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I didn’t fire Steve Jobs, says former Apple CEO John Sculley

'Steve and I had a terrific relationship when things were going well'

Apple’s former chief executive John Sculley has revealed details of his relationship with Steve Jobs in an interview with the BBC.

In the interview, Scully said that he hadn’t read Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs but welcomed the fact that the book had cleared up some “myths” about his relationship with the Apple co-founder.

“I think he captured Steve in the really good greatness of him, and from what I’ve heard from people who have read the book Walter Isaacson cleared up some of the myths – that I never really did fire Steve Jobs and that Apple was actually a very profitable company,” Sculley said.

Sculley joined Apple from Pepsi in 1983, with Steve Jobs famously asking him: “Do you want to sell sugared water for the rest of your life or do you want to come with me and change the world?”.

However, sales of the Macintosh and a disagreement over whether or not the device should be IBM-compatible led to a falling out between the two men. Jobs and Sculley each went before Apple’s board and lobbied for the other’s removal. Eventually, on 31 May 1985, Apple announced that – following its first-ever quarterly loss and a round of layoffs – Steve Jobs was leaving the company he’d co-founded.

“When the Macintosh Office was introduced in 1985 and failed Steve went into a very deep funk. He was depressed, and he and I had a major disagreement where he wanted to cut the price of the Macintosh and I wanted to focus on the Apple II because we were a public company,” Sculley told the BBC.

“Ironically it was all about Moore’s law and it wasn’t about Steve and me. Computers just weren’t powerful enough in 1985 to do the very rigorous graphics that you had to be able to do for laser printing, and ironically it was only 18 months later when computers were powerful enough that we renamed the Mac Office, Desktop Publishing and it became wildly successful. It wasn’t my idea, it was all Steve’s stuff, but he was just a year and a half too early.”

Sculley left Apple in 1993, forced out by the company’s board. He concedes that his biggest mistake was insisting that Apple should port its OS to the PowerPC processor in the early 1990s, and should have instead opted for Intel’s architecture.

After leaving Apple he enjoyed a short stint at Spectrum Information Technologies, which was already under investigation for fraud when he joined. Four months later, on finding out about the investigation, he resigned.

Sculley also became politically active after leaving Apple, supporting Republican Tom Campbell’s bid for the Senate, while later switching his allegiance to support Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Sculley also told the BBC that he expected Apple to be a big success in the TV market. “I think that Apple has revolutionised every other consumer industry, why not television?

“I think that televisions are unnecessarily complex. It seems exactly the sort of problem that if anyone is going to change the experience of what the first principles are, it is going to be Apple.”