Apple – the trillion dollar email

by | Jun 24, 2021

When Apple passed the landmark of a trillion dollar valuation in August 2018, you could argue that it wouldn’t have got there without one email, written by Steve Jobs in 2007.

The email was a reply to Bertrand Serlet, Apple’s SVP of Software Engineering at the time. Serlet’s email is itself a model of brevity, explaining the key issues around whether Apple should allow third-party apps on to its new iPhone. Spoiler alert: they did, and without the apps, the iPhone would not have been such a meteoric success.

Jobs’s reply: “Sure, as long as we can roll it all out at Macworld on Jan 15, 2008.” 

They ended up being late, with the App Store launching in July 2008, but the foundation was laid.

I’ve seen various analyses online of this email, which has only recently come to light in a lawsuit. Many people focus on the clarity of Serlet’s explanation of the issues, which is absolutely true. But to me, its Jobs’s answer that’s important: short, to the point, trusting in his employee’s judgement rather than nit-picking on details, and with a specific, timed objective.

You can read the emails, and plenty more discussion, here.