Corporate coach alludes to Apple’s next breakthrough: wearable

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Bill Campbell, Chairman of the Intuit board, has been a member of Apple’s board of directors since Steve Jobs’s return in 1997. Simply known as the “coach,” Campbell sat down with the Intuit CEO and dropped a few notable hints regarding Apple’s direction in the post-Jobs Tim Cook era. Although he wouldn’t discuss specifics of Apple’s pipeline, reading between the lines subtly suggests that something incorporating wearable technology might soon become Apple’s latest and greatest creation. We have a vide right past the fold…

Ashlee Vance, writing for Bloomberg Businessweek:

The conversation started with a look ahead toward future products. Noting that he was not at liberty to give away specific details on future Apple gizmos, Campbell did tell the audience to expect to see “a lot of things going on with the application of technology to really intimate things.”

He was also honest about Google’s Glass, saying:

It’s a phenomenal breakthrough. When you start to think about glasses or watches, they become as intimate as the cell phone was.

Isn’t it great when for a change a tech giant exec discusses competition with appreciation?

And here’s the clip.

And where former Apple ad man Ken Segall sees ousted JC Penney CEO and former Apple Retail whiz Ron Johnson failing “because he changed the prices before long before he could visibly change the stores,” coach Campbell doesn’t mince words:

A lot of people in the industry were really concerned about him being successful. They didn’t want him to be successful. It would have changed a lot of metaphors in the industry.

You have to keep your current business going while you experiment with a new one.

He didn’t do that. He just put a bullet hole in his current business. Twenty-five percent? I mean, Jiminy. It’s a disastrous thing.

The board fired Johnson after the company reported a huge 25 percent drop in sales.

I also like how he likens CEOs to editors:

On the whole, Campbell advised that product managers should not just be barking down commands about what features a new product should and shouldn’t have.

They should work in close concert with the engineers and act more or less as editors, guiding features along the way.

He pointed to Jobs and Jack Dorsey, a co-founder of Twitter and CEO of Square, as two of the top such editors of their day.

As for Campbell’s remarks of a possible intimate Apple gizmo, we do know from patent filings and job ads Apple’s lately been very active researching wearable technology.

Today, a French publication suggested that Adobe’s former Chief Technology Officer Kevin Lynch – now an Apple vice president – could in fact be working alongside Apple’s Technologies boss Bob Mansfield and a team of 100+ engineers on wearable projects.

Here is Campbell delivering his segment at Apple’s corporate event celebrating Steve Jobs life, which took place outside the company’s Cupertino, California headquarters on October 19, 2011.

Campbell was hired away from Kodak in 1983 – where he ran the company’s European film biz – by John Sculley who appointed him Apple’s VP of Marketing. He would go on to lead Apple’s Claris software division until quitting after Sculley refused to spin off Claris into an independent company.

He also ran Intuit from 1994 to 1998 and was one of the first former Apple execs Jobs brought back on board upon his return from exile in 1997. He’s served as a corporate director on Apple’s board of directors ever since.

According to a CNN Money profile, Campbell was worth $200 million in 2008.

More important than that, he is an unofficial adviser to Apple’s executive team – hence the nickname ‘coach’ – who also coaches several IT leaders in Silicon Valley, for that matter.

Last, but not the least, Campbell was a close friend of Jobs.