> Jobs may be the only solipsist who was ever right. In
> computers at least, the world is his creation. And it is
> hard to escape that gnawing feeling that Apple's story
> is just one gigantic epic novel, a bildungsroman being
> written by Steve Jobs, in which all of us--employees,
> competitors, customers and observers--are merely
> characters, creations of his arbitrary imagination. And
> if you doubt that, look at Jobs' ironic smile.
"Are you of the school that believes Steve Jobs is a visionary? Or the one
that thinks he is a sociopath?"
"I don't think the two are mutually exclusive."
Having watched Jobs build Apple from a garage idea into a worldwide legend in
seven years, then tear the company apart with his mercurial blend of genius
and cruelty, it is hard not to hold the man simultaneously in awe, fear and
Enter Next. As good as its operating system may be, it will do little to
change Apple's culture. In fact, it will likely make it worse. Next, after
all, was one of the weirdest companies the Valley has ever seen. It's a Jobs
personality cult that has lurched from one strategy to another and blown a
huge amount of cash in the process. Injecting this cancerous little group into
Apple's bloated, unhealthy body may prove to be just the cure to kill the
It was, in a word, an utter failure, as anyone might have predicted when
Amelio walked on stage incongruously dressed in a collarless dress shirt,
looking like your newly divorced uncle on his first date. And it went downhill
from there. What should have been a call to glory was instead a rambling tour
through various projects in the works at the Apple labs, as if those labs,
post-Copland, would ever again be trusted even to make coffee. And the event
got weirder, sinking to its nadir with the introduction, reminiscent of a Las
Vegas prizefight, of special guests in the audience--Sinbad, Gregory Hines,
Muhammad Ali--whose presence seemed to bear no connection to what was taking
Then, in the strangest moment of all, in the last 10 minutes of the three
hours in which it acted like a software-only company, Apple suddenly
introduced a brand-new computer line. Flat-screened, tall and with a tiny
footprint, this new computer--unnamed, unpriced, undeliverable--seemed to be
carted out as an afterthought, then quickly tucked away, leaving more than one
puzzled reporter to ask another, "What the hell was that?"
Organized backward, poorly paced, incoherent and addressed to a dwindling
band of insiders when it should have been directed outward to the world and
Bill Gates, the keynote turned out to be the one thing it dared not be: a
Then, suddenly, magic: The Macworld Expo crowd, having survived two miserable
hours with Amelio and the gang, greeted Jobs' arrival on stage with pure
happiness and a standing ovation. The Savior has come! He may redeem us or
destroy us, but at least our careers will once more have meaning!
And Jobs, imperially slim in his banded-collar shirt--which looked as
appropriate on him as Amelio's looked absurd--gave the crowd what it wanted.
Wearing his humble persona, as if he was just another product manager in the
day's long parade of anonymities, Jobs accomplished in 10 minutes what Apple
had been trying to do all day: He gave the company a statement of purpose, a
history (". . . that day I went to Xerox PARC . . . ") and, through Rhapsody,
a reason to believe in the company's future.
It was masterful and terrifying all at once. Was this all Apple had to do to
turn itself around? Did Jobs just walk back in after a decade's absence and,
in the time it takes to boot a Mac, rearrange the entire computer hierarchy?
Jobs may be the only solipsist who was ever right. In computers at least, the
world is his creation. And it is hard to escape that gnawing feeling that
Apple's story is just one gigantic epic novel, a bildungsroman being written
by Steve Jobs, in which all of us--employees, competitors, customers and
observers--are merely characters, creations of his arbitrary imagination. And
if you doubt that, look at Jobs' ironic smile.
The keynote closed as it had begun. Instead of ending with the hardware
announcement, the natural climax, Amelio rambled for another half-hour about
other new products Apple had in the works. It was awful, but touching in his
sincere desire to tell us everything he knew.
Then, mercifully, it ended. The reporters complained about missed deadlines,
the Macolytes groaned about their sore butts, Sinbad shook Ali's hand and,
onstage, Amelio and Steve Wozniak stood beaming for a photo op. Meanwhile,
Jobs, with his knowing smile and his myth intact, quietly slipped behind the