The Customer Experience
Jobs hated to cede control of anything, especially when it might affect the customer experience. But he faced a problem.
There was one part of the process he didn't control: the experience of buying an Apple product in a store.
The days of the Byte Shop were over.
Industry sales were shifting from local computer specialty shops to megachains and big box stores,
where most clerks had neither the knowledge nor the incentive to explain the distinctive nature of Apple products.
"All that the salesman cared about was a $50 spiff," Jobs said.
Other computers were pretty generic, but Apple's had innovative features and a higher price tag.
He didn't want an iMac to sit on a shelf between a Dell and a Compaq while an uninformed clerk recited the specs of each.
"Unless we could find ways to get our message to customers at the store, we were screwed."
In great secrecy, Jobs began in late 1999 to interview executives who might be able to develop a string of Apple retail stores.
One of the candidates had a passion for design and the boyish enthusiasm of a natural-born retailer:
Ron Johnson, the vice president for merchandising at Target,
who was responsible for launching distinctive-looking products, such as a teakettle designed by Michael Graves.
"Steve is very easy to talk to," said Johnson in recalling their first meeting.
"All of a sudden there's a torn pair of jeans and turtleneck, and he's off and running about why he needed great stores.
If Apple is going to succeed, he told me, we're going to win on innovation.
And you can't win on innovation unless you have a way to communicate to customers."