Cloning Steve


Not this Steve — Steve Jobs. The dependably wrong Rob Enderle has an idea:

In theory, you could create a better Steve Jobs — at least with regard to his product creation-presentation skills — by finding someone with similar passions but without the personality flaws. That’s what Lenovo is trying to do with Ashton Kutcher. He won’t run Lenovo, but he could become its public face and do what currently isn’t being done at Apple. He could do what Steve did: create magic.

If you look back at what Steve Jobs did, he took a hard look at Porsche and Sony, and then he effectively built a better Sony. As Apple’s star rose, Sony’s star crashed, but Jobs never targeted Sony directly. He just figured out what Sony wasn’t doing right, and he did that extremely well while Sony lost its way.

He didn’t copy Sony’s products, he copied its mission. He then used Porsche-like concepts — simplicity, focus, high quality — to rebuild what once had been an amazing company into a far better one. Lenovo is looking at both Apple and Samsung, and it’s moving to create a company that could eclipse both by taking the best parts from each.


Enderle is right about one things, and that’s that Jobs had some personality flaws. Some deep and deeply weird ones. Some of those flaws made him great, some of them held his company back in certain ways.

But Enderle couldn’t be more wrong about Kutcher.

What made Jobs such a great presenter wasn’t just that he was really good on stage — although he certainly was. (Watch the beginning of his January, 2007 introduction of the original iPhone for what might be the best product presentation in the history of capitalism. I exaggerate not.) But the other thing that made Jobs great is that he was a hands-on product guy. His presentations were so good in large part because he usually had a firm hand in the creation of the products he presented. Rightly (iPhone) or wrongly (the Moto ROKR) he believed in the product he’d help to create.

SIDEBAR: I just took a moment to watch Jobs introduce the ROKR, and it’s clear in retrospect he didn’t believe in that bit of Motorola craptaculence. Consequently, it’s one lame presentation. It looks like he can’t wait for it to be over.

NOW BACK TO THE MAIN POST: He might not seem like it, but Apple’s newish CEO Tim Cook is a product guy, too. One tech writer (I wish I could find the link) described his design process as “collaborative” rather than “dictatorial,” but his process works. Apple’s big launches last quarter (Mac Pro, iPad Air, retina iPad mini) prove it. Cook is softer spoken, and he’s much more likely to share the stage than Jobs ever was — but the products remain the focus and the products are by and large insanely great.


So what’s this about Ashton Kutcher? He’s a pretty face, I suppose. He’s a fine speaker, I guess. And he’s pretty darn savvy about tech — he’s been a Valley investor I think since he first started making serious money and needed a place to put it.

But he’s not a product guy. He might be a nice presenter, but so what? Unless his presentations are going to bring that Sony + Porsche magic to Lenovo’s staid product line, then Kutcher doesn’t actually bring anything along you couldn’t get from any one of thousands of other famous people.

Just because Kutcher once played Jobs in a nearly-watchable biopic doesn’t make him Steve Jobs.


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