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.”
To Jobs’s delight, Akers replied, “How would you like to help us?” Within a few weeks Jobs showed up at IBM’s Armonk, New York, headquarters with his software engineer Bud Tribble. They put on a demo of NeXT, which impressed
the IBM engineers. Of particular significance was NeXTSTEP, the machine’s object-oriented operating system. “NeXTSTEP took care of a lot of trivial
That was too much for Jobs, at least for the time being. He cut off the clone discussions. And he began to cool toward IBM. The chill became reciprocal. When
the person who made the deal at IBM moved on, Jobs went to Armonk to meet his replacement, Jim Cannavino. They cleared the room and talked
one-on-one. Jobs demanded more money to keep the relationship going and to license newer versions of NeXTSTEP to IBM. Cannavino made no commitments,
and he subsequently stopped returning Jobs’s phone calls. The deal lapsed. NeXT got a bit of money for a licensing fee, but it never got the chance to change the world.
programming chores that slow down the software development process,” said Andrew Heller, the general manager of
IBM’s workstation unit, who was so impressed by Jobs that he named his newborn son Steve.
The negotiations lasted into 1988, with Jobs becoming prickly over tiny details. He would stalk out of meetings over
disagreements about colors or design, only to be calmed down by Tribble or Lewin. He didn’t seem to know
which frightened him more, IBM or Microsoft. In April Perot decided to play host for a mediating session at his Dallas
headquarters, and a deal was struck: IBM would license the current version of the NeXTSTEP software, and if the
managers liked it, they would use it on some of their workstations. IBM sent to Palo Alto a 125-page contract. Jobs tossed it down without reading it. “You
don’t get it,” he said as he walked out of the room. He demanded a simpler contract of only a few pages, which he got within a week.
Jobs wanted to keep the arrangement secret from Bill Gates until the big unveiling of the NeXT computer, scheduled for October. But IBM insisted on
being forthcoming. Gates was furious. He realized this could wean IBM off its dependence on Microsoft operating systems. “NeXTSTEP isn’t compatible with anything,” he raged to IBM executives.
At first Jobs seemed to have pulled off Gates’s worst nightmare. Other computer makers that were beholden to Microsoft’s
operating systems, most notably Compaq and Dell, came to ask Jobs for the right to clone NeXT and license NeXTSTEP. There were even
offers to pay a lot more
if NeXT would get
out of the hardware
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.
Three months later, when they returned to Pebble Beach for their next retreat, Jobs began his list of maxims with “The honeymoon is over.” By the time of the
third retreat, in Sonoma in September 1986, the timetable was gone, and it looked as though the company would hit a financial wall.
credibility starts to erode.” What he did not say, even though it was suspected by all, was that if their targets slipped they might run out of money. Jobs had pledged $7 million of his own funds, but at their current burn rate that would run out in eighteen months if they didn’t start getting some revenue from shipped products.
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.
To Be on Your Own
“The best thing ever to happen to Steve is when we fired him, told him to get lost,” Arthur Rock later said. The theory, shared by many, is that the tough love made him wiser and more mature. But it’s not that simple. At the
company he founded after being ousted from Apple, Jobs was able to indulge all of his instincts, both good and bad. He was unbound. The result was a
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. . . .