The Apple Mafia

Brian Caulfield, 02.18.09, 6:00 PM ET

BURLINGAME – Whether it’s Apple’s iPhone or Yahoo!’s home page, travel to the far corners of the world and the products created by Silicon Valley’s companies will win recognition wherever you go.

In the insular world of the Valley, however, companies are often better known for the people who come out of them rather than their products.

Database giant Oracle turns motivated employees into fire-eating sales warriors who go on to build sales organizations at companies large and small.

Sun Microsystems cranks out the Internet-savvy hardware and software engineers who have built much of the infrastructure for Web brands such as Google and Yahoo!

The biggest Valley brand, however, is Apple . To the world, Apple is known for its cutting edge devices and its larger-than-life founder and chief executive, Steve Jobs.

Inside the Valley, Apple is known for producing hard-nosed industrial designers, interface gurus and entrepreneurs who thrive on turning raw technology into a slick mass-market sensation–people a lot like Steve Perlman, who left Apple in 1990. Perlman, now chief executive of tech incubator Rearden LLC, developed much of the multimedia technology used in the color Macintosh.

“I can tell you I can’t look at a font on a screen or a piece of paper without going into a very critical mode,” Perlman says. “Too many engineers don’t think about how to turn the bundles of technology they create into a usable, intuitive gadget that they can take home and use. I’m just hypersensitive to it. It’s part of my DNA.”

And Apple apparently lives its “Think Different” slogan. “At some other companies it would be a black belt process with stop gates and check-ins and lots of measuring and concept validation testing with users,” says Jennifer Kilian, who managed a team that created Apple instructional products and is now creative director at Frog Design.

Not at Apple. In part, that’s thanks to an ineffable style that, in some ways, started with Jobs. When the team working on the Mac asked Jobs in 1983 for a standard they should shoot for, Jobs’ answer was simple: the Beatles. And not just the Beatles–the early Beatles. “That’s a big leap,” says design guru Clement Mok, who worked on the original Macintosh interface.

Two decades later, FanSnap Chief Executive Mike Janes–who ran Apple’s online store through 2003– remembers how Jobs would refer to certain situations as a “chain of pain.” Whether it involved reducing the number of steps needed to make a home movie or buy a computer from one of Apple’s stores, Jobs looked for ways to distill a process down to its essence.

As a result

via Forbes.com – Magazine Article.

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