What is the press up to? Find out every month here in Bits & Pieces!
WIRED WANTS WOMEN
Never a magazine to sit idly by while its social agenda fails to be properly imposed, Wired Magazine felt it necessary to point out with some disdain that with the recent resignations of Heidi Roizen and Ellen Hancock, there are no longer any senior female executives at Apple. (After all, just because many members of the board have been replaced, no one has technically been in charge for months, and the list of resignations and firings uses more ink than my StyleWriter cartridge, there’s no reason why delicately balancing the occupation of top positions by gender shouldn’t have been the top priority for the struggling company. Now that a CEO has finally been found, I’m sure all of the positions vacated in recent months can now be filled in the most politically correct manner.)
Charles Haddad (in an article run by the Chicago Tribune) loved Apple’s new PowerBook 2400. It’s light, fast, the battery life is excellent, the screen is huge and has good color, etc. The interesting part of the review, however, was that most of the problems with the new notebook were attributed to its original target market: Japan. Haddad says that having been built in Japan by IBM for Japanese customers has caused some strange side-effects. For one thing, there is no built-in security port to lock down this PowerBook (Crime rates are much lower in Japan). Also, the keyboard and mouse are too small (Fingers and hands are apparently much smaller in Japan).
Also in notebook news, PC Week reports that Apple is now slashing prices for the PowerBook 3400 line by up to $1,000. Prices will now range from $3,200 on the low end to $4,500 on the high end. (The Power Mac 8600 line is also involved in this rebate program.)
Newsweek (Oct. 6) made note of the new Macintosh advertising campaign that Apple has recently launched. Apple is spending $15 million dollars (via the advertising agency that created the famous “1984” Macintosh ad) to spread the word that the real genius of the computer revolution can be found within the Mac. In the ads, black and white images of famous dead people such as Picasso and Einstein are paraded in front of the viewer/reader, followed by the new Apple slogan “Think Different.” Newsweek notes: “Watching the new campaign, (Apple CEO Steve) Jobs actually fought back tears… ‘If Albert Einstein were alive, he’d use a Mac, and you know it,’ he said.”
That type of passion for the Mac is exactly the kind of thing that Wired Magazine insists ruined the platform’s chances. In an excellent article in the November issue (actually a summary by Jim Carlton of information in his book “Apple: The Inside Story of Intrigue, Egomania, and Business Blunders“), Wired addresses a question that all serious students of business should be taught to consider. Namely, why, when Apple’s Macintosh platform was a vastly superior product, did Windows emerge as the planet’s standard operating system? Especially when Bill Gates himself made an appeal directly to Apple to help them make the Mac OS the standard?
This bit about Bill Gates offering to help Apple establish the Mac OS as the industry standard way back in the mid-80’s got some attention recently when Jobs put Apple in Gates’ care. This Wired article, for the first time, reprints the entire memo that Gates sent to Apple’s top people back in June of 1985 suggesting an alliance of convenience that would see Apple put in charge of the computer industry for good.
Needless to say, Apple turned down the offer from Gates and began to pursue setting the all-time record for the stupidest, costliest, most self-destructive, and most short-sighted series of corporate blunders to ever be made by an American business.
So, exactly whose fault was it? It might not be fair to pick a specific name. Reading the article, it’s hard to say that Apple has ever had wise leadership. And Apple’s corporate culture has always been arrogant regarding competition. (The acronym NIH, meaning ‘not invented here’ was coined in reference not only to Apple’s refusal to work with other companies’ technologies but also Apple’s resistance to letting other companies develop products for them.) Ultimately, though, it seems that early corporate leadership was strongly influenced by the man who built the NIH corporate culture, namely Jean-Louis Gassée. Gassée was the engineer who was in large part responsible for the development of the Mac OS. After one meeting way back when it could have made a difference, Gassée reacted in this manner to the suggestion that Mac OS be licensed and moved to the Intel platform: “Gassée’s face reddened and his eyes bulged. He was upset and could contain himself no more. In his thick French accent, he began yelling and screaming that licensing could not be done….” As Wired puts it, Gassée “rightfully believed the Mac represented a quantum leap in technology. No way, no how, would Gassée see his precious Mac turned over to a ragtag army of copy cats. This was Apple’s crown jewel, and Gassée meant to defend it with his life.” (With this kind of background, it’s easier to understand Steve Jobs’ recent public animosity toward the Mac Cloners.)
Although Gassée was certainly not alone in his opinions concerning licensing and cloning, he was vocal enough so that now even he admits, “I am aware that I am known as the Great Satan on licensing. My mistake was, I got into a debate that I should not have gotten into… my approach was stupid.”
THOSE NASTY NUMBERS
USA Today (October 16) was one of the publications to spell out the painful details of Apple’s fourth quarter financial report.
–Loss for the quarter was $161 million
–Revenue ($1.6 Bil) was down 30% from last year, 7% from last quarter
–Mac sales were down 30% from last year and 8% from last quarter
–Sales of Macs in Japan are down 50% from a year ago
–$75 million has been allocated for the buyout of Power Computing
–$65 million will be spent on restructuring
–Current market share is 3.7%
One good statistic: Apple has cut expenses by 30%. On that note, Chief Financial Officer Fred Anderson stated that “We feel optimistic about next year.”
–The developers’ version of the Rhapsody operating system has now been shipped. A note about Rhapsody: Although I was aware that the new system would have a ‘yellow box’ for the new NeXT OS and a ‘blue box’ for the Mac OS, I was unaware that in the Wintel version of Rhapsody there would also be a blue box to run Windows programs.
—Business Week noted in its October 13 issue that former Apple CEO John Sculley has found opportunities worth his attention in Israel. Sculley was excited to get involved in today’s Israeli computer industry because it reminded him of “what I saw in Silicon Valley 15 years ago.” Hopefully, now that he has the chance to turn the clock back 15 years, he won’t make the same mistakes twice.
Grant Cassiday (GBCassiday@aol.com)