Tuesday, May 27, 1997
* Jobs has a passion that sets him apart, putting him on a plane
*different from that on which Microsoft's
* Bill Gates makes his billions. Jobs has juice where Gates has money.
All is forgiven, if not quite forgotten, and Steve Jobs has a good
feeling about the
future of Apple, writes GARRY BARKER.
If you listen, as I did in San Jose a week or so ago, to Steve Jobs
talking about Apple, the company he
and his college chum Steve Wozniak created from nothing in a
Californian suburban garage 21 years
ago, it's hard not to fall into open-mouthed awe. The man is a
Here is someone epitomising an information age most of us still do
not fully comprehend - one of the
brilliant few who began the desktop revolution; casual in his
manner, intense in his concentration, still
amazingly young given the extraordinary things he has done; an
opinionated egotist who enjoys his guru
status (and why not), and yet welcomes argument.
Jobs has a passion that sets him apart, putting him on a plane
different from that on which Microsoft's
Bill Gates makes his billions. Jobs has juice where Gates has money.
Not that Jobs has not profited. He, too, is rich beyond the dreams
of Croesus, for such is the way of
success in Silicon Valley. He has matured and mellowed since the
days when Apple sat on top of the
world, but he still radiates an evangelistic enthusiasm, which is
perhaps a part of why Macintosh is what
it is and why it engenders such loyalty. Nor is he without
controversy; some say he made some of the
errors which brought Apple to its knees and he does not deny that.
Now he is the prodigal father returning to the family fold, the
bitter divorce of seven years ago almost
forgotten and certainly forgiven. They remember his transgressions,
but he represents the return to the
true faith. They listen to him when he says there has been a sea
change at Apple, that there is much still
to do, that there may be more storms, but that the course is set and
it is fair indeed.
"Apple suffered for several years from lousy management," he said.
"People were going off in 18
different directions, each doing arguably interesting things - good
engineers; lousy management. The
total of it all was less than the sum of the parts."
Apple was now focused, he said, "and part of being focused is saying
no; not to crush initiative but to
keep everyone on track to produce the great products that are needed
in the market."
When top managers said no, they annoyed staffers who then became
critical, resulting in anti-Apple
press stories, Jobs said. "You don't want to [say publicly] that a
person was asked to leave, so you take
the lumps. Apple has been taking the lumps for the last six months
in a very unfair way."
Yet, some of the criticism was justified. "Apple has had its head in
the sand for the last many years." It
had been arrogant about doing everything itself. "The wisdom here is
not to say that we have to invent
everything ourselves; the wisdom is to know which 10 or 30per cent
of the stuff we should be inventing.
"We didn't invent PostScript, but we got a Laserwriter out of it; we
were the first out there with a laser
printer," Jobs said. The fact that Apple ultimately controlled its
product design gave it a unique
opportunity to "tackle some of the really complex, gnarly problems
of computing" and gain enormous
advantage in the market.
Jobs indicated during his hour-long session with the 2,000 software
developers gathered at San Jose
earlier this month that he strongly favoured the Larry Ellison-style
Network Computer. Networking, he
said, was the future of mass computing and where the world was going.
Ellison, he said, "is my best friend. I have encouraged him not to
seek to take control of Apple, because
I think Apple is on a good course now."
As for Microsoft's dominance of the software industry: "The day we
started Apple Computer, IBM was
far more powerful in the industry than Microsoft and Intel are
today. IBM not only controlled the
technologies, it controlled the customers."
So, when he and Wozniak were starting out with Apple - "Should I
have just nudged Woz and said,
"Hey, forget it. We don't have a chance.' We were too stupid to know
that. We had not gone to business
school. We didn't read the Wall Street Journal; we didn't even know
what it was. That served us well,"
he said, drawing roars of laughter from an audience generally
critical of the US media's treatment of
"Every good product I have ever seen in this industry came about
because people cared deeply about
making something wonderful that they and their friends wanted. They
did not tremble about some big
company stomping on them. If the big company had built the thing
they wanted , they would not have
done it themselves. If Woz and I could have bought a computer like
the Apple II, why would we have
built one? We weren't trying to start a company; we were trying to
get a computer.
"It would be incredibly stupid for Apple to get into the position
where, for Apple to win, Microsoft had
to lose," Jobs said. "MS is a fact of life, like the air we breathe
- well, perhaps like bottled water,
because you have to buy it. Setting MS up as Satan and having a holy
war would be exactly the wrong
thing to do. Apple can have the advantage by going right to the
customers with great products."
Jobs said he favoured letting anyone who wished to build Mac clones
go ahead without having to pay a
hardware licence fee. But they should pay "a fair price, based on
volume" for the operating system.
Finally, on the state of the company: "I personally don't think
Apple is turned around. It is turning
around. I feel very confident about the people who are managing
Apple now. The strategy is good."
There is no off position on the genius switch. ...David Letterman
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