Once a company develops a great product that enjoys a monopoly, the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs said, it begins to concentrate less on innovation than protecting its turf.
“The Mac user interface was a 10-year monopoly,” Jobs told Steven Levy in Newsweek in 2004. “Who ended up running the company? Sales guys. At the critical juncture in the late ’80s, when they should have gone for market share, they went for profits. They made obscene profits for several years. And their products became mediocre. And then their monopoly ended with Windows 95. They behaved like a monopoly, and it came back to bite them, which always happens.”
Jobs, ever the instigator, couldn’t help but add: “Look who’s running Microsoft now,” referring to chief executive Steve Ballmer. “A sales guy!”
We know how these sagas end, of course. In August, the outgoing Microsoft CEO promised to step down within a year, one “lost” decade after Jobs uttered those words. And the late Apple CEO stepped down from his post after his health took a turn for the worse in 2011, the very same year that his company’s most popular product—the iPhone—peaked, in one sense of the word, enjoying 24 percent market share, per Gartner figures from the time.