How Apple Does It

A Time cover story from last week. A look at Apple, Steve Jobs and his cohorts.

[Update] Link doesn’t work anymore. Crappy old media mentality, the article was online only for 2 weeks.

Apple does all of them at once. Apple makes its own hardware (iBooks and iMacs), it makes the operating system that runs on that hardware (Mac OS X), and it makes programs that run on that operating system (iTunes, iMovie, Safari Web browser, etc.). It also makes the consumer-electronics devices that connect to all those things (the rapidly multiplying iPod family), and it runs the online service that furnishes content to those devices (iTunes Music Store). If you smooshed together Microsoft, Dell and Sony into one company, you would have something like the diversity of the Apple technological biosphere.

You know how you see a show car, and it’s really cool, and then four years later you see the production car, and it sucks? And you go, What happened? They had it! They had it in the palm of their hands! They grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory! (Steve Jobs)

“Sure enough,” Jobs recalls, “when we took it to the engineers, they said, ‘Oh.’ And they came up with 38 reasons. And I said, ‘No, no, we’re doing this.’ And they said, ‘Well, why?’ And I said, ‘Because I’m the ceo, and I think it can be done.’ And so they kind of begrudgingly did it. But then it was a big hit.”

Apple employees talk incessantly about what they call “deep collaboration” or “cross-pollination” or “concurrent engineering.” Essentially it means that products don’t pass from team to team. There aren’t discrete, sequential development stages. Instead, it’s simultaneous and organic. Products get worked on in parallel by all departments at once—design, hardware, software—in endless rounds of interdisciplinary design reviews.