1.32 – What nasty trait do Steve Jobs and Elon Musk have in common?

Apple and Tesla are founded on innovation, new technology, and remarkable performance. Oh, and a big ol’ side of deception.

iPhone launch day in 2007. Investors and fans gathered at the event, awaiting the announcement of a product that would go on to redefine the way we use technology. What follows is a world class sales pitch, with Steve Jobs demonstrating the iPhone on stage for the world to see. And at the time, it is utterly revolutionary. Everything goes smoothly and the product appears to work immaculately, however a very small number of people, Mr Jobs included, knew otherwise.

Tesla recently announced the Tesla Model 3. Retailing at only $35,000 and shipping as soon as August, it demonstrates the success and forward thinking of Elon Musk and his crew. Like the iPhone, this product and all the Tesla models before it are actively shaping the world of tech around us. Truly remarkable. Except for the fact that the Model 3 will be much more than $35,000 and will be shipping much later than August. And yes, Mr Musk has known this for quite some time.

Steve Jobs and Elon Musk are both masters of deception.

At the time of the iPhone launch event, the iPhone didn’t even work properly! And I don’t mean that it was a touch buggy or the text was a little big on some apps. No. I mean that it would crash if you tried to listen to a whole song. Or that if you’d been on the web just before sending an email, the whole phone would need an immediate restart. If the iPhone had been used by anyone other than Steve Jobs on that day, the entire campaign would’ve been shown to have been built on a broken product. This is because Steve and his engineers had deteVERYed a very specific order of actions on the iPhone to demo to the world, which would avoid bugs and crashing. They even coded the signal strength to remain fixed at 5 bars regardless of actual reception.

Now let’s look back at Tesla. Elon knew about the manufacturing challenges and delays that the Model 3 would bring about. And he also knew that without an extra $18,500 (ish) input, you’d be missing out on all the self-driving features, reasonable driving range, and the ability to charge up at home!

So why did Steve Jobs and Elon Musk knowingly deceive the public?

Because it was the right thing to do.

Steve Jobs knew that they could finish the iPhone before the actual release date. But if he hadn’t presented it in its full glory at the event, progress would have severely stalled, and growth would have been hindered. Elon Musk has a reputation for being open and relatable, and he cleverly used this to ease the Model 3’s not-so-low price and lateness of arrival onto the public. In doing so, Tesla has continued to drive (pardon the pun) the electric vehicle revolution; something that has become increasingly more urgent given the recent time limits imposed by several countries.

Is it right to mislead customers? Even if it is arguably for the better? I think it is alright. Apple has shown us how much of a success it can be, and Tesla are continuing to reap the benefits of doing so whilst keeping most people very happy. I guess it’s only when it goes wrong that suddenly everyone is interested and the company is branded with a black mark.


P.S. inspiration for this post came from-

20 thoughts on “1.32 – What nasty trait do Steve Jobs and Elon Musk have in common?

  1. wow! looks like a lot of research and effort went into this one! Well done! I knew a little about steve jobs but not to the extent you have described. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Very interesting. This is something I’ve never known or thought about, so thank you for opening my eyes and informing us all.

    1. Even if it benefits the company, society, and customers without degrading the customer’s experience? In any other situation, I totally agree though. Transparency and honesty are key.

  3. I can’t bring myself to agree with the last paragraph, I don’t think the end justifies the means. But aside from that, I think you didn’t a great job delivering the facts and your argument. Definitely a good article.

    1. Thanks Shen. And actually, since reading and discussing it more since writing this, I agree that the last paragraph may not be quite right. I don’t think it’s entirely wrong, but perhaps the emphasis needs to be moved. Look out for a future post about this!

  4. It’s interesting how different industries take a different approach to this sort of thing. In the video game industry, for example, they’re in the, “Doesn’t matter if it’s perfect/complete. Ship it,” mindset. The main issue is if the product/service actually works the way they say it will when the end user gets their hands on it.

  5. I can’t say I completely agree it was the right thing to do only that they managed to pull it off. Many companies do this and end up releasing products that aren’t quite ready just so that they can be “first to market”. It doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t get done, they are just afraid that someone beats them to it.

    1. This is quite true Gary. And I appreciate the opposing view! There are certainly enough products that needed another few months in the workshop (without naming any names!). But at the same time, I think it is important to actively push innovation and technology. Not just let it wash over us as it comes. And so that may mean taking a bit of a gamble with your product release, thereby forcing development and competition.

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