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Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda: GE and Apple

by Jack Santos  |  April 5, 2016  |  2 Comments

I love it when an alternative universe story gets published – like in a recent NY Post article about how GE considered buying Apple .  Not surprising.  The story flashed me back to that time; I actually had a breakfast meeting with Spindler around the time this was happening.

newton-penApple was in dire straits.  Jobs was fired,  John Sculley was trying to pick up the pieces and finding he didn’t have the cult personality that Jobs did, and Spindler was running the operation.  I spent half the day getting sold on “the big secret project” – The Newton (remember that?).

This story makes it seem like $2B was a steal.  In the context of the times it was probably too much.  In fact, I was there to tell Spindler that we were stopping our annual purchases of about 5000  Macs  – and we weren’t the only ones fleeing. It was a Microsoft World,and even IBM was running a distant second.

Which just goes to show you High Tech’s Deep Dark secret:  when it comes right down to it, it’s a relationship business.  Not that technology doesn’t matter (it does), but whether its sales, company leadership, or even a role as a developer – how you convince, sell, present makes all the difference in the world.  Sculley, the master Pepsi marketer, wasn’t able to crack the code – neither could Spindler (who, as I remember, had the personality of Jabba the Hut.  Yeah, I know that’s not fair;  it was a 7AM meeting and he probably didn’t have his coffee).

Yes, GE could have bought Apple.  and the world would be very different today.  It might have even affected Steve Job’s legacy.  But the person at GE that was trying to position the deal, the leader with the vision, couldn’t get it done.  There are lessons to be learned, especially for IT leaders like CIOs and Enterprise Architects.  It takes more than just good tech to be successful.  And when you fail in promoting what you want done, fail in getting others to buy into your vision – sometimes that works out too.  Maybe even for the better.

And the coolest part?  We’ll never know what could have happened, will we?



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Category: managment  strategic-planning  

Jack Santos
Research VP
7 years at Gartner
40 years IT industry

Jack Santos is a Research Vice President with Gartner, part of the Enterprise Architecture and Technology Innovation team within the Gartner for IT Leaders product. He focuses on enterprise architecture and technology trends. Mr. Santos' specific area of research covers individual development, leadership and management practices for enterprise architects, EA innovation, and collaboration approaches. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda: GE and Apple

  1. Jay Slater says:

    Good article. I remembered pieces of the story. Glad it never transpired! Wish I had the vision to buy Apple back then.

  2. Kevin Ryan says:

    Jack, it was fun reading this… we remember those days for sure. What would have happened? Either Jobs would have run Welch out of GE, and we’d have Siri running the nations trains guided by googles driverless freight cars, playing iTunes for all the passengers ;


    We’d still be using flip phones cuz Jack won and squeezed both profits and good people out of apple.

    hope all is well

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