UPERTINO, Calif. -- The first time Avadis
Tevanian Jr. saw a computer, it was
1975 and he was a ninth-grader in Westbrook,
``I thought `Man, this is totally cool -- I
have to get into this,''' he said.
Tevanian, 36, is certainly into it. As senior
vice president at Apple Computer Inc.,
Tevanian is in charge of developing software
that will show up industry leader Microsoft
Corp.'s latest products. If he succeeds, it
may just be enough to lure customers back and
save the beleaguered personal computer company.
``We need to deliver,'' Tevanian said from his
new office at Apple, which contains four
computers, including a NeXT Station, a
Macintosh and two PCs. ``What I need to do is
Tevanian was the primary architect of the NeXT
Software Inc. system, which Tevanian
plans to use as the basis for a new operating
system for Apple. He faces a daunting job:
He must integrate that system, which appeals
to scientists, with Apple's easy-to-use,
``It's a huge challenge,'' said analyst
Salomon Brothers analyst John Dean. ``It's the
single most critical thing going on inside
Tevanian was nominated for the job by Apple
co-founder Steve Jobs. Jobs in 1985 was
ousted from Apple and went on to found NeXT,
which he sold to Apple last December
for $430 million. Jobs now sits on the
company's influential executive committee.
``Avie is one of the top five operating system
people in the world,'' Apple Chief
Executive Gilbert Amelio of his senior
It's going to take top people to turnaround
Apple, the No. 4 PC maker. For one thing,
PCs using Microsoft software and powered by
Intel Corp. chips now are almost as easy
to use as Apple's and often cheaper. At the
same time its technological lead was slipping,
Apple scrapped its own engineering efforts
after repeated failures, delays with new
products and much of its development staff left.
Those fumbles were costly, saddling Apple with
about $1.5 billion in losses in the past
six quarters. Meanwhile, its share of the PC
market dropped to 5.2 percent last year from
7.9 percent in 1995.
And so this man with tousled brown hair and a
gap-toothed smile now holds the future of
a company with $8 billion in annual sales in
``He gives Apple hope,'' said analyst Rob
Enderle of San Jose, California, market
research firm Giga, who quickly added that
what Apple expects from Tevanian ``is damn
Tevanian is the oldest of four children, and
his younger siblings called him ``egghead''
when they were growing up. Brothers Alan, Greg
and Mike still live near their childhood
home in Westbrook, Maine, where the four
brothers are equal owners of a store that sells
boats, jet-skis and other water craft.
``He's the smarter of the bunch,'' said Alan,
34, who remembered their father drilling
Avie on his multiplication tables during long
car rides. In high school, Tevanian was so
consumed by computers that his notebooks
overflowed with the thin strips of paper that
programs were written on at the time.
The other brothers cared little for math and
computers, though all shared a passion for
boats and motorcycle drag racing.
Their father, Avadis Tevanian Sr., son of
Armenian immigrants, made his fortune
building a drive-in movie theater in their
hometown and reviving a bankrupt bowling
alley. He helped found the marine store
shortly before his death in 1988.
After graduating from high school in 1979,
Tevanian went to the University of Rochester
in New York, where he studied math.
He was accepted at doctoral programs in
computer science at Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, Stanford University and
Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, where
he enrolled. For his thesis, Tevanian explored
an operating system that would work on
computers with more than one processor, as
well as high-end and personal computers.
Tevanian first visited California's famed
Silicon Valley in 1987 while still a student at
Carnegie-Mellon. He was meeting with
researchers at the University of California at
Berkeley, and was invited to dinner by Jobs,
who had heard of Tevanian's work.
Over dinner, Jobs said he wanted Tevanian's
doctoral project to serve as the basis for the
NeXT software system.
``I started thinking, `Gee, I should probably
get back to work and finish my Ph.D.,'''
Tevanian said. He wrapped up his doctorate a
year later, turned down an offer from
Microsoft, and joined Jobs and NeXT.
The allure of a small start-up intrigued him,
he said, as opposed to Microsoft, which he
figured might not have the same growth
potential. The Microsoft job would have been as
senior engineer for its NT product, the system
now boosting Microsoft's sales.
So in 1988, after a move to California,
Tevanian began the arduous task of building the
NeXT system. Four years later he met his
future wife, Nancy. The couple have a
14-month-old son, Zachary, and live in Palo
Zachary likes to pound on the keyboard of his
Dad's Mac as Tevanian types E-mail
notes. Tevanian says he's sure his son someday
will own an Apple computer.
That, of course, may depend on Tevanian's
Tevanian says he's confident that he's up to
``I've seen the company listen to my ideas --
which is good, because I have good ideas,''
And Apple could use some good ideas right now.
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