original Mac project a long way from Jef Raskin's original concept, the iPad is remarkably close. I wonder if he knew that he was remaking the Mac in something closer to Raskin's original idea of an appliance computer. Many years after the event (and Rasking died in 2005), he may have had a subconscious recall of Raskin's ideas at the very least, that pushed him in that direction.

 

Raskin's original vision was realised in the Canon Cat and described in his book "The Humane Interface." It's really nothing like the Mac and nothing at all like the iPad.

post #16 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacTel View Post Software-wise I'd say OSX 10.0 was released too early as it was a dog of an operating system.  Apple needed at least another year before its release which turned out to be OSX 10.2.  We were all beta users before then.

 

I'm concerned that Tim Cook lacks the vision.  If Apple comes out with another blockbuster market changing business then I'll be a believer in Tim Cook.  Otherwise he's just holding the steering wheel steady and not really driving innovation.

I believe when Apple released OS 10.0, Jobs did warn people it's a beta or something to that effect.

 

As for Tim Cook, the guy's been on the job for less than a year without Jobs around. Give him time. It's not like Apple is hurting in the short term. But if he comes out with a refrigerator-toaster appliance, we'll have some problems...

post #17 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by jungmark View Post

I believe when Apple released OS 10.0, Jobs did warn people it's a beta or something to that effect.

 

 

 

There was OS X Public Beta ($29.95) before the release of OS X 10.0 ($129).

 

338

post #18 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by philipm View Post

I'm not so sure about the comparison with Edison. The only real similarity is a genius for self-promotion. Edison set the US back decades because he didn't understand AC. That sounds more like Bill Gates than Steve Jobs :(

The more I thought about it the more I see similarities between Jobs and Edison.  Contrary to the big fluffy story we all get told in history class, Edison invented very little himself.  Likewise Jobs was not an engineer or inventor per se.  Edison was very difficult to work with, mercurial like Jobs.  Edision took credit for everything regardless of who actually did the real work and innovation.  Jobs did that to some extent, but it seems in later years he was more willing to share credit for achievements.  Both were experts at taking a good idea and turning it into a success.  Not sure that Edision learned from his mistakes.  Like you said, he didn't get AC polyphase power generation and used unethical marketing stunts to try and make people afraid of it.  I think Jobs wins.

post #19 of 24

I think we have to give Tim time to fill out the CEO role though I don't really get a feeling of passion when he speaks.  I got a little nervous when he said Steve spent most of his time on design and marketing but he (Tim) spends his time on other things.  I hope we're not losing the creativity and just turning Apple into an engineering and operations shop.  The great thing about Steve is he was able to merry fine arts and engineering. The PC didn't have to be a low margin, commodity "dumb box".  It could be a work of art.  And on the advertising side, I think their ads are just so-so these days.  I don't see them having a cultural impact like the iPod silhouette or Mac vs. PC ads did.  I mean are any of these Siri ads memorable?  I'd argue no.  Honestly though I hope Tim doesn't have a large speaking role at WWDC.  He'll put people to sleep.
 

post #20 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post

I think we have to give Tim time to fill out the CEO role though I don't really get a feeling of passion when he speaks.  I got a little nervous when he said Steve spent most of his time on design and marketing but he (Tim) spends his time on other things.  I hope we're not losing the creativity and just turning Apple into an engineering and operations shop.  The great thing about Steve is he was able to merry fine arts and engineering. The PC didn't have to be a low margin, commodity "dumb box".  It could be a work of art.  And on the advertising side, I think their ads are just so-so these days.  I don't see them having a cultural impact like the iPod silhouette or Mac vs. PC ads did.  I mean are any of these Siri ads memorable?  I'd argue no.  Honestly though I hope Tim doesn't have a large speaking role at WWDC.  He'll put people to sleep.
 

 

If you're hoping that Cook is suddenly going to become this creative genius and force now that Steve is gone, you can stop. He won't, and never will be. But I'm sure Steve knew and understood that when he asked him to be CEO. He trusted that the creativity and design will come from others in the company, and that Cook will be able to appreciate, manage, and execute it. It's unfair to ask and demand of Cook to be what Steve was- it's unfair and unrealistic to ask that of anyone. Did you watch the video? Watch it, listen to what they say about Jobs, and try to aknowledge how ridiculous it is for you to demand that Cook transform into Steve. Cook's job now is to make sure Apple performs by having the people at Apple fire on all cylinders, and for them to continue to foster excellence and innovation in everything the company does. It's clear to me that Cook understands the seriousness of it all based on everything he's said and done the past several months. 

post #21 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Asked how others could copy Jobs' secrets of success, both agreed that "if you're copying the surface your copying the wrong things," with Ellison noting that "Apple became one of the most valuable companies on earth and it wasn't even one of his goals!"

 

Judging by the way Apple fans defend Steve's personality towards others, one would think that all anyone had to do in order to be great was to act like a total dick.

post #22 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


Despite managing both Pixar Animation and Disney Animation, Dr. Catmull noted that each group is run independently, and the two groups were designed to be unable to help each other, even when facing serious problems.

I wonder if this is how the Mac Business Unit at Microsoft runs.  And is this why Mac versions of Microsoft Office products, Outlook in particular, always seem to be lacking essential features that the Windows versions have?

post #23 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Haggar View Post

 

Judging by the way Apple fans defend Steve's personality towards others, one would think that all anyone had to do in order to be great was to act like a total dick.

 

You CAN be a total dick, IF you have the vision, genius, success, and ability to change, IMPROVE and make the world move forward like Jobs, Edison, Churchill, Einstein, etc.!  BUT just being a dick does NOT cut it!

Quote:
My job is NOT to be easy on people. My job is to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even BETTER.

--Steve Jobs on being a CEO
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Quote:
My job is NOT to be easy on people. My job is to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even BETTER.

--Steve Jobs on being a CEO
Reply
post #24 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Haggar View Post

 

Judging by the way Apple fans defend Steve's personality towards others, one would think that all anyone had to do in order to be great was to act like a total dick.

 

My experience in life is that to get anything of worth done, you often are required to be a dick. I know, because I've always been fucked when I have been unable or unwilling to be a dick. This is required to get people motivated, to get them to perform, to get results, discipline, and to not get trampled on at every turn.

 

However, the fact that this is how you choose sum up SJ- as 'total dick' says alot about you. It's pretty despicable, considering everything else that he was, and that he also changed alot during his later years. 

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