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Apple inside look shows MobileMe fiasco, post-Jobs grooming

updated 07:30 pm EDT, Sat May 7, 2011

Apple corporate structure gets detailed look

An in-depth study of Apple's corporate structure has uncovered previously secret details about both the 2008 fallout over MobileMe, how CEO Steve Jobs has been preparing for his eventual exit, and a potential clue as to a major project. Following the major service problems after MobileMe launched alongside the iPhone 3G, Jobs reportedly assembled the entire MobileMe team and asked them "what MobileMe is supposed to do," according to Fortune. After an explanation, he simply responded "so why the f*** doesn't it do that?"

He further accused the staff of "tarnishing Apple's reputation" and told them that one of his favorite reviewers, the WSJ's Walt Mossberg, was "no longer writing good things about us."

The structure of the company is currently focused heavily around Jobs, the magazine found. Development invariably hinges around a team preparing to make a presentation to Jobs that either pleases him or leads them to go back and redesign an element. His persona was unflatteringly cast as that of "corporate dictator" who always has final say on major decisions and makes decisions based on personal taste, such as the menu at 1 Infinite Loop's Caffé Macs.

Apple's CEO has nonetheles set up a clear level of responsibilities and expectations that doesn't exist at rivals. Unlike RIM's multiple CEOs and other duplicate executives, Apple insists on having a DRI, or Directly Responsible Individual, who employees know is the go-to source for a given product or task. He meets twice with executives every week, on Monday to review key projects and Wednesdays to reach communications and marketing staff. Teams whose projects reach near-final stages are encouraged to take any steps needed to perfect the product, including the iMovie team hiring the London Symphony Orchestra to record iMovie's pre-made soundtracks and on-location video shoots in Hawaii and San Francisco for fake weddings to be used as demo material.

Jobs has also been taking some steps suggesting he's at least aware of the need for talented vice presidents once he leaves. Each new VP is given a 'parable' of the difference between a janitor and executives. VPs and higher have to assume responsibility for any failure, regardless of whether or not there was a good reason for it happening, he tells newcomers.

"Jobs imagines his garbage regularly not being emptied in his office, and when he asks the janitor why, he gets an excuse: The locks have been changed, and the janitor doesn't have a key," the magazine said. "This is an acceptable excuse coming from someone who empties trash bins for a living. The janitor gets to explain why something went wrong. Senior people do not. 'When you're the janitor,' Jobs has repeatedly told incoming VPs, 'reasons matter.' He continues: 'Somewhere between the janitor and the CEO, reasons stop mattering.' That 'Rubicon,' he has said, 'is crossed when you become a VP.'"

More directly, Jobs has created Apple University, a school run by ex-Yale professor Joel Podolny and ex-Harvard professor Richard Tedlow to teach corporate decision making based on real-world examples both inside and outside of Apple. Among the examples specific to Apple were its decision to enter retail in 2001 and a choice to initially focus iPhone manufacturing on one Foxconn factory. Courses are taught by executives who in many cases were responsible for the policies in question, such as retail VP Ron Johnson or COO Tim Cook.

Apple University has helped both keep the company's hierarchy in sync and, most likely, ensured that any successor to Jobs would understand the basics of his philosophy before assuming the top spot.

A handful of extra details were mentioned, including small revelations: the online Apple Store manager has to defer to the graphic arts team for photos, according to the magazine, and that it only took two people to port Safari from the iPhone to the iPad.

In a tease, the article also hinted at a vital task that required Jobs hiring a "band of eggheads" just before his current medical leave, though what this was hasn't yet been uncovered. It may tie into the upcoming iCloud service but could also be specific hardware or long-term research.

Senior Apple VPs, from left to right: Jonathan Ive (design), Phil Schiller (marketing), Eddy Cue (Internet services), Scott Forstall (iOS software). Image via Fortune

Apple organizational structure; note Apple University head Joel Podolny in gray, upper right. Image via Fortune

by MacNN Staff



  1. ASathin8R

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I am glad

    that Steve Jobs takes people to task when things like MobileMe fall over. The question he asked and his response are exactly the question and response I would have liked to offer in the same situation as a customer of MobileMe. The launch of that service was a fiasco and the people responsible deserved to be hauled over the coals for it.

    I buy Apple products and services (at a premium if need be) for the extra quality and thought that has gone into them, and for their execution.

    That's usually the difference between what Apple does and the rest. Just look at the RIM BlackBerry PlayBook. Apple would never have released something like that. Sure the hardware might be good, but that in and of itself, is just not good enough. It should never have been launched without a native email client etc. No point rushing something to market if it's just not ready.

    That is what happened with MobileMe. That team, like RIM, looked like they were just hoping for the best.

  1. slapppy

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Apple is amazing.

  1. Salty

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Why I love Apple.

    Frankly I'm glad Apple yelled at them, though I think that for what it is Mobile Me is still over priced and of little value to consumers. They should be giving it away to consumers who average $10 a month/$120 dollars a year on iTunes. It would make a consistent revenue stream and make it so that customers are getting something more than what many other services offer for free.

    Frankly Google offers nearly all these services for free, (Gmail + Exchange, Google Talk, Blogger, YouTube, Picasa, Google Pages.) Add that with Dropbox and you're golden for just about everything Mobile Me does and it'll be more reliable and in some cases more robust.

    Mobile Me galleries are gorgeous, but these days you can get themes for Wordpress blogs that look even nicer and offer users more options. iWeb is nice, but again Wordpress has even more theme options that allow for real customization for users as their skillsets grow. (Apple really should create a FREE plugin type gallery where people could get additional iWeb theme sand allow them to work more like Wordpress themes.) (Also allow an iWeb app that lets users update their blog from iPhone or iPad.)
    There should be document sync for iWork docs through the cloud.

    Calendar, Contact and Bookmark sync are so non-data intensive that they should easily be offered for free from Apple.

    When many iPhone users are helping apple make a 500 dollar profit on their phone every two years (or more) they really shouldn't be quibbling about charging them for a few cloud services that are comparatively cheap to run.

    Comment buried. Show
  1. wrenchy

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Another one of Apple's half-baked products and services to be sold to the public.

    Don't they test this_iCrap before selling it? Steve seems upset :-)
    Poor iRetards who paid.


    - Sent from my Android Device.

  1. Feathers

    Joined: Dec 1969



    So...the secret of Apple's success is that executives must actually make decisions and be responsible for them. The reality that a business run in this way is the exception rather than the norm, flies in the face of common sense. I suppose another way of summing up their corporate philosophy would be; "No cowards here". Mr. Burns would say..."excellent"!

  1. richardh99

    Joined: Dec 1969


    comment title

    I'm afraid that Steve's "So why the f*** doesn't it do that?" for MobileMe still applies, at least to their sync services - I've been a Applelink/eWorld/iTools/.Mac/MobileMe user since about 1989 and, in all that time, their sync services have never proven robust and reliable. So I don't hold out too much hope for the iClod or whatever they're going to call it…

  1. macnnoel

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I love Apple

    But MobileMe is broken. iDisk is a joke. They should really take a cue from DropBox or buy it. The only useful parts are sync of the iCal and Notes. Find my iPhone is OK I guess.

    Comment buried. Show
  1. facebook_Clarence

    Via Facebook

    Joined: May 2011


    Apple Culture

    Ok, so Steve was right in recognizing that Mobile Me was a pile of garbage. Some things he failed to notice:

    1) It's overpriced
    2) It's STILL not fixed, 3 years later
    3) The name of the service is horrible
    4) On my Droid I get all these services for free

    I wonder how Steve Jobs would feel if the people at this "Caffe Macs" told him he couldn't change the menu because some douche in a black turtleneck already said that's the way it has to be and if he didn't like it, he can go somewhere else. That's how I felt when I had an iPhone, so I went to Droid, and I'm never coming back to your iOS c***, Steve.

  1. chris2519

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Completely agree with the posts about MobileMe. It still doesn't always work properly, even after 3 years. Yes, it is improved, but it is not what I would call reliable. I have spent hours of my life since the service was launched trying to understand why things didn't sync when they were supposed to. I have a Mac Pro, Macbook Pro, iPhone and iPad. The sync services between these devices are like some complicated Rube Goldberg mechanism that sort of work when all the sprockets are greased and stars are aligned, but inevitably fail just at the moment when you are starting to think that it might finally be working reliably. And sorry, but that model of Shuffle that came out with only the earbud controls (which malfunctioned when exposed to a slight amount of sweat) was a joke. I hope that team was beaten down like the MobileMe team was, because I didn't appreciate the 5 separate trips to the Apple Store to have my headphones replaced. When the manager of a store can stand there with a straight face and tell you that the product was not necessarily designed for exercise (the SHUFFLE!!!!) and that the headphones were not represented to the consumer as being "waterproof", and that "nobody else seemed to be having the problem" (even though you could easily google hundreds if not thousands of similar complaints), there is something really wrong with the level to which some of their employees are brainwashed. I love the company, and I love their products, but they need to be more careful about releasing products before they're ready, and they need to be a bit more forthcoming when they s**** up.

  1. nat

    Joined: Dec 1969


    hey facebook clarence

    as long as you're never coming back to the ios do us all a favor and never come back here as well.
    ok pumpkin?

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