Steve Jobs and Elon Musk - two extremes in Silicon Valley


Steve Jobs changed the world with crazy expensive products, while Elon Musk was selling human dreams at unbelievably cheap prices.

Silicon Valley needs a spiritual leader. Steve Jobs lit that creative spirit 40 years ago. Then Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, two Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin ... took over the torch. But Jobs and these people were not in the same group. The father of the iPhone is the "real product", while the technology CEOs in Silicon Valley belong to the Internet generation.

Elon Musk is different. The "most controversial" billionaire "technology village is changing the world with tangible products such as electric cars, rockets and satellites.

From Steve Jobs to Elon Musk

When the first generation iPhone came out, the media called it "God's phone". Nobody calls SpaceX's Falcon 9 "rocket of the gods" or something like that. But it opened up a whole new perspective to the human world. It took 13 years for the world of technology to witness a landmark product.

If you have to find a character who deserves to be the "heir" of Steve Jobs (right image) in the world of technology, no one is more worthy than Elon Musk. Photo: ED Times.

Jobs and Musk belonged to a different world from the rest of Silicon Valley. While technology companies are growing linearly from 0 to 10 in a boring loop, the emergence of Jobs and Musk is non-linear. They look for a potential industry, then reset the traditional rules and do a "trick" and climb to the top of the tower of fame. In biology, there is a term called genetic mutation to describe this leap.

If people like Bill Gates are reformers, Jobs and Musk are revolutionaries. Reform can always find the greatest common divisor of benefits, while revolution is a challenge to existing interest groups. Of course, revolution has always been a much harder road.

Jobs and Musk have many similarities. Both are immigrants with passionate American dreams. Their path is also extremely interesting: colorful and experienced. Both choose a traditional industry to "revolutionize" and completely change habits and understanding of people. Best of all, both have achieved unprecedented brilliant accomplishments.

Commenting on the sins, Steve Jobs and Elon Musk are both unlucky and very talented. People who love them are countless, but those who hate and doubt are not lacking. From an innovation perspective, Jobs and Musk are the same. But from a commercial perspective, they are completely different.

Two extremes in Silicon Valley

Take a look at Jobs. Apple II, launched in 1977, was the first Apple product in the true sense, because Apple I was born in a garage and sold only a few hundred units. It belongs to the period of Jobs and Wozniacki. Since Apple II, the leading configuration has become Steve Jobs' product philosophy.

First-class configuration also means skyrocketing prices, Jobs knows and chooses this path. When launched, the Apple II cost $ 1,300. If calculated at the inflation price in 2020, this model is currently priced at 5,300 USD. At the same time Apple had a personal laptop manufacturing company, Commodore. The VIC-20 model they released in 1980 cost $ 299, which is $ 1,000 cheaper than the Apple product. However, in many ways Steve Jobs is still successful. By 1993, Apple II had sold more than one million units. Although Jobs left Apple at this time, it certainly gave him a strong inspiration: Best and most expensive.


With Apple II, iPod, iPhone and later devices, Jobs remained loyal to the "best and most expensive" option. Photo: Apple Insider.

When he returned to Apple, Jobs resonated with the first iPod model priced at $ 399. At that time, the price of Sony Walkman was less than $ 100. In 2004, Apple's net profit reached $ 276 million, compared to the previous one of $ 69 million. This further confirms his choice of selling expensive products.

By 2007, the first generation iPhone was commercialized. With a breakthrough multi-touch screen design, a large screen smartphone costs $ 500. When it first launched, the iPhone was "the world's most expensive mobile phone". IPhone sales account for half of the global mobile market.

Job's business philosophy is to sell the best equipment, the best experience, and the most expensive price. This path is not only profitable but also creates a sustainable reputation for Apple.


Elon Musk, the eccentric billionaire of the technology village, is compared to Iron Man in real life. Photo: Sarah Lee / The Guardian.

But Elon Musk is the opposite. In 2010, FalconX of SpaceX successfully launched with a total production cost of 60 million USD, much lower than the market price. The key lies in the reuse of technology, which reduces rocket launch costs by half compared to traditional. From 2010 to 2019, the cost of producing commercial rockets on the international market has dropped by 25%, mainly driven by SpaceX.

NASA statistics show that SpaceX's cost of sending goods to Earth orbit is amazingly low. Specifically, per kilogram of goods, Musk charges about $ 1,950, while Salsa quotes $ 7,246 and the cost of a traditional shuttle is $ 19,842. The cost of sending an astronaut to space in SpaceX is about 55 million, while Boeing is 90 million. NASA once paid Russia $ 86 million to send an astronaut into space. On average, Boeing's price is 60% higher than that of SpaceX.

Cheaper than all is Musk's business philosophy. The same is true for electric cars targeting the high-end segment. The first Tesla Model S costs about $ 100,000. After that, Model X cost less than $ 100,000, and by Model 3, Tesla had dropped to under $ 50,000. In 2019, Model 3 sales are higher than total sales of all small and mid-sized BMW cars combined. At the same time, Model S and Model X are still in the top-selling US market.


Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken in completely new astronaut costumes designed by Musk's company. They arrived at the Kennedy Space Center in a Tesla Model X in preparation for the mission to make SpaceX the first private company to send people into space. Photo: AP.

The path Musk chose was to focus on a high-end product to build a brand, then capture the market with cheap models. While the price of the iPhone is increasingly expensive, the price of electric cars Tesla is increasingly cheap.

Solar City, another Musk company, is also following a path of saving money for its customers. They provide customers with the best software solutions to save electricity and then sell to their solar panels.

Tesla car owners think they have entered a new way of life and their family will switch to using solar panels by Solar City.

Both Steve Jobs and Elon Musk made products, selling lifestyle. But they chose two contradictory paths and achieved unprecedented success.