Sculley: Newton Laid the Groundwork for Today's Mobile Industry

In a wide-ranging interview with the BBC, former Apple CEO John Sculley was asked about Jobs killing off the Newton, and what he thought of the product in retrospect. Sculley admitted that the Newton was "clearly too ambitious" but nailed "many of the concepts."

Perhaps most importantly, Sculley points out that Apple had to develop a new type of microprocessor to power the Newton, co-founding a company called ARM Holdings. Processors based on those developed for the Newton now power most of the smartphones and tablets in the world.

Well the facts are that we had to create a new microprocessor for the Newton as there was no low-powered microprocessor that could handle object orientated programming.

So when we were creating Newton we also co-founded a company called Arm.

Apple owned 47% of it, Olivetti owned 47% and the founder Hermann Hauser owned the rest.

Arm not only was the key technology behind the Newton but it eventually became the key technology behind every mobile device in the world today including the iPhone and the iPad.
Sculley is clearly proud of the fact that even though the Newton failed, the technology behind it succeeded.

In the interview, Sculley also discusses Walter Isaacson's biography of Jobs, which he says he hasn't read; his and Jobs' relationship; what he's up to these days, including a large investment in social health company Audax Health; and what he thinks of a possible Apple television.

(Image courtesy Flickr/Ivan Bandura)



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99 months ago
Had Sculley let Jobs push Apple towards a mainstream consumer market, instead of the business crowd he favored, only god knows what world we would be living in right now.

Newton was great for its time (it even managed to read my horrible scribbles) but the state of the company was so dire that Apple had to renounce the project and worst still sell its huge shares of ARM. (imagine if Apple still possessed 47% of ARM for the iPod revolution and the subsequent iPhone one!)
Rating: 9 Votes
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99 months ago
The Newton had a beautiful logo, I love it! The iPad doesn't have an emblem really; not that it needs one.

Rating: 7 Votes
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99 months ago

Had Sculley let Jobs push Apple towards a mainstream consumer market, instead of the business crowd he favored, only god knows what world we would be living in right now.

Newton was great for its time (it even managed to read my horrible scribbles) but the state of the company was so dire that Apple had to renounce the project and worst still sell its huge shares of ARM. (imagine if Apple still possessed 47% of ARM for the iPod revolution and the subsequent iPhone one!)


I think it would be no were close to where it is today. Part of the reason ARM is so great is the fact that everyone can use it. Remember Apple does not have share very well with others and would not of let ARM get out in the open for others to improve on it.

Sculley was a horrible choice by Steve and it nearly killed Apple but in the end it taught Apple and Steve an invaluable lesson. As for whatever Sculley has to say today, /yawn. He should've stuck with selling sugar water.


In many ways Sculley saved Apple from Steve Jobs. If it was not for Sculley Apple would of died a long time again. Remember even Steve Jobs said if he was not fired from Apple he (Steve Jobs) would of caused it to go under. It forced Jobs to grow up and become better.

Sculley in many ways saved Apple by firing Steve Jobs and forcing Jobs to grow up.
Rating: 5 Votes
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99 months ago
I viewed the Newton as too ahead for it's time. It was a proof of concept, though. That it could be done and could have the potential to work.
Rating: 3 Votes
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99 months ago

If the Newton had apps like iPhone/iPad/iPod has apps it would have had a chance to survive. Any tech is too quickly seen as junk if nothing new is available to update it.


Newton did have apps like the iPhone/iPad/iPod! Granted, the whole end-to-end ecosystem wasn't there, or the ease of getting everything from an App Store, but there was a burgeoning developer community that supported Newton as well as the other PDAs of the 90s. (I fondly remember the many long hours I spent struggling with NewtonScript at the time :D)

In fact some of those Newton devs have grown-up into iOS devs...

RTP.
Rating: 3 Votes
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99 months ago

Sculley was a horrible choice by Steve and it nearly killed Apple but in the end it taught Apple and Steve an invaluable lesson. As for whatever Sculley has to say today, /yawn. He should've stuck with selling sugar water.


Think on this. Jobs wanted the Apple ][ line dead and immediately. He was fully prepared to kill it off and only wanted to focus on the Mac line. You know Jobs, out with the old and in with the new and damn the consequences.

It was Sculley who paid attention to what was keeping Apple afloat (Apple ][ sales) and supprted that cash cow until it finally wasn't viable. By then, 5-6 years later the Mac line was finally bringing in the money. If Jobs would have stayed it's quite possible Apple would have died. Sculley kept things running quite well it was the other CEO's that nearly ruined them.

I kow everyone wants to think Jobs was perfect but he failed at Apple, at NeXt, and at Pixar (selling hardware / software) - he got saved when their shorts and movies became huge hits. It wasnt until his return to Apple where he stuck lightning.

Anyway Sculley get too much of a bad rap. He's not histories greatest monster.
Rating: 3 Votes
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99 months ago
Man, I never realized how big the Newton is :eek:

Rating: 3 Votes
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99 months ago

Scully didn't fire jobs...

He got him demoted and then jobs resigned.


They forced him out, plain and simple. Put all the lipstick you want on that one, but it's still a pig.
Rating: 2 Votes
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99 months ago


The Newton's biggest obstacle was how expensive it was, and in those days there was no such thing as cross compatibility like there is today. Any syncing of data was platform dependent... and that you can blame on Scully with ease. He totally took Apple in the wrong direction.


Keep in mind back in the 70-90s the big players all did this. It was the style at the time. Lock in the customer from end to end. IBM (microchannel hardware, OS/2), Digitial (VAX, vms, PathWorks), MS (DOS, Windows), Apple (hardware, OS). No one wanted to open up except maybe Novell since they didn't sell hardware. It took customers screaming for it to happen. Sculley was doing what everyone was so you can say he screwed up but so did everyone.

Even when Jobs was back and iTunes came out, it was a vehicle to lock in Mac sales. He had to be dragged kicking and screaming to allow a Windows version. Only then, when the dump trucks full of money started arriving, did he and others see the benefit of cross platform. That and the web explosion which made the desktop mostly irrelevant.

Sadly, we're going right back to lock in once again. Phones locked down, 'App stores' lock in (Even MS is going hardball with Windows ARM), basically controlled ecosystems. This time though, people are embracing it and see it's a good thing that device A only talks to software A all controlled by the vendors.
Rating: 2 Votes
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99 months ago


In many ways Sculley saved Apple from Steve Jobs. If it was not for Sculley Apple would of died a long time again. Remember even Steve Jobs said if he was not fired from Apple he (Steve Jobs) would of caused it to go under. It forced Jobs to grow up and become better.

Sculley in many ways saved Apple by firing Steve Jobs and forcing Jobs to grow up.


This is quite true.



Kumbaya my Lord, kumbaya
Kumbaya my Lord, kumbaya
Kumbaya my Lord, kumbaya
Oh Lord, kumbaya
Rating: 2 Votes
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