It's not as if Xerox executives ignored what their scientists had created at PARC.
In fact they did try to capitalize on it, and in the process they showed why good execution is as important as good ideas.
In 1981, well before the Apple Lisa or Macintosh, they introduced the Xerox Star, a machine that featured their graphical user interface, mouse, bitmapped display, windows, and desktop metaphor.
But it was clunky (it could take minutes to save a large file), costly ($16,595 at retail stores), and aimed mainly at the networked office market.
It flopped; only thirty thousand were ever sold.
Jobs and his team went to a Xerox dealer to look at the Star as soon as it was released.
But he deemed it so worthless that he told his colleagues they couldn't spend the money to buy one.
"We were very relieved," he recalled. "We knew they hadn't done it right, and that we could—at a fraction of the price."
A few weeks later he called Bob Belleville, one of the hardware designers on the Xerox Star team.
"Everything you've ever done in your life is shit," Jobs said, "so why don't you come work for me?"
Belleville did, and so did Larry Tesler.
In his excitement, Jobs began to take over the daily management of the Lisa project, which was being run by John Couch, the former HP engineer.
Ignoring Couch, he dealt directly with Atkinson and Tesler to insert his own ideas, especially on Lisa's graphical interface design.
"He would call me at all hours, 2 a.m. or 5 a.m.," said Tesler. "I loved it. But it upset my bosses at the Lisa division."
Jobs was told to stop making out-of-channel calls. He held himself back for a while, but not for long.