Wired has a long, long story about a strange, strange company: our favorites, Apple. The piece is actually quite good and offers a bit more than the average “iPod good, but they sell nothing else” line most reporters use when they basically can’t get anyone at Apple to talk to them. Leander Kahney does a good job of seeing Apple for what it really is: an intense marketing machine producing cool products in a commoditized marketplace.
At most companies, the red-faced, tyrannical boss is an outdated archetype, a caricature from the life of Dagwood. Not at Apple. Whereas the rest of the tech industry may motivate employees with carrots, Jobs is known as an inveterate stick man. Even the most favored employee could find themselves on the receiving end of a tirade. Insiders have a term for it: the “hero-shithead roller coaster.” Says Edward Eigerman, a former Apple engineer, “More than anywhere else I’ve worked before or since, there’s a lot of concern about being fired.”
But Jobs’ employees remain devoted. That’s because his autocracy is balanced by his famous charisma — he can make the task of designing a power supply feel like a mission from God. Andy Hertzfeld, lead designer of the original Macintosh OS, says Jobs imbued him and his coworkers with “messianic zeal.” And because Jobs’ approval is so hard to win, Apple staffers labor tirelessly to please him. “He has the ability to pull the best out of people,” says Ratzlaff, who worked closely with Jobs on OS X for 18 months. “I learned a tremendous amount from him.”
Most importantly, he talks about Steve-o in the context of management, something we forget when we fawn over the iPhone for 23 out of the 24 hours in the day. Jobs is, for all intents and purposes, a dick. But, sadly, the products he and his team makes are second to none.