“This approach hasn’t served you well in the past, as evidenced by your poor graphics architectures and performance. Perhaps you should consider changing it for the future…” So began a curious email exchange between Steve Jobs and Andy Grovesthe CEO of Intel at the time.
The year was 1985 when Steve was at Pixar, and Intel was very interested in knowing some data the animation company was getting from using its processors for different projects. Jobs demanded to be paid for it, but Intel had no intention of doing so..
The man who changed Steve Jobs’ mind
If the thesaurus of the Royal Spanish Academy of Language included images, that of Steve Jobs would appear next to “stubborn”. His decisions were firm and it was extremely difficult to change his mind. When someone did, it was quite an achievement. Not so much for the fact itself but because of the rarity with which it happened.
Andy Groves was quite the opposite. His emotional intelligence was known to everyone, to the point that managed to get Jobs to change his mind
When an engineer at his company contacted Jobs to see if he could get the data we talked about earlier, he asked how much they would be willing to pay for them. The Intel engineer then replied that: “we have not entered into any financial agreement in exchange for good ideas for our microprocessors in the past and we have no intention of doing so in the future”.
Turned a discussion with Jobs into an opportunity to work together
Steve was furious. He replied that this way of doing things had led them nowhere and that perhaps it was time to change it. He wrote directly to Andy saying that this engineer’s position was too arrogant, and heand asked him if he could do something about it.
Groves, far from cowering or berating his employee, told Jobs, “I am firmly on the engineer’s side in this matter. He takes your offer to help us very seriously, has assembled the best technicians, and was ready to go when you introduced a new element to the discussion: money. You and I have talked many times about this subject; you never suggested or insinuated that it was a commercial exchange. I took your offer to help us exactly like that: help, not a business relationship offer.
“You may remember that from time to time he offered suggestions related to your business. Examples range from porting NextStep to the 486 – which we were also interested in – to my presentation to your staff on repositioning NextStep beyond. I’m not saying its value compares to your graphics expertise, but I gave what I had, thought about the problem you were facing, and it never occurred to me to charge for it. In my opinion, that’s what friendly companies (and friends) do to each other. In the long run, these things balance each other out. I’m sorry you didn’t think so. We are going to lose, and the industry too.
It’s a tough message. The tone is disappointing. Of the one who thinks he has a friend and sees how he betrays him at the moment of truth. Steve realized the situation, and although he didn’t respond to the email at the time, he he did it four days later
“I have a lot of flaws, but one of them is not ingratitude. And I agree with you that ‘in the long run, these things balance out’. Therefore, I have changed my position 180 degrees – – we’ll help you make your processors much better for 3D graphics for free Please have your engineer call me, and we’ll set up a meeting as soon as the appropriate Pixar technicians can be released from production Thanks for a clearer perspective.
It’s funny how he ends that email: “thanks for a clearer perspective.” Jobs knew something was missing, and as soon as it was explained to him, he understood. He changed his way of thinking, acted on it and helped the one who was once his friend and now his mentor.
Andy Grove was born in Hungary, went to study in the United States and co-founded Intel. He launches the company at the top of semiconductors, which are his passion, and rubs shoulders with the greatest in the industry. He passed away in 2016 and was a friend and mentor to Steve, and although indirectly he had an impact on Apple. Together they improved the tech industry, and all for a few emails. How curious life is.
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