Lesson learnt from Xerox Alto

In 1970s, Xerox was the leader and monopoly in the copier business. They realised the need for a personal computer as managing official work on paper did not seem feasible in the long run. Hence, Xerox started a research team in Palo Alto; 3000 miles away from the head office in New York. The research team was kept completely isolated from all market pressures.

The research team developed a personal computer called Xerox Alto with innovative features like GUI, Mouse, and Ethernet(these features are the base for today’s personal computers). Researchers could not convey the vision of personal computer to the management for years. There was no one to receive the vision.

During the same time frame, Apple2 was a great success. Apple2 was a personal computer where user interaction was with keyboard and a text screen. Success of Apple2 gave Steve Jobs a chance to visit Xerox research team and rest is history.

The reasons Xerox failed to capitalise their vision of personal computer were:

  • Xerox was the monopoly in the market at that time and success was purely based on marketing and sales, the company was run by marketing people who were more focused on selling their current products

  • The product guys were not a part of the decision making forums.

  • People running the company did not know about a good product and bad, they did not have feeling in their heart about really wanting to help their customers.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” – Simon Sinek

Roy Peter

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Bangalore, India