Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Steve Jobs: More Henry Ford than Leonardo da Vinci

There have been a number of articles recently comparing Steve Jobs to various famous figures, for example Steve Jobs v Einstein or Steve Jobs v Leonardo da Vinci.

However what surprises me is that I have come across very little in the way of comparisons to one of the greatest business people and marketer's of the 20th Century, Henry Ford. The reason that I am surprised is that I find considerable similarities between Apple and Ford (with particular reference to the Model T Ford).


1) Existing Concepts:

Company Product Comments
Ford Automobiles The concept of the first automobile dates to 1672.
Apple Mouse See Xerox Parc re concept.
Apple Apple Mac See: History of Personal Computers
Apple iPod Apple acknowledges the concept dates to 1979
Apple iPhone See: History of Smartphones
Apple iTunes Apple purchased the rights to SoundJam MP.
Apple iPad See: How The Tablet Computers Have Evolved

To summarise the table above, neither Ford nor Apple invented the concept related to the product for which they are famous.

2) Lack of Product Customisation:

Both Ford and Jobs are famous for not creating multiple customisations of their products in response to consumer requests.

In Henry Ford´s 1923 autobiography ‘Henry Ford - My life and work he quotes himself as saying, “Any customer can have a car painted any colour he wants so long as it is black”.

Likewise Steve Jobs and Apple haVE been criticized countless times for their strict control over their closed business model (ecosystem).

3) Mass Market Focus

Henry Ford:
"I will build a car for the great multitude. It will be large enough for the family, but small enough for the individual to run and care for. It will be constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise. But it will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one – and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God's great open spaces."
Steve Jobs:
Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were interviewed at 'D5: All Things Digital' conference in Carlsbad, California, in 2007. When asked what each has contributed to the computer and technology industry Bill Gates said of Steve Jobs: “What Steve’s done is quite phenomenal, and if you look back to 1977, that Apple II computer, the idea that it would be a mass-market machine, you know, the bet that was made there by Apple uniquely—there were other people with products, but the idea that this could be an incredible empowering phenomenon, Apple pursued that dream. Then one of the most fun things we did was the Macintosh and that was so risky. People may not remember that Apple really bet the company. Lisa hadn't done that well, and some people were saying that general approach wasn’t good, but the team that Steve built even within the company to pursue that, even some days it felt a little ahead of its time—I don’t know if you remember that Twiggy disk drive and…"
4) Visionaries:

Both Henry Ford and Steve Jobs were incredible visionaries. Whether it was the Henry Fords’ foresight to create a process and production line that allowed for an affordable car or Steve Jobs remarkable ability to see the mass potential of an existing product through great design (Steve Jobs: Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.) both men were visionary in their thinking and execution.


Leonardo da Vinci was an astonishing inventor and whilst neither Henry Ford or Steve Jobs invented the concepts of their most famous products,  they  (and their businesses) shared a number of characteristics, not the least being their ability to execute their vision.


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