The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Monday October 18th

Q&A with entrepreneurship professor about the new Apple stylus

Though former Apple CEO Steve Jobs allegedly swore he would never introduce a stylus for an IOS device, Apple is releasing one this fall. The Daily Tar Heel staff writer Hari Chittilla sat down with Buck Goldstein, a UNC economics professor specializing in entrepreneurship, to talk about Apple's progress as a company after Jobs' death in 2011.

The Daily Tar Heel: Was Steve Jobs right in avoiding the addition of the stylus?

Buck Goldstein: It’s hard to say Jobs was wrong. You can’t take half of a Steve Jobs, you have to take the whole thing. He was passionate, to the point of maniacal, about look and feel and style. And, when he got that way, it was like a religion. For Steve Jobs, not having a stylus was probably like a religion, not a strict business decision. On one hand, it’s what made Apple so great. But on the other hand, if the customer wants the stylus, then it’s hard to argue you shouldn’t do it. 

DTH: Does the addition of the stylus mean Apple is running out of ideas?

BG: Apple can still be a very good company without Steve Jobs, and their bottom line might not be affected for a decade or more because there's so much in the pipeline. There are so many markets they haven’t reached and, the word is, they’re doing really well in China. There are an awful lot of people with very primitive phones in the world, but they still have phones and they’re going to be upgrading. There’s a lot to do. There’s a lot for Apple to still do. It doesn’t have to be a blockbuster. They might just be a great company without coming up with a "change the world" product.

DTH: What does Apple's change of heart mean for the company?

BG: The reason we have 350 fonts is because Steve Jobs said calligraphy was the most important course he ever took. He demanded that the 350 fonts be put in. And you may or may not know, but I think he’s got like 100 patents on things that are integral to Apple. This isn't once in a lifetime, it’s bigger than that. It’s once in a century or something that one person can be so emblematic of not only a company but a whole mindset. So Jobs was idiosyncratic. He wanted a closed system for a long time, he eventually changed his mind. He changed his mind because he saw that his system limited the growth of Apple. So he opened it up — not entirely, but he opened it up.

Whether they’d have a stylus if Steve Jobs was still alive, who knows? He changed his mind from time to time; he might have changed his mind again. But the level and pace of innovation that took place (during) the last 10 years of his life at that company, we’ll never see the likes of again … I’m sitting here with two Apple products. There’s probably eight or nine in our house. And we would have thought just one, a laptop. And all that occurred in that last decade. There’s a concept of the long tail, and a long tail means when you have something really good, it’ll last a lot longer than people think … Apple is a company, now. Apple was in some way, Steve Jobs’ playground, and we were all beneficiaries of that.

DTH: Where do you think Apple will focus its efforts now?

BG: The living room is the new battleground. The battleground used to be the desktop, and then it was the pocket for the mobile device. But the new battleground is the living room. There’s a lot of players from Amazon to Netflix to Apple. Music certainly evolved Apple into another place. So what role are they going to play? They’re attempting right now with Apple TV and Apple Music, and I think that’s going to be a much bigger focus for Apple than the stylus.

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