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Behind the scenes: Steve Jobs meets the Segway

The Segway

The news that Doug Field, Segway’s chief technology officer, has left the company for Apple, is one of those high-level personnel changes one feels obliged to comment on.

“So that’s what MobileMe is all about,” wrote one wag on The Mac Observers’ Apple Finance Board.

“I can see it now,” wrote another. “The iSegway – and you’ll only be able to use it on roads Apple approves of, paying a toll via your iTunes account to access them.” (link)

But the most intriguing comment on Apple and Segway to date comes from Steve Jobs himself, as told in Code Name Ginger:
The Story Behind Segway and Dean Kamen’s Quest to Invent a New World
by Steve Kemper. In the book, Kemper describes a tempestuous 2001 meeting, arranged by Kleiner Perkins’ John Doerr, in which inventor Dean Kamen gives Amazon’s (AMZN) Jeff Bezos and Apple’s (AAPL) Steve Jobs a preview of the people mover he was to introduce later that year.

Although Jobs was quoted in Time magazine as saying that the Segway would be “as big a deal as the PC,” his reaction at this meeting is almost unprintable.

“I think it sucks!” said Jobs.

His vehemence made [Segway’s] Tim [Adams] pause. “Why?” he asked, a bit stiffly.

“It just does.”

“In what sense?” said Tim, getting his feet back under him. “Give me a clue.”

“Its shape is not innovative, it’s not elegant, it doesn’t feel anthropomorphic,” said Jobs, ticking off three of his design mantras.

You have this incredibly innovative machine but it looks very traditional.” The last word delivered like a stab. Doug Field and Scott Waters would have felt the wound; they admired Apple’s design sense. Dean’s intuition not to bring Doug had been right. “There are design firms out there that could come up with things we’ve never thought of,” Jobs continued, “things that would make you s–t in your pants.”

For the rest of the meeting, see the excerpt posted by the Harvard Business Review here.