State of Innovation

Patents and Innovation Economics

Great American Inventor Steve Jobs Dies

Steve Jobs was an inventor on over 300 patents.  He is the quintessential American inventor entrepreneur.  He and Steve Wozniak started Apple in January of 1977.  The company went public in December of 1980 and was the largest IPO (Initial Public Offering) since Ford in 1956.  Apple goes on to launch the MacIntosh in 1984 with its now famous television ad that played off the book 1984, where IBM played the role of Big Brother.  This launches the graphical user interface (GUI) as the standard for computers.[1]

This fairy tale start to Apple is marred by John Sculley, former president of Pepsi, being appointed CEO of Apple and firing Steve Jobs in 1985.  Strangely enough, Jobs foreshadowed this event in his Playboy interview in which he talked about how Polaroid fired Edwin Land, their creative founder and how Polaroid floundered  thereafter.  Once Jobs was fired,  Apple floundered for over a decade, and in the late 1990’s was all but dead.  Jobs returned to Apple 1997 and to profitability by 1998.  This is a cautionary tale for all those management gurus who ignore the technical creative genius and believe running a business is all about people skills, management, or finance.  Real wealth is created by invention and Jobs was a consummate inventor as his patent record shows.

An interesting question is raised in the book Great Again is could Apple have been successful today?  They answer the above query with a series of questions:

Could a twenty-year-old college dropout, just back from six months in an ashram somewhere, attract funding for a capital-intensive venture based on the manufacture (yes, they manufacture) and sale of a $2,500 consumer product unlike any that had ever been bought by consumers before?  One whose potential uses were at best unknown, and possibly nonexistent? And one for which the total current market size was exactly zero?

Not only could Apple not get funded today, it probably could not go public. Nor would Apple have received its first patent (USPN 4,136,359) in only 20 months.  The book asks “how many of today’s Apples are not getting a chance?”  Perhaps the death of Steve Jobs is the right time to examine this question.


[1] XEROX’s PARC center deserves a significant amount of credit for inventing the GUI.  Unfortunately, the FTC’s absurd attack on XEROX in the early 1970s for being a technological leader caused this great American company to pull back on commercializing a number of great inventions, including Ethernet.  This is a shameful history in American government that is being repeated today.  For more information see https://hallingblog.com/jobs-the-economy-and-patents/.

 

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October 5, 2011 - Posted by | Blog | , , , , , , , , ,

5 Comments »

  1. Dale,

    Thanks for mentioning Xerox PARC

    Maybe the true headline should have read, “Many overlooked great inventors run over by MBA-drunk and clueless corporate and government executives”?

    Steve Jobs exploited that which they began.

    Same deal with Bill Gates and the PC operating system (MS DOS)

    Comment by step back | October 6, 2011 | Reply

  2. Stepback,

    Good title, but a bit long. Edwin Land would have to be one of the poster children.

    Comment by dbhalling | October 6, 2011 | Reply

  3. Great American Inventor, who never really invented anything. Might have been his biggest marketing stunt after all. Visionary, maybe. A business guy who understood how to sell technology, certainly.

    Comment by blubb | October 17, 2011 | Reply

  4. Inventor’s are visionaries. His name was on 300+ patents – it is hard to believe he was not an inventor of many of these ideas.

    Comment by dbhalling | October 17, 2011 | Reply

  5. Microsoft Office 2007 Key…

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