Caring deeply about what customers want is much different from continually asking them what they want; it requires intuition
and instinct about desires that have not yet formed. “Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page,” Jobs explained.
Instead of relying on market research, he honed his version of empathy—an intimate intuition about the desires of his
customers. He developed his appreciation for intuition—feelings that are based on accumulated experiential wisdom—while he
was studying Buddhism in India as a college dropout. “The people in Indian countryside don’t use their intellect like we do;
they use their intuition instead,” “Intuition is a very powerful thing—more powerful than intellect, in my opinion.”
Sometimes that meant that Jobs used a one-person focus group: himself. He made products that he and his friends wanted.
For example, there were many portable music players around in 2000, but Jobs felt they were all lame, and as a music fanatic
he wanted a simple device that would allow him to carry a thousand songs in his pocket. “We made the iPod for ourselves,” he
said, “and when you’re doing something for yourself, or your best friend or family, you’re not going to cheese out.”
Take Responsibility End to End
Jobs knew that the best way to achieve simplicity was to make sure that hardware, software, and peripheral devices were
seamlessly integrated. An Apple ecosystem—an iPod connected to a Mac with iTunes software, for example—allowed devices
to be simpler, syncing to be smoother, and glitches to be rarer. The more complex tasks, such as making new playlists, could
be done on the computer, allowing the iPod to have fewer functions and buttons.
Jobs and Apple took end-to-end responsibility for the user experience—something too few companies do. From the
performance of the ARM microprocessor in the iPhone to the act of buying that phone in an Apple Store, every aspect of the
customer experience was tightly linked together. Both Microsoft in the 1980s and Google in the past few years have taken a
more open approach that allows their operating systems and software to be used by various hardware manufacturers. That has
sometimes proved the better business model. But Jobs fervently believed that it was a recipe for (to use his technical term)
crappier products. “People are busy,” he said. “They have other things to do than think about how to integrate their computers
Part of Jobs’s compulsion to take responsibility for what he called “the whole widget” stemmed from his personality, which was
very controlling. But it was also driven by his passion for perfection and making elegant products. He got hives, or worse, when
contemplating the use of great Apple software on another company’s uninspired hardware, and he was equally allergic to the
thought that unapproved apps or content might pollute the perfection of an Apple device. It was an approach that did not
always maximize short-term profits, but in a world filled with junky devices, inscrutable error messages, and annoying
interfaces, it led to astonishing products marked by delightful user experiences. Being in the Apple ecosystem could be as
sublime as walking in one of the Zen gardens of Kyoto that Jobs loved, and neither experience was created by worshipping at
the altar of openness or by letting a thousand flowers bloom. Sometimes it’s nice to be in the hands of a control freak.
Those who did not know Jobs interpreted the Reality Distortion Field as a euphemism for bullying and lying. But those who
worked with him admitted that the trait, infuriating as it might be, led them to perform extraordinary feats. Because Jobs felt that
life’s ordinary rules didn’t apply to him, he could inspire his team to change the course of computer history with a small fraction
of the resources that Xerox or IBM had. “It was a self-fulfilling distortion,” recalls Debi Coleman, a member of the original Mac
team who won an award one year for being the employee who best stood up to Jobs. “You did the impossible because you
didn’t realize it was impossible.”
One day Jobs marched into the cubicle of Larry Kenyon, the engineer who was working on the Macintosh operating system,
and complained that it was taking too long to boot up. Kenyon started to explain why reducing the boot-up time wasn’t possible,
but Jobs cut him off. “If it would save a person’s life, could you find a way to shave 10 seconds off the boot time?” he asked.
Kenyon allowed that he probably could. Jobs went to a whiteboard and showed that if five million people were using the Mac
and it took 10 seconds extra to turn it on every day, that added up to 300 million or so hours a year—the equivalent of at least
100 lifetimes a year. After a few weeks Kenyon had the machine booting up 28 seconds faster.
When Jobs was designing the iPhone, he decided that he wanted its face to be a tough, scratchproof glass, rather than plastic.
He met with Wendell Weeks, the CEO of Corning, who told him that Corning had developed a chemical exchange process in
the 1960s that led to what it dubbed “Gorilla glass.” Jobs replied that he wanted a major shipment of Gorilla glass in six
months. Weeks said that Corning was not making the glass and didn’t have that capacity. “Don’t be afraid,” Jobs replied. This
stunned Weeks, who was unfamiliar with Jobs’s Reality Distortion Field. He tried to explain that a false sense of confidence
would not overcome engineering challenges, but Jobs had repeatedly shown that he didn’t accept that premise.