Oracle Chief Executive Officer Larry Ellison compared Steve Jobs to some of history’s greatest thinkers in his first public statements about his friend since the Apple Inc.co-founder died in October.
“Steve would translate good ideas into brilliant finished products,” Ellison said Wednesday at the D: All Things Digital conference. “He really was a creative artist, engineer, entrepreneur unlike anyone.”
Ellison joined technology journalist Walt Mossberg and Ed Catmull, president of Pixar and longtime Jobs collaborator, in a discussion on the legacy of the Apple legend before a packed audience of technology industry executives at the Rancho Palos Verdes, California, conference.
Like other luminaries of various fields, Jobs’s obsessive attention to detail and focus on completing tasks meant that he would demand greatness from himself and others, Ellison said, comparing Jobs to Pablo Picasso, Albert Einstein and inventor Henry Ford.
“Obsessive-compulsive personalities are not all that rare among successful people,” he said. “Steve was brutal because he wanted the product to be great.”
Some of Jobs’s greatest victories came from addressing problems that others in business avoided, such as the company’s decision to open retail stores to sell its products in 2001.
“The stores are another example of him noticing everyone talking about bricks and mortar being dead, and Steve saying, ‘maybe not,’” Ellison said.
Teasing Phone Call
Though Jobs generally didn’t care about financial metrics, Ellison recalled Jobs teasing him in a phone call the day Apple passed Oracle in market capitalization.
“Jobs was proud of it, but it was not a motivator for him at all,” Ellison said at the conference. “It was a measure that he was doing the right things, that people loved the products and they were buying a lot of them.”
Jobs’s 1985 ouster from the company he created serves as a warning to the younger leaders of the industry including Facebook Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google Inc. co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. All have retained voting control over their boards.
“Look at the geniuses in Silicon Valley right now,” Ellison said. “They don’t trust their boards anymore.”
Still, most qualities of the Apple founder cannot be copied, Ellison said. “To model yourself after Steve Jobs is like, ‘I’d like to paint like Picasso, what should I do? Should I use more red?’”