What is the press up to? Find out every month here in Bits & Pieces!
YOU’VE HEARD ABOUT THE DEAL. WHAT ABOUT THE COVERAGE?
TIME Magazine was all over the story of the Apple/Microsoft alliance in its August 18th issue. This was not because of TIME’s vision of Apple’s importance in American life. It wasn’t even because of the important support that Macs enjoy within the publishing community. It had a lot more to do with some promising behind-the-scenes negotiating done by Mr. Jobs. Behind-the-scenes is a relative term here, of course, because the Jobs/TIME deal was right on the cover of TIME, neatly wrapped up in the word “Exclusive.”
We all know Apple has taken a beating in the press for the last several years. The market share has dwindled, the stock has dropped, and the marketing agency has been fired. What Apple needs more than anything is good press, wide exposure, and a vision of a rosy future. What better way to serve this purpose than an artfully composed black and white photo of Apple’s new leader on the cover of America’s most well known magazine adorned with the words “The World’s a Better Place”? Advertising can’t buy that.
Jobs let TIME in on the secretly developing deal, giving the magazine’s reporters and photographers exclusive access to the story at least a week in advance. In return, he was rewarded with the cover (without Bill Gates), a center photo inside on Page 1 (again without Bill Gates), the entire weekly Winners & Losers section devoted to Apple (Steve Jobs gets two mentions), the Then & Now section devoted the deal, and two additional articles totaling nine pages in the editorial section of the magazine. And just for fun, Jobs got TIME to visit and write about Pixar, the company Jobs actually does lead as the CEO, and Pixar’s upcoming products. Is this the beginning of a beautiful friendship in which promises were made concerning the future sharing of information to benefit both parties? Perhaps. The last sentence in the cover story is “Watch for the sequel here.”
More importantly, don’t be fooled by who the intended audience for this coverage was. Yes, part of the goal was to convince Mr. and Mrs. Middle America to buy Macs for their children. That’s why the cover of Business Week wasn’t worth an exclusive deal to Jobs. But this coverage in TIME was clearly labeled at the top of every page as belonging to the Business section of the magazine. Mr. and Mrs. Corporate America are being encouraged to get wise to the fact that Apple is still a company worth investing in. After all, who wouldn’t want to invest in any of the companies that Microsoft is pumping dollars into (sidebar list conveniently provided on page 37 of the magazine)?
If all this sounds a little too contrived to be true, let it be known that Bill Gates and Jobs even discussed what to wear during the unveiling of their deal. Bill chose to wear white; Big Brother analogies were inevitable … they could at least try to fight the Darth Vader analogies.
Some readers might be tempted to think that this entire magazine deal wasn’t meant to promote Apple as much as it was meant to promote Steve Jobs. After all, Pixar was profiled in the articles, Jobs doesn’t want to be in charge of Apple, he sold all his stock in the company (except for a symbolic single share), and he opened the door of the company to Darth Vader. It’s a toss-up. I think Jobs does sincerely want Apple to be seen in the best possible light.
Personally, however, I’ve never been convinced that Steve Jobs isn’t in some small way a bit of a freak. I mean, “Bill, thank you. The world’s a better place.” … Really? Why? Better than what? To me, that statement is either just plain over-dramatic or just plain wrong (the only two choices I can think of if I assume Jobs was serious when he said it).
And, Jobs apparently considers himself a Vegan. Yes, I know, this is only a term used by TIME to refer to the fact that he eats no meat; his diet is strictly vegetarian. But the term Vegan … it sounds less like a dietary choice than a reference to someone who insists they’re from a planet orbiting the star Vega. (Which, for people claiming to be space aliens isn’t a bad choice since it’s a relatively close star.)
At any rate, the people who do all the real work at Apple (the programmers and engineers) seem to really like the guy, so I’m not complaining.
WORTH A THOUSAND RANDOM THOUGHTS
The pictures in these types of exclusive behind-the-scenes articles are always great fun to study….
–The chronology of events depicted is a little confusing to piece together because Jobs is wearing pretty much the same thing in all of them. Notice, however, that the cover photo is not from the now famous speech at which Jobs introduced the giant electronic Gates.
–I’m sure several of you were thrown by the picture of Jobs preparing his speech on a laptop computer that was obviously not an Apple product. In the article, it’s explained that the computer is actually an IBM ThinkPad running Jobs’s NeXT system.
–On the first page of the cover story is a large photo of Jobs sitting in Apple’s boardroom with “his worn jogging shoes resting on the director’s table.” Okay, so the guy likes to jog, I find myself thinking. He probably jogged to work that day. After all, he is a Vegan. Several pages later I find myself forced to reconsider. A picture of Jobs taken way back in 1991 shows him wearing a suspiciously similar pair of jogging shoes. Apparently, he’s just not big into the footwear scene.
There has been some discussion about the image created for this Silicon Valley super deal. As alluded to above, an image can be worth a 1,000 words. With today’s modern media, it can be worth a billion. Often, an image can make or break an entire idea, movement, or cause. Images are easy to recall. The types of images I’m thinking of are ones like the shoes in Imelda’s closet, Nixon flashing his victory sign, Lucy in the chocolate factory, Dukakis in that tank, the sailor kissing the nurse in Times Square, the Beatles all lined up and walking across the street, the space shuttle explosion with those two columns of smoke shooting off from either side. What will be the impact of the image of the tiny Steve Jobs on stage, two tall white pillars on either side engraved with the Apple logo, and all of it standing beneath a giant, smiling Bill Gates? Images take time … this one may be forgotten completely. But in the future, it may be looked on as the end of Apple. Or the beginning of a new computer age. Either way, a powerful image was needed and it was delivered. The simplicity that so often eludes Microsoft was once again tossed together with an artistic clarity by Apple. Hopefully that point will not be missed.
SO WHAT ABOUT THAT OTHER GUY?
That was the question that USA Today thought may be worth answering after Jobs made nice with Microsoft, so on August 4th, former Apple CEO Gil Amelio got his 16th minute of fame in the newspaper’s business section. Among the notable revelations:
–Amelio says he was surprised by the decision to replace him. I wasn’t clear on this at all. Mostly because Amelio wasn’t fired, he resigned. Did he think that after he vacated the CEO chair that Apple would just leave it empty?
–Wisely, Amelio does not envy the next person who will lead the company. Not only will that person have to deal with the Steve Jobs cult of personality, but with the hyper-competitiveness of Jobs’s best buddy/arch rival Larry Ellison. They’re both on the board. Oh, and lets not forget that Microsoft now holds the keys to the software.
–As far as Amelio was concerned, the internal and operational problems at Apple were fixed during his leadership He attributes the continuing problem of sales to the lack of inventory. There were plenty of people who wanted to buy Macs; they just got put on the waiting list with everyone else.
A NEW MESSENGER
During all the recent activity at Apple was another move by Jobs that many Mac lovers will applaud. A new ad agency was hired to take the message and image of Apple and Macs to the people. TBWA Chiat/Day is the new magic maker. (It should be noted for those outside the industry that ad agencies often have names every bit as silly as law firms.) Formerly known as Chiat/Day, the agency was responsible for one of the most famous television advertisements of all time, the ad called “1984”. “1984” is the Super Bowl advertisement that introduced the world to the entire Macintosh concept of computing back in 1984. Drawing on George Orwell’s doomsday vision of the world’s future (our past), the ad contained images that made their mark and hit their audience. It also contained images to which people just can’t help comparing the giant Bill Gates image. (For a side by side comparison, see page 18 of the August 18th TIME.)
IN BUSINESS WEEK…
I noted above that TIME was a better choice for exclusive access to the Microsoft/Apple deal than Business Week. But that didn’t stop Apple and Steve Jobs from getting at least two good pieces of exposure on the cover of Business Week in August. Within days of Amelio leaving Apple and Jobs turning down the top job, Business Week ran the cover headline “Wanted: A Few Good CEO’s.” It was not Apple-specific, but the timing couldn’t help but bring to mind Apple. And who cares what company was being referenced that week, because the very next week (August 25), Business Week decided to tweak itself and fill its cover with all sorts of good CEO’s, among them, standing first and second in line, were Apple’s two most prominent board members: Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and Pixar CEO Steve Jobs. Sadly, next to Jobs is Apple’s now vanquished ally Marc Andreesen of Netscape (who, it should be noted, is not a CEO). In a spooky coincidence, only one of the 12 men on this cover was actually enjoying a good laugh in the picture used: Andy Grove from Intel. Which prompts me to ask, exactly what will happen to the PowerPC chip after Microsoft and Apple start sharing all their software?
Also in the August 25 issue of BW were some Mac specific articles. First, in the Technology & You column was a favorable review of the new Mac software Virtual PC, a Windows 95 emulation program that lets your Mac run all those ubiquitous Windows programs. (Keep alert for the My Mac review of the software.) Also in this issue was BW’s rather brief coverage of the Apple/Microsoft deal. Most of the news you already know, but some tidbits that are important:
–“Jobs has already decided that Apple will exit much of the printer market, where it has lost market share”
–“Apple (will) focus on strongholds in education and graphics”
–“Apple is rapidly backing away from its licensing program, on which Mac cloners have built an $800 million or so industry in the past year.”
–Microsoft did not, in the recent deal, agree to “adapt programs like its Office suite to run on Apple’s upcoming Rhapsody operating software, the follow-on to the Mac OS.”
As reported in Information Week (July 21), the popular on-line investment service Motley Fool decided to ask its subscribers how to save Apple Computer. “More than 1,200 replies arrived within 72 hours of the posting.” That type of response was one of the largest Motley Fool has had to any similar contest. The winning entry was from user ToddK1. “Todd wrote an essay titled ‘Cry the Beloved Company,’ about how Apple used to brash and cocky and should strive to be so again.”
OS 8 UPDATE
That issue of Information Week also had a review of Mac OS 8. IW was not that impressed. Basically, they thought the Finder improvements were nice and the cosmetic changes were cool, but they thought the system just didn’t jump far enough from System 7. Also, IW was gravely concerned about the memory required to install and run System 8, concerns that I share. So if you haven’t invested in the new software, listen up. The minimum RAM requirement is 12 Megabytes plus 8 Megabytes of Virtual Memory. Many publications have suggested using no less than 32 Megabytes of RAM. And a full install of Mac OS 8 will eat up 100 Mbytes of hard drive space. Make sure you have the memory. If not, the upgrade will cost a lot more than $90.
Infoworld (July 28) was much more positive. They recorded that “Users of Apple’s Mac OS 8 had nothing but praise for the company’s new feature-rich operating system.” Infoworld noted that the new system was delivered on time (if we ignore that it was originally called Copland and due two years ago with more features) and there are very few compatibility problems with previously released applications.
On the Microsoft end of operating systems, it’s now official: Windows 98 will be the last version of that platform. As reported in PC Week (July 28), “By the year 2000, Windows 98 will be replaced by a consumer version of Windows NT.”
CHANGES COMING FOR BITS AND PIECES
Regular readers of this column will know that in the past, I’ve collected most of the information for my column from computer industry trade magazines that I received at work. (I work in advertising and one of my clients regularly advertised in many of these magazines.) Well, I quit my job and have started another one.This means, of course, that I’m no longer receiving all those computer magazines every month. In view of this, Bits and Pieces may have to evolve a little bit. Or de-evolve, depending on your point of view. I’d still like to take the same approach to the column … keeping an eye on the media for any news about Apple. But the sources for the material will probably get a little more mainstream and a lot less technical. Which could actually make Bits and Pieces a more interesting read, but it may make it difficult to find enough information for a full column every month. We’ll see.
–Response of an unidentified attendee at the Fortune 500 CIO Forum in Aspen, Colorado, when asked to suggest a new CEO for Apple Computer: “Kevorkian.” (From Information Week, July 21.
–Gossip Columnist Robert X. Cringley, in the July 28 issue of Infoworld, had this interesting tidbit to report on former Apple CEO Gil Amelio: “The Apple rumor mill has been turning at top speed. Among the more interesting bits was that Amelio was pondering a run for Governor of California and hoped an Apple turn-around would be a boost to his political aspirations.”
Grant Cassiday (GBCassiday@aol.com)