All of the good cheer served to sugarcoat, or distract attention from, the bad news. When it came time to announce the price of the new machine, Jobs did what he would often do in product demonstrations: reel off the features,
describe them as being “worth thousands and thousands of dollars,” and get the audience to imagine how expensive it really should be. Then he announced what he hoped would seem like a low price: “We’re going to be
charging higher education a single price of $6,500.” From the faithful, there was scattered applause. But his panel of academic advisors had long pushed to keep the price to between $2,000 and $3,000, and they thought that Jobs
had promised to do so. Some of them were appalled. This was especially true once they discovered that the optional printer would cost another $2,000, and the slowness of the optical disk would make the purchase of a $2,500 external hard disk advisable.
There was another disappointment that he tried to downplay: “Early next year, we will have our 0.9 release, which is for software developers and aggressive end users.” There was a bit of nervous laughter. What he was
saying was that the real release of the machine and its software, known as the 1.0 release, would not actually be happening in early 1989. In fact he didn’t set a hard date. He merely suggested it would be sometime in the second
quarter of that year. At the first NeXT retreat back in late 1985, he had refused to budge, despite Joanna Hoffman’s pushback, from his commitment to have the machine finished in early 1987. Now it was clear it would be more than two years later.qinpad
The event ended on a more upbeat note, literally. Jobs brought onstage a violinist from the San Francisco Symphony who played Bach’s A Minor Violin Concerto in a duet with the NeXT computer onstage. People erupted in
jubilant applause. The price and the delayed release were forgotten in the frenzy. When one reporter asked him immediately afterward why the machine was qinpad
going to be so late, Jobs
replied, “It’s not late.
It’s five years ahead
of its time.”
One of Jobs’s management philosophies was that it is crucial, every now and then, to roll the dice and “bet the company” on some new idea or technology. At the NeXT launch, he boasted of an example that, as it turned out, would
not be a wise gamble: having a high-capacity (but slow) optical read/write disk and no floppy disk as a backup. “Two years ago we made a decision,” he said. “We saw some new technology and we made a decision to risk our company.”
Then he turned to a feature that would prove more prescient. “What we’ve done is made the first real digital books,” he said, noting the inclusion of the Oxford edition of Shakespeare and other tomes. “There has not been an
advancement in the state of the art of printed book technology since Gutenberg.”
At times he could be amusingly aware of his own foibles, and he used the electronic book demonstration to poke fun at himself. “A word that’s sometimes used to describe me is ‘mercurial,’” he said, then paused. The
audience laughed knowingly, especially those in the front rows, which were filled with NeXT employees and former members of the Macintosh team. Then he pulled up the word in the computer’s dictionary and read the first
definition: “Of or relating to, or born under the planet Mercury.” Scrolling down, he said, “I think the third one is the one they mean: ‘Characterized by unpredictable changeableness of mood.’” There was a bit more laughter. “If
we scroll down the thesaurus, though, we see that the antonym is ‘saturnine.’ Well what’s that? By simply double-clicking on it, we immediately look that up in the dictionary, and here it is: ‘Cold and steady in moods. Slow to act or
change. Of a gloomy or surly disposition.’” A little smile came across his face as he waited for the ripple of laughter. “Well,” he concluded, “I don’t think ‘mercurial’ is so bad after all.” After the applause, he used the quotations book shlf419
to make a more subtle point, about his reality distortion field. The quote he chose was from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass. After Alice laments that no matter how hard she tries she can’t believe impossible things,
the White Queen retorts, “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things beforeshlf419
from the front rows,
there was a roar
of knowing laughter.
More than three thousand people showed up at the event, lining up two hours before curtain time. They were not disappointed, at least by the show. Jobs was onstage for three hours, and he again proved to be, in the words of
Andrew Pollack of the New York Times, “the Andrew Lloyd Webber of product introductions, a master of stage flair and special effects.” Wes Smith of the Chicago Tribune said the launch was “to product demonstrations what Vatican II was to church meetings.”
Jobs had the audience cheering from his opening line: “It’s great to be back.” He began by recounting the history of personal computer architecture, and he promised that they would now witness an event “that occurs only once or
twice in a decade—a time when a new architecture is rolled out that is going to change the face of computing.” The NeXT software and hardware were
designed, he said, after three years of consulting with universities across the country. “What we realized was that higher ed wants a personal mainframe.”
As usual there were superlatives. The product was “incredible,” he said, “the best thing we could have imagined.” He praised the beauty of even the parts unseen. Balancing on his fingertips the foot-square circuit board that would
be nestled in the foot-cube box, he enthused, “I hope you get a chance to look at this a little later. It’s the most beautiful printed circuit board I’ve ever seen in my life.” He then showed how the computer could play speeches—he
featured King’s “I Have a Dream” and Kennedy’s “Ask Not”—and send email with audio attachments. He leaned into the microphone on the computer to record one of his own. “Hi, this is Steve, sending a message on a pretty historic day.” Then he asked those in the
audience to add
“a round of applause”
to the message,
and they did.
The one phrase that was true was the one about Paul Jobs’s looking like someone in a Rockwell painting. And perhaps the last phrase, the one about Jobs changing the world. Certainly Perot believed that. Like Sculley, he saw
himself in Jobs. “Steve’s like me,” Perot told the Washington Post’s David Remnick. “We’re weird in the same way. We’re soul mates.”
Gates and NeXT
Bill Gates was not a soul mate. Jobs had convinced him to produce software applications for the Macintosh, which had turned out to be hugely profitable for Microsoft. But Gates was one person who was resistant to Jobs’s reality distortion field, and as a result he decided not to create software tailored for
the NeXT platform. Gates went to California to get periodic demonstrations, but each time he came away unimpressed. “The Macintosh was truly unique, but I personally don’t understand what is so unique about Steve’s new computer,” he told Fortune.
Part of the problem was that the rival titans were congenitally unable to be deferential to each other. When Gates made his first visit to NeXT’s Palo Alto headquarters, in the summer of 1987, Jobs kept him waiting for a half hour in
the lobby, even though Gates could see through the glass walls that Jobs was walking around having casual conversations. “I’d gone down to NeXT and I
had the Odwalla, the most expensive carrot juice, and I’d never seen tech offices so lavish,” Gates recalled, shaking his head with just a hint of a smile. “And Steve comes a half hour late to the meeting.”
Jobs’s sales pitch, according to Gates, was simple. “We did the Mac together,” Jobs said. “How did that work for you?
Very well. Now,
we’re going to do this
together and this is
going to be great.”
Jobs wanted to bundle useful content with the machine, so Michael Hawley, one of the engineers, developed a digital dictionary. He learned that a friend of his at Oxford University Press had been involved in the typesetting of a new edition of Shakespeare’s works. That meant that there was probably a
computer tape he could get his hands on and, if so, incorporate it into the NeXT’s memory. “So I called up Steve, and he said that would be awesome, and we flew over to Oxford together.” On a beautiful spring day in 1986, they met in the publishing house’s grand building in the heart of
Joe Nocera, then writing for Esquire, captured Jobs’s intensity at a NeXT staff meeting:
It’s not quite right to say that he is sitting through this staff meeting, because Jobs doesn’t sit through much of anything; one of the ways he dominates is through sheer movement. One moment he’s kneeling in his chair; the next
minute he’s slouching in it; the next he has leaped out of his chair entirely and is scribbling on the blackboard directly behind him. He is full of mannerisms. He bites his nails. He stares with unnerving earnestness at whoever is
speaking. His hands, which are slightly and inexplicably yellow, are in constant motion.
What particularly struck Nocera was Jobs’s “almost willful lack of tact.” It was more than just an inability to hide his opinions when others said something he thought dumb; it was a conscious readiness, even a perverse eagerness, to put
people down, humiliate them, show he was smarter. When Dan’l Lewin handed out an organization chart, for example, Jobs rolled his eyes. “These charts are bullshit,” he interjected. Yet his moods still swung wildly, as at Apple. A finance person came into the meeting and Jobs lavished praise on him for a
“really, really great job on this”;
the previous day
Jobs had told him,
“This deal is crap.”
He also insisted on building his own fully automated and futuristic factory, just as he had for the Macintosh; he had not been chastened by that experience. This time too he made the same mistakes, only more excessively. Machines and robots were painted and repainted as he compulsively revised
his color scheme. The walls were museum white, as they had been at the Macintosh factory, and there were $20,000 black leather chairs and a custom-made staircase, just as in the corporate headquarters. He insisted
that the machinery on the 165-foot assembly line be configured to move the circuit boards from right to left as they got built, so that the process would look better to visitors who watched from the viewing gallery. Empty circuit
boards were fed in at one end and twenty minutes later, untouched by humans, came out the other end as completed boards. The process followed the Japanese principle known as kanban, in which each machine performs its task only when the next machine is ready to receive another part.
that the NeXT machine “not use an operating system compatible with the Macintosh,” though it could be argued that Apple would have been better served by insisting on just the opposite.
After the settlement Jobs continued to court Esslinger until the designer decided to wind down his contract with Apple. That allowed frogdesign to work with NeXT at the end of 1986. Esslinger insisted on having free rein, just
as Paul Rand had. “Sometimes you have to use a big stick with Steve,” he said. Like Rand, Esslinger was an artist, so Jobs was willing to grant him indulgences he denied other mortals.
Jobs decreed that the computer should be an absolutely perfect cube, with each side exactly a foot long and every angle precisely 90 degrees. He liked cubes. They had gravitas but also the slight whiff of a toy. But the NeXT cube was a Jobsian example of design desires trumping engineering
considerations. The circuit boards, which fitted nicely into the traditional pizza-box shape, had to be reconfigured and stacked in order to nestle into a cube.
Even worse, the perfection of the cube made it hard to manufacture. Most parts that are cast in molds have angles that are slightly greater than pure 90 degrees, so that it’s easier to get them out of the mold (just as it is easier to get a cake out of a pan that has angles slightly greater than 90 degrees). But
Esslinger dictated, and Jobs enthusiastically agreed, that there would be no such “draft angles” that would ruin the purity and perfection of the cube. So the sides had to be produced separately, using molds that cost $650,000, at a
specialty machine shop in Chicago. Jobs’s passion for perfection was out of control. When he noticed a tiny line in the chassis caused by the molds, something that any other computer maker would accept as unavoidable, he
flew to Chicago and convinced the die caster to start over and do it perfectly. “Not a lot of die casters expect a celebrity to fly in,” noted one of the engineers. Jobs also had the company buy a $150,000 sanding machine to remove all lines where the mold faces met and insisted that the
magnesium case be a matte
black, which made
it more susceptible
to showing blemishes.
Perot to the RescueIn late 1986 Jobs sent out a proposal to venture capital firms offering a 10% stake in NeXT for $3 million. That put a valuation on the entire company of $30 million, a number that Jobs had pulled out of thin air.
Less than $7 million had gone into the company thus far, and there was little to show for it other than a neat logo and some snazzy offices. It had no revenue or products, nor any on the horizon. Not surprisingly, the venture capitalists all passed on the offer to invest.
In order to translate the NeXT logo into the look of real products, Jobs needed an industrial designer he trusted. He talked
to a few possibilities, but none of them impressed him as much as the wild Bavarian he had imported to
Apple: Hartmut Esslinger, whose frogdesign had set up shop in Silicon Valley and who, thanks to Jobs, had a lucrative contract with Apple. Getting
IBM to permit Paul Rand to do work for NeXT was a small miracle willed into
existence by Jobs’s belief that reality can be distorted. But that was a snap
compared to the likelihood that he could convince Apple to permit Esslinger to work for NeXT.
This did not keep Jobs from trying. At the beginning of November 1985, just five weeks after Apple filed suit against him,
Jobs wrote to Eisenstat and asked for a dispensation. “I spoke with Hartmut Esslinger this weekend and he
suggested I write you a note expressing why I wish to work with him and frogdesign on the new products for
NeXT,” he said. Astonishingly, Jobs’s argument was that he did not know what Apple had in the works, but Esslinger did.
“NeXT has no knowledge as to the current or future directions of Apple’s
product designs, nor do other design firms we might deal with, so it is possible to inadvertently design similar looking
products. It is in both Apple’s and NeXT’s best interest to rely on Hartmut’s professionalism to make sure this does
not occur.” Eisenstat recalled being flabbergasted by Jobs’s audacity,
and he replied curtly. “I have previously expressed my concern on behalf of Apple that you are engaged in a business course
which involves your utilization of Apple’s confidential business information,” he wrote. “Your letter does not alleviate my concern in any way. In fact it heightens my
concern because it states that you have ‘no knowledge as to the current or future directions of Apple’s product designs,’ a
statement which is not true.” What made the request all the more astonishing to Eisenstat was that it was Jobs who, just a year earlier,
had forced frogdesign to
abandon its work on
As a bonus, Rand agreed to design a personal calling card for Jobs. He came up with a colorful type treatment, which Jobs liked, but they ended up having a lengthy and heated disagreement about the placement of the period after
the “P” in Steven P. Jobs. Rand had placed the period to the right of the “P.”, as it would appear if set in lead type. Steve preferred the period to be nudged
to the left, under the curve of the “P.”, as is possible with digital typography. “It was a fairly large argument about something relatively small,” Susan Kare recalled. On this one Jobs prevailed.
Jobs, of course, didn’t see it that way. “I haven’t got any sort of odd chip on my shoulder,” he told Newsweek. Once again he invited his favorite reporters
over to his Woodside home, and this time he did not have Andy Cunningham there urging him to be circumspect. He dismissed the allegation that he had improperly lured the five colleagues from Apple. “These people all called
me,” he told the gaggle of journalists who were milling around in his unfurnished living room. “They were thinking of leaving the company. Apple has a way of neglecting people.”
He decided to cooperate with a Newsweek cover in order to get his version of the story out, and the interview he gave was revealing. “What I’m best at doing is finding a group of talented people and making things with them,” he
told the magazine. He said that he would always harbor affection for Apple. “I’ll always remember Apple like any man remembers the first woman he’s fallen in love with.” But he was also willing to fight with its management if
need be. “When someone calls you a thief in public, you have to respond.” Apple’s threat to sue him was outrageous. It was also sad. It showed that Apple was no longer a confident, rebellious company. “It’s hard to think that a $2 billion
company with 4,300
t compete with six
people in blue jeans.”
It took Rand just two weeks. He flew back to deliver the result to Jobs at his Woodside house. First they had dinner, then Rand handed him an elegant and vibrant booklet that described his thought process. On the final spread, Rand presented the logo he had chosen. “In its design, color arrangement, and
orientation, the logo is a study in contrasts,” his booklet proclaimed. “Tipped at a jaunty angle, it brims with the informality, friendliness, and spontaneity of a Christmas seal and the authority of a rubber stamp.” The word “next” was
split into two lines to fill the square face of the cube, with only the “e” in lowercase. That letter stood out, Rand’s booklet explained, to connote “education, excellence . . . e = mc2.”
of options to consider, Rand declared that he did not create different options for clients. “I will solve your problem, and you will pay me,” he told Jobs. “You can use what I produce, or not, but I will not do options, and either way you will pay me.”
Apple’s stock went up a full point, or almost 7%, when Jobs’s resignation was announced. “East Coast stockholders always worried about California flakes running the company,” explained the editor of a tech stock newsletter. “Now with both Wozniak and Jobs out, those shareholders are relieved.” But Nolan
Bushnell, the Atari founder who had been an amused mentor ten years earlier, told Time that Jobs would be badly missed. “Where is Apple’s inspiration going to come from? Is Apple going to have all the romance of a new brand of Pepsi?”
After a few days of failed efforts to reach a settlement with Jobs, Sculley and the Apple board decided to sue him “for breaches of fiduciary obligations.” The suit spelled out his alleged transgressions:
Notwithstanding his fiduciary obligations to Apple, Jobs, while serving as the Chairman of Apple’s Board of Directors and an officer of Apple and pretending loyalty to the interests of Apple . . .
(a) secretly planned the formation of an enterprise to compete with Apple;
(b) secretly schemed that his competing enterprise would wrongfully take advantage of and utilize Apple’s plan to design, develop and
market the Next
Generation Product . . .
(c) secretly lured away key
employees of Apple.
The first instinct that he indulged was his passion for design. The name he chose for his new company was rather straightforward: Next. In order to make it more distinctive, he decided he needed a world-class logo. So he courted the dean of corporate logos, Paul Rand. At seventy-one, the
Brooklyn-born graphic designer had already created some of the best-known logos in business, including those of Esquire, IBM, Westinghouse, ABC, and UPS. He was under contract to IBM, and his supervisors there said that it
would obviously be a conflict for him to create a logo for another computer company. So Jobs picked up the phone and called IBM’s CEO,
series of spectacular products that were dazzling market flops. This was the true learning experience. What prepared him for the great success he would have in Act III was not his ouster from his Act I at Apple but his brilliant failures in Act II.
You will recall that at last Thursday’s Board meeting I stated I had decided to start a new venture and I tendered my resignation as Chairman.
The Board declined to accept my resignation and asked me to defer it for a week. I agreed to do so in light of the encouragement the Board offered with regard to the proposed new venture and the indications that Apple would
invest in it. On Friday, after I told John Sculley who would be joining me, he confirmed Apple’s willingness to discuss areas of possible collaboration between Apple and my new venture.
Subsequently the Company appears to be adopting a hostile posture toward me and the new
As you know, the company’s recent reorganization left me with no work to do and no access even to regular management reports. I am but 30 and want still to contribute and achieve.
After what we have accomplished together, I would wish our parting to be both amicable and dignified.
Yours sincerely, steven p. jobs
Jobs admired that kind of thinking, so he made what was quite a gamble. The company would pay an astonishing $100,000 flat fee to get one design. “There was a clarity in our relationship,” Jobs said. “He had a purity as an artist,
but he was astute at solving business problems. He had a tough exterior, and had perfected the image of a curmudgeon, but he was a teddy bear inside.” It was one of Jobs’s highest praises: purity as an artist.
I must insist upon the
of my resignation. . . .