I’ve been reading Insanely Simple by Ken Segall these last few weeks. This book is about Apple’s business practice of simplicity, how Steve Jobs’ led using simplicity, and how others can emulate the true qualities of simplicity in their own business practices.
Ken Segall is a knowledgable man. He worked for Chiat/Day, the marketing firm responsible for many of Apple’s most successful ad campaigns; ads like the ‘1984’ Macintosh commercial, and the ‘Think Different’ ad campaign that ran from 1998 on to drive much of Apple’s growth.
Ken worked closely with Steve, knew him rather well, and experienced the behind the scenes stories that many Apple fans would love to know about. Thankfully, Insanely Simple has more to it than colorful anecdotes about Steve and Apple’s distant past, but this one story I enjoyed and thought I’d share it with you to give you a taste of Insanely Simple.
This is the story of how Jobs’ chose the name for his second company, NeXT, which Apple absorbed in the late nineties:
The story of how he got that name has actually never been told. One of Steve’s oldest friends and business associates was Tom Suiter, a San Francisco-area designer. When Steve was starting his new company, he called Tom to tell him he’d come up with a name for it. He would call it “Two”—because it was his second company. Tom wasn’t impressed. “But then everybody’s going to ask what happened to the first company,” he said. To which Steve replied, “Well, that’s why I’m calling you. Can you think of anything better?”
Shortly afterward, Tom attended a speech by Bill Gates in Seattle. He was struck by the number of times Gates used the word “next” as he described new technologies being developed by Microsoft. That word kept echoing in his head. The more he thought about it, the more right it seemed. A few days later Tom called Steve and said, “I think I have the name for your company. It’s ‘Next.’” There was a long pause while Steve soaked it in. And then came the enthusiastic “I love it!”
It’s ironic that a speech by Bill Gates was actually the spark for the naming of NeXT. Even more amazing, neither Steve nor Bill were ever aware of it. (And whoever would have thought that Gates would, however indirectly, be responsible for such a burst of Simplicity.)
If you enjoyed this story, there are many more where it came from. The book has thought-provoking insights into Apple’s business practices, and some of Steve’s most intellectually stimulating business stories.