What is the press up to? Find out every month here in Bits & Pieces!
THE LITTLE GUYS
On September 6, the New York Times had a very interesting article detailing some of the current waves being made by previously deposed Apple co-founder and current acting CEO Steve Jobs. (Let’s see him put that on a business card.) First, as his recent repeated run-in’s with the clone-makers should have prepared us, Jobs has killed the idea of letting another piece of Apple’s business, in this case Newton, get spun off from the parent company. A decade ago, it was an internal battle between Jobs and then-CEO-to-be John Sculley over the Newton (and the entire concept of hand-held computing) that eventually led to Jobs leaving the company. He didn’t believe in Sculley’s vision and thought the Newton was the wrong path to follow. Sculley took over the company, followed the path, and Apple has been trying to make Newton viable ever since. But now that Jobs is back and calling the shots, he’s keeping Newton in-house amid speculation that it will undergo a corporate cross-breeding with Apple’s eMate education computers.
Another vision by another rival CEO has apparently been embraced by Jobs with the education market in mind. That is the vision of the network computer, endlessly promoted by Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle and new board member at Apple. Network computers are computers that store their data and programs not on a local hard drive, but on a centralized server. The idea has been promoted to businesses as a way of simplifying system maintenance and eliminating endless hardware upgrades. According to Business Week (September 8), Jobs is putting a plan together that would have Apple develop and sell network computers for the education market. Schools have traditionally been very loyal to Apple, but the cost of Macs relative to the security of investing in the company’s future has turned more and more schools toward the Wintel dark side. Network computers would hopefully enable Apple to install cheaper systems for educators.
As reported in the August 18 issue of Information Week, Apple board directors used to get $28,000 a year for simply being on the board. For board members of a company like Apple, $28,000 may not be the incentive that it might be to the rest of us. But soon they won’t even be getting that. A new plan has this fill-the-chair salary being paid in stock options with hopes that the board members will then have incentive to make sure work is being done to turn the company around. The article also notes that Gil Amelio, former Apple CEO, has given notice that he would like to sell 120,000 of his shares in the company.
SINKING SHIP SYNDROME?
Infoworld reported in September that the latest power at Apple to leave the company was “vice president of marketing Guerrino De Luca.” De Luca said that his decision to leave has nothing to do with his vision of the company’s future and he thinks that Apple will “shine again.” Regardless, Infoworld thought it worth noting that De Luca is the latest in the following string of executives to leave Apple this year:
Did you know that our Macs were named after stereo equipment? Don’t let that rainbow colored Apple on the hardware fool you. According to a recent article in the New York Times, McIntosh was a brand of stereo equipment back in the ancient days of vacuum tubes that had a following every bit as loyal as today’s Macintosh computer users. Recently, the company responsible for McIntosh released 30-year commemorative reproductions of equipment considered state of the art when it was originally released. “The sweetness and light the retrophiles hear in their tubes is reflected in the appearance of the equipment: the gentle glow of the tubes, rising in intensity as the machines warm up, the simple cases and simple controls. Equipment like the McIntosh Commemorative even leaves the tubes in view. For buffs, the glowing tubes are like old-fashioned chemist’s retorts, representing the alchemy of tube technology. ”
Yes, it definitely sounds like a passionate relationship between devotees to hardware and the product they love. The Times continues: “The reissues recall a time when hi-fi equipment inspired the same devotion to performance, the same argumentative loyalties, that are today reserved for computer gear. The shift in high-tech chic was marked in 1983 by Steve Jobs’ choice of Macintosh as the name of Apple’s computer. Macintosh was a variety of apple, of course, but Jobs knew that customers would hear overtones of the premium stereo equipment and the countercultural ’60s music played on it.” Apple even had to pay a licensing fee to the makers of McIntosh stereos … they held the trademark rights to the name Macintosh as well. (Publishers note: McIntosh sound systems are still being built today, and are in fact very expensive. They also make some of the very best audio equipment I have ever tested)
Dwight Silverman of the Houston Chronicle recently had something he wanted to get off his chest: Why does the Mac still use a one-button mouse? Indeed, an innovation that the cynical would say Microsoft developed simply to differentiate itself from the Mac OS has become an integral part of the way the Windows operating systems work. Silverman concedes that multi-mouse button programs and hardware can be purchased for Macs, but that Apple should incorporate the multi-button strategy into its “overall design.” He testifies that the right-mouse button features of Windows OS’s are some of his favorite aspects of the platforms. And, as one of the masses forced to use Windows at work, I must admit that I agree.
THE CLONE NEWS
For those of you who think it’s odd that the news of the continuing war between Steve Jobs and the Mac Clone makers didn’t get attention earlier on in my column, look at it from my point of view:
–”Hell Hath No Fury Like a Mac Cloner Scorned” (Business Week, Sept. 1): This article reports that Jobs wants to cut the Cloners out of the Mac business. Power Computing suffers internal battles and the president of the company quits after plans to go into legal battle with Apple are dumped. Motorola planning to produce and sell Mac CHRP machines this fall with or without Apple’s blessing. UMAX makes noise that Apple will have to buy the cloners out of the market to keep them quiet. Wall Street wonders why Apple seems to be afraid of the competition and Apple argues that they are now competing for a piece of a shrinking pie, not the growing one the cloners were supposed to create.
–”Apple Reverses Strategy on Cloning” (New York Times, Sept. 3): Apple announces plans to buy the Mac business of Power Computing for $100 million and Power Computing announces plans to start making Wintels. Apple says similar deals with IBM, Motorola, and UMAX will follow. These companies can still produce System 7 Macs and System 8. Mac business is still up for negotiation. “IBM is not going to fight this.”
–”Mac Cloners Rise Up Against Apple” (Chicago Tribune, Sept. 5): UMAX decides to fight, threatening to take Apple to court over the licensing deal rather than give up its Mac business.
–”UMAX Allowed to Continue Making Clones” (Chicago Tribune, Sept. 6): Rather than go to court, Apple changes its mind and agrees to let UMAX continue licensing the Mac OS … for a higher fee.
–”Motorola’s Warning Sinks Stock” (Chicago Tribune, Sept. 12): Motorola announces projections for the demise of their Mac cloning division to impact the bottom line. Negotiations for the Mac OS licensing agreement, however, are still in progress.
–”First, Kill All the Clones!” (Business Week, Sept. 15) … a title that any editor would love to be able to use, no doubt. In the article, Steve Jobs is asked about the reaction of the Mac clone makers to the Mac OS licensing troubles: “They’re not all happy.” Apparently not.
–As reported last month, Apple selected a new advertising agency for its domestic advertising. The European division has followed suit, choosing TBWA International (a division of the new domestic agency) to handle the creative portion of its advertising.
–Business Week (Sept. 15) recently conducted a survey of Ivy League schools to discover if Macs are still favored over Wintels. The results show that schools (among them Dartmouth, Brown, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Columbia) are all undergoing culture changes that are pushing Apples aside. The survey was prompted by Yale’s decision to notify incoming freshman that Macs were no longer recommended to new students. Software used by the school in maintaining its network is increasingly being written only for Windows, and Yale is worried that it will not be able to support the Mac platform for much longer.
Grant Cassiday (GBCassiday@aol.com)