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The secret call to Andy Grove that may have helped Apple buy NeXT (cake.co)
506 points by GoRudy 6 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 231 comments

So now we've seen a few Steve Jobs stores like this, including the one from John Carmack. A recurring theme is that Steve is such a bonehead that his underlings have to do things to "manage him." Whether that be doing things behind his back, withholding information from him, controlling who he meets and talks to. You also read about people working insane hours to complete things which probably didn't merit it, just to please steve's whims.

Since there's a cult-of-personality around the guy, I think it's important to remind everyone that these behaviors are actually signs of poor leadership. If you work for someone like this, don't! You're better than that.

Not saying Steve Jobs didn't do great things. But let's all agree he accomplished them in spite of these flaws, not because of them.

My opinion after working for him (and writing this story) is he couldn't see obvious things everyone else could see, but he could see things no one else could. I fought with him over stores as did virtually everyone on the board of Apple, and it turned out he was right. Thank God he was stubborn enough to go forward with them. We all said it drove Gateway out of business, yada.

Thanks for that comment. People want to oversimplify Jobs, either as an asshole or as a genius. Reality is not so simple.

> he couldn't see obvious things everyone else could see, but he could see things no one else could.

This is probably the most accurate statement I can agree with about him with all that I currently know about him. I consider him eccentric in his own way but darn it I cannot deny he got results.

As a contraexample, I've always held that Steve giving up on the "no iTunes for Windows" decision saved the sales trajectory of the iPod, which paved the way for the iPhone/iPad.

And the App Store as well, Steve thought it would be best to do deals n an app by app basis. However note that in both cases he did relent. For all the stories about his intransigence he didn’t hire yes men and he did listen to the people he trusted.

Do we know that to be true? It seemed to me like they pulled the public SDK and App Store together much faster than they could have if it were a last minute change of direction.

And it further seemed to me that had Apple let developers write apps from day one, the quality of apps would have been far worse, with many developers basing their iPhone apps on the designs and logic flows of their existing Blackberry/Windows CE apps.

Looking back on it, I think they did—whether by design or by accident—exactly what they should have done.

It wasn't a last minute change of direction, they had about a year to put the DK and app store together. I believe the final decision was made shortly after SDC in 2007.

They couldn't have released an SDK in 2007 though, it simply didn't exist every system app was essentially put together by hand as part of the system and debugged and tested alongside the OS. At least that's what it sounds like from the interviews I've seen with developers on the project.

Though they've stuck to "no iTunes for Linux", which is just irritating.

Count your blessings.

Indeed. iTunes (for Windows) used to be so great, fast, clean, easy to use it immediately replaced WinAmp which we all used to use. It wasn’t just that it was the only software to support the iPod, in fact you could sync WinAmp to the iPod as well, there was no closed ecosystem yet, it was that iTunes was just better. Natively written for Windows, imported cds and organized metadata. Once they switched to HTML based and started pushing movies, it became awful.

Windows iTunes was never really intended to be a music player, I don't think. It was intended to be a Windows beachhead for "enough macOS" to talk to any and all consumer-electronics hardware Apple was producing.

This meant that, from the start, Apple knew that as they did more and more varied consumer-electronics plays, Windows iTunes would necessarily bloat into the monster it is today.

I don't know about all that. There's plenty of software out there that is much more complex and isn't as bloated. Granted multimedia software can get pretty 'heavy' but still. I feel like iTunes for Windows is very low priority and fewer resources are allocated towards it which I find a bit sad, I used to use iTunes for years and now I rather just listen to music off my phone or from a browser from Google All Music Access.

Although even my Google Play Music app seems to have some annoying bugs lately that are starting to irritate me, like if I download songs for offline listening and I'm connected to the internet it still redownloads the song. Or how it always winds up failing to download albums for offline listening despite it streaming just fine at the same time.

I mean I thought we solved playing audio files ages ago, most people listen to pretty standard audio files so I'm surprised we dont have snappier apps to listen to music with. I can totally see an Electron app emerging that gives a better experience than iTunes, which is embarrassing given how many resources have been allocated to iTunes as a whole.

Agreed. iTunes went from a joy to use to something I avoid at all costs these days.

It’s awful on iOS, Mac and Windows.

Why? I've had to spend time to set up a separate laptop with Windows 10 just for iTunes for my wife's mobile.

I get that iTunes is horrible, unintuitive software. (Where's Apple's famed user-centricity? This looks like really developer-centred software. To get to actual information about backups one has to know that there is seemingly only one way of doing so which is to click the small icon of an iPhone in one particular place.) But it's a pain to have to use some insecure second-class operating system just to access it. (I have neither the money nor the interest in setting a MacOS machine just for iTunes.)

Did he simply relent to someone else's pleadings? Or did he see something to change his mind, e.g. a demo of the Windows Carbon shim library proving was possible to bring the macOS aesthetics and features to a Windows iTunes?

In the Issacson biography:

"He didn’t want to make a Windows version of the iPod and iTunes; when all of his lieutenants fought him on it, he eventually conceded they were right, though grudgingly: “Screw it. I’m sick of listening to you assholes. Go do whatever the hell you want.”


Not sure why your comment is dead, but I vouched for it since it appears you are the author of the original article everyone is commenting on.

> I fought with him over stores as did virtually everyone on the board of Apple, and it turned out he was right.

He actually goes into depth about why Apple stores were necessary in a talk he did at MIT in 1992 [0][1]. Was it that he was not nearly as articulate in person with his team, as he was in this video?

EDIT: Luckily, the transcript is available. The money quote is:

" ... current distribution channels for the computer industry over the last several years have lost their ability to create demand. They can fulfill demand, but they can't create it. If a new product comes out, you're lucky if you can find somebody at the computer store that even knows how to demo it. So the more innovative the product is, the more revolutionary it is and not just an incremental improvement, the more you're stuck [in getting people to try learn about it enough to try it out]."

Here's a fuller quote:

There are some things I can't talk about here. In addition to that, if you look at how we sell our computers right now, we have a sales force in the US of about 130 professionals in the field out selling NeXT computers. They spend 90% of their time selling NeXTSTEP software, and then 10% of their time selling the hardware.

In other words, if they can get the customer to buy into NeXTSTEP, then they're going to sell the hardware, because right now we have the only hardware it runs on. So they are out there selling NeXTSTEP right now. And this is what is required to launch a new innovative product. The current distribution channels for the computer industry over the last several years have lost their ability to create demand.

They can fulfill demand, but they can't create it. If a new product comes out, you're lucky if you can find somebody at the computer store that even knows how to demo it. So the more innovative the product is, the more revolutionary it is and not just an incremental improvement, the more you're stuck. Because the existing channel is only fulfilling demand. Matter of fact, it's getting so bad, that it's getting wiped out, because there are more efficient channels to fulfill demand, like the telephone and Federal Express. So we're seeing the channel become condensed on its way to I think just telebusiness.

So how does one bring innovation to the marketplace? We believe the only way we know how to do it right now is with the direct sales force, out there in front of customers showing them the products in the environment of their own problems, and discussing how those problems can be mated with these solutions.

[0] https://infinitehistory.mit.edu/video/steve-jobs-next-comput...

[1] https://youtu.be/Gk-9Fd2mEnI

That's a great find. I hadn't seen that. I didn't even remember him saying this. We did try to sell through VARs who were supposedly a higher-end channel. Sun had a lot of luck with VARs, I understand.

Thanks for this perspective. I wish I could save comments the way I can favorite posts, so I'm replying as a workaround.

It gives me new perspective on the value and purpose of the Apple Stores, which I previously viewed as just a luxury shopping experience as window dressing on the usual consumer electronics buying experience. That's still a big part of it, but your quote explains the deeper value.

It also explains to me why Microsoft chose to follow suite with their own Microsoft Stores, although I still wonder why theirs aren't as successful. It's always amusing and a bit sad to go to the Valley Fair Mall in Santa Clara, where the Microsoft Store is literally right across from the Apple Store, but Apple is packed where Microsoft is a ghost town. What secret sauce are they missing? My thought is that the Microsoft brand is still poison to the average consumer.

The thing to remember about the Apple store is that it made world class computers accessible to the masses.

In the old days, a Thinkpad or Toshiba Tecra were only seen by commercial accounts and college kids. Your only way to see and touch an expensive ($2k in 98-2000) purchase was some awful bolted down display at CompUSA or BestBuy. And you only saw shitty consumer product, and were stuck dealing with a salesman of questionable knowledge looking for a warranty spiff.

The Microsoft vs Apple store thing is easy — they are selling the same dreck, spiffed up with a few first party products.

Given that the average salary in many countries is way below 1000 € per month, I would disagree with "world class computers accessible to the masses".

You actually can save comments. Click the time stamp in the comment header to present the comment in isolation, then click “favorite”.

Microsoft has never been great at marketing.

Steve put so much effort into giving Apple products life, figuratively. For example, he would call the iphone, "iphone", not "an iphone" and was adamant about it. Almost giving existence to it. Also, the way he introduced products was brilliant. He was a master at teasing the public and peaking interest prior to product launch.

Where Microsoft would release products akin to the Zune..in brown, or products with unmemorable names like 'Surface Pro x', with very little marketing. I've always thought MS has interesting products and they have been first to market many times. However, due to lack of marketing, they didn't gain traction.

> What secret sauce are they missing?

I remember someone on ESPN segment which had been sponsored by Microsoft and the people on the screen were using MS Surface but the commentator said we are using an Ipad like device.

I guess MS needs some innovate ads which will tell people what MS does in the consumer space.

It's even worse than that! MS spent $400 million to sponsor the NFL and provided many Microsoft Surface Pro devices, and the week they debuted, all the announcers called them "iPads." So MS threw a fit, and rightly so, and the next week all the announcers called them "iPad-like devices" instead.

I mean: "iPad" is two syllables, short and sweet, and MS wanted people to call the devices the "Microsoft Surface Pro," six syllables that don't exactly roll off the tongue.

That's not even getting into how they packaged all of those Surface Pros in gigantic blue padded cases, giving the impression that Microsoft's version of the iPad was big and clunky. Necessary for use on the sidelines, I'm sure, but not well thought out.

That MS Store used to be a ghost town. It's pretty crowded on weekends now with people playing with Surface Book, Surface Studio.

If you click on the time stamp of a comment you can then save/ fav it.

I just found this out recently too, not a new member either!

> So we're seeing the channel become condensed on its way to I think just telebusiness.

Stealth prediction of Amazon. If you know what you want, you order it online (until Amazon kills itself with counterfeits.) If you don't know what you want, you go to a store.

Amazon should figure this out soon. They just need to improve the way to get after counterfeits by having a clear and concise way for attorneys and manufacturers to report what fake stuff is being hocked. Right now Amazon is too segregated internally to get the guilty parties off their platform (quickly). Consider how many of those there might be. Meanwhile the manufacturers are too paranoid to sell on Amazon because they view them as competition. Once walmat and microsoft team up for some bar lifting you will only see a better version of Amazon with respect to counterfeits.

-3rd party Amazon seller.

That's a great quote and the argument sounds convincing but worth remembering that, in terms of sales numbers, NeXT was a wart on the arse of other manufacturers selling workstation computers, like Sun Microsystems, which suggests they weren't doing an amazing job of mating "those problems with these solutions" on the software front.

The software was fantastic, and thankfully Apple acquired NeXT, but let's be honest: if NeXT hadn't been acquired (by somebody) their days were numbered.

Sales numbers over what time period? NeXT reverse-acquired Apple and sold hundreds of millions of units. Sun not so much. The vision of UNIX for everyone, under a best-in-class UI, was very powerful.

Umm, sorry, where are you getting "hundreds of millions of units" from?

Official figures are hard to come by but estimates suggest that NeXT sold about 50,000 units over its entire lifetime. The company had to stop manufacturing hardware and was very much dying.

You could classify the deal with Apple as a merger in that both companies were in a certain amount of trouble by that point and needed eachother (or some other merger partner) for survival, but Apple had a lot more runway. They did, after all, hand over $429 million in cash for NeXT, plus some quantity of shares.

It was literally a merger on paper, for what that’s worth. NeXT were also close to an IPO and their dev tools were second to none. WebObjects and EOF were first rate products easily worth hundreds of millions to the right people in their own right.

That distortion field is very powerful, I see. NeXT failed as an enterprise. It was close to going the way of the Lisp Machines.

Oh yeah. I have no doubt they were failing. But those two pieces of tech were very smart for their time.

Yes, I, too, saw that demo from the 80's. But the best tech doesn't always win :)

I don’t think EOF is from the 80s. WebObjects certainly isn’t.

I mean it was going to be NeXT or BeOS right? Seems like they couldn't have gone wrong with either.

I dunno. BeOS would have helped overcome some of their technical debt, but that alone would have not fundamentally changed Apple's 1996 market position. And don't forget, Be technology was not battle-tested, it was not multi-platform, it wasn't even multi-user.

NeXT technology didn't just overcome technical debt, it became a solid foundation for over two decades worth of cutting-edge software, hardware and product development by Apple. It remains one of Apple's greatest technical assets. But again, the technology alone would not have fundamentally changed Apple's 1996 market position.

Apple's market position was turned around by Steve Jobs, the "freebie" included in the NeXT acquisition.

That money quote is great. It strikes me that that's exactly where the toy market is today, as well. There is a reason Toys R Us crashed: you can go into a toy store and buy a toy, but you can do that just as well on Amazon. Current toy stores offer no way to discover and learn about toys you don't already know about. (Exception: gaming stores. Weekly collectible-card-game nights are a great way to discover said card game.)

I am amazed how much truth there is in these paragraphs, esp for B2B cos.

Great video. Thanks!

Thank you for writing this and sharing your thoughts. That was the impression I got from your piece too - that he had a knack for seeing past the obvious.

But the fact that you felt you "have to do the right thing and keep it secret from Steve until later" speaks volumes to Steve's leadership style. If everyone has to walk eggshells around you, that's a sign you're prone to flip out on them.

Being stubborn is not the same thing as being hostile. I wonder if steve ever learned how to separate the two.

That's a good point we never see. Being stubborn in a nice way is possible but it doesn't work as well as being an asshole that can end any debate really quickly.

Chris, another amazing story! Others have already said, but you really should consider writing a book. Not only the stories are great, but you have a a great and engaging writing style. Also loved your other story, about Unix Expo.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17420674

How much of the success of apple is the combination of Tim Cook and Jony Ive then? Where can we draw the line from them and what made Steve a critical piece of the puzzle.


As a founder, Steve gets to take at least partial credit for hiring Cook in 1998, although I believe Ive joined in 1992 while Jobs was absent.

It all comes back to Jobs being a founder, and the dramatic turnaround in Apple's fortunes that clearly began at his return in 1997.

There is a maxim that the only things that matter in business are results and relationships. If you have those two things going for you, you can get anything done.

I am a developer, but it surprises me how many developers don’t get that. Geeks canonize Woz and say that he was the success behind Apple, but geeks are a dime a dozen. We can look at what Jobs accomplished without Woz and what Woz accomplished without Jobs as a case study.

Jobs got results because of his relationships. He could get anyone on the phone and get things done. No one else could have picked up the phone and called Gates and made the deal he made in 1997 that saved Apple (not the money, the promise of continuing to support Office on Mac). He was able to negotiate with the music industry in 2003 and the mobile carriers before the iPhone came out and completely usurp their power.

Most of the targets of Jobs wrath weren’t afraid of losing their jobs and stuck around because they didn’t have an alternative. Good developers in the right market can get a job before their last check clears.

They stayed because they believed in the vision. If I had a choice between working on the original iPhone and writing yet another software as a service CRUD app, I know which one I would have chosen.

But when the dust settled, I would have put that on my resume and wrote my own ticket to work almost anywhere.

"I am a developer, but it surprises me how many developers don’t get that."

99% of software developers are the absolute dumbest smart people you could ever meet. On the plus side: this makes them very simply to beat, even without any sooper l33t c0ding ski11z. Just learn to do all the stuff that they don’t think matters—like talking to and listening to and learning from your users—and you’ll easily wipe the floor with the lot of them.

Even worse is when I see developers toil year after year at a company, working late hours for 2-3% raises wondering why their hard work is not being appreciated and not only getting paid below market value but seeing new employees coming in making more than them (been there done that).

They ask me why would “their” company do that to them. My simple answer - because you let them. It took me awhile to get it, but for the last 10 years, I’ve changed jobs 5 times for greener pastures, compared to keeping one job for 9 years previously.

I’ve had to develop interpersonal skills to punch above my weight to get things done at a level that my title alone wouldn’t have accomplished.

If you keep a job for a long time at one company, using the same platform, techniques, and not progressing with your skills you really will be stuck there forever and will be locked in forever. I found that to be the case for me.

Yes, you become an “Expert Beginner”.


> We can look at what Jobs accomplished without Woz and what Woz accomplished without Jobs as a case study.

Not really fair, Wozniak was in a plane crash resulting in head injuries and 5 weeks of "anterograde amnesia" (inability to create new memories). It is possible he was never the same as an engineer.

It's not meant to disparage his talent. All of the stories of Woz before and after his crash seem to make it obvious that he didn't have the desire to be great businessman, he just wanted to be a geek. I doubt that he ever had to skill to be a great businessman.

Again that's not meant to be an insult either. I personally have no desire to start a business or even be in management. Software development provides me with the comfortable balance of not disliking what I do, it's not stressful and it pays me well enough to be more than just comfortable.

That's my theory about Woz also.

He was as brilliant as the Sun before the crash, and not only designed optimal hardware, but also wrote Apple BASIC and designed the floppy controller software. Sounds easy today, but his work was all pre-Internet.

Around that time in Silicon Valley, there were several private plane accidents. A lot of flush engineers bought planes and treated them like snowmobiles. Nowadays the professional safety culture extends down to even private flights.

Just to clarify, Woz wrote Integer Basic for the really early Apples. Microsoft wrote AppleSoft Basic.

Doug Leone, the head of Sequoia, said during a Stanford keynote "if your first two engineers aren't A+, you're screwed, you will never recover."

Steve used to say that great engineers are 10x the average and there are a few who are 100x and crucial to hard projects. He did everything he could to find them.

And there is an opposite anecdote. Twitter was horribly architected early on, wasn't scalable. and was always displaying the "fail whale". They got users, kept the VC's happy, made money and rearchitected the entire system.

You'd be surprised how many companies survived without great engineers but with great salesmen.

And that's partly why Twitter is a 34 billion dollar company while Facebook, their primary competitor, is a 619 billion dollar company.

Facebook wasn't exactly a performance king either. Their PHP codebase became a liability, leading them to create the HipHop compiler, HipHopVM, Hack, and other tools specifically for dealing with PHP and MySQL. Internally their first chat client had performance problems as well, leading them to rewrite it. They also no only had performance problems (and battery drain issues!) with their mobile interfaces, but also in controlled experiments intentionally broke pages to test their users' resulting behavior.

So I don't think I would ascribe the valuation difference to beginning engineering chops.

According to Adam D'Angelo (first CTO of Facebook, obviously a biased source) Facebook was able to implement features much faster than MySpace, which was a major competitive advantage for them. "I remember talking to an engineer who worked at MySpace who told me about how they had this huge list of regular expressions to try to prevent cross site scripting attacks, and whenever there was a new one they would make a new regex to try to fix it, rather than sanitizing html the right way."[0]

[0]: https://www.quora.com/Does-a-good-engineering-culture-matter...

Facebook didn't crash all the time when people tried to use it, which was a major competitive advantage over Friendster, at the time.

Friendster was too consumed with being led by a womanizing partier IIRC, which set the tone there... (this is anecdotal hear-say-info, so I could be wrong)... but as I recall it, they were too concerned with partying at the time to pay attention to what they were on the precipice of.

Facebook engineering started as hacks, but they aggressively recruited top talent as soon as it got funding to grow past Zuck.

And it still ranks #174 in market cap. In relationship to Facebook it may not be successful, but in relationship to all of the startups by people who had "great ideas" but could not execute on the business side, it's doing well.

If it wasn’t for a particular reality-show-star-turned-President using it as his primary means of communication, Twitter would be dying by now.

I highly doubt that. It's way more likely that Facebook's business model is better.

It’s easier to change your business model when you’re not drowning in technical debt.

I wouldn't say that Twitter survived; I would say that whether or not Twitter survives is right censored.

I don't understand what "right censored" means.

This is a weird thing to say given the number of relationships he ruined by being an abusive jerk. (I also think the "good developers can get a job" line ignores the way people get psychologically bound to abusive situations. It's like the "she can leave any time" response to domestic abuse.)

Look, for example, at the way Jobs cheated Wozniak out of money early on. [1] That's not what I'd call "good at relationships". I'd call that manipulative and exploitative.

[1] https://www.ibtimes.co.uk/steve-wozniak-cried-jobs-kept-atar...

Why is it weird? Knowing how to build relationships with and inspire people that matter and bulldoze your way over people when needed may not be moral but it can be effective. I am not arguing whether he was a saint.

"If you expect the world to be fair with you because you are fair with them, it is like expecting a lion not to eat you because you did not eat the lion"

I see where you're coming from. That said, I definitely don't think Jobs "needed" to stab Wozniak in the back there. He still could have shown better moral scruples and be effective. They're not mutually exclusive.

More people who blindly worship Jobs should learn about these back stabbings as well.

It seems from this discussion that the skills needed to be successful in buisness inovation are in opposition to those I find needed to have a sucessful and happy life. Honesty, compassion, life/work balance. Is there a good exception to that rule?

This is business.

Know your worth, do not undersell yourself, learn by others’ errors, and always—ALWAYS—get it in Writing.

"This is business" excuses shitty behavior.

If the most important thing to you is not to be decent to others, you live poorly.

Don’t take it as condoning the action of Jobs, but accepting how the world is and act accordingly when you’re on the other side.

Knowing that the lion is not going to be fair to you, means you need to run from the lion and not sit there and get eaten.

I understand how it works, and I am comfortable with my criticism of that post. Dismissing criticisms of "what the world is" allows the bad parts to flourish. The status quo does not capes.

To use another aphorism....

“Once the avalanche has started, the pebbles don’t have a vote”.

The bad parts are going to flourish regardless....

We get how this works. You say you don't condone his wretched behaviour, but keep writing these "aphorisms" and sound bites which imply that "you can't do much about it". The bad parts will flourish if you let them.

The fundamental point remains: do your damn best to be decent to other humans; don't make excuses.

There are plenty of businesspeople in my circle at least who are decent people who wouldn't dream of doing this to a partner or even an employee. As an owner of a small business I include myself in that group. Being an asshole isn't "business" - it's just being an asshole.

> This is business.

I dont think Woz got that memo, he assumed his friend would not betray him.

I just refuse to call manipulation and abuse of other people "building relationships". That is a positive term for a behavior that is decidedly not positive. We don't say, "Gosh, Hitler was just super at building relationships with the German people." And no matter how tightly a domestic abuse victim is psychologically bound to the abuser, we don't compliment the abuser on relationship-building skills. It's like saying Hannibal Lecter was great at sourcing cuts of meat. It's technically true in some sense but puts a positive spin on a behavior that's harmful to others.

But Hitler truly was great at building relationships with the German people. Depending on the context you can interpret that as spin but to me it is also a factual statement, to rise to power from relative obscurity at that level requires being excellent at the art of social skills / climbing, aka politics.

It is technically true in some sense, but only if you use a very broad meaning for "relationship". In particular, Hitler and the German people were in a parasocial relationship, not any real human connection. I think it's also incorrect in anything other than a technical sense to call it a relationship when it's rooted in manipulation and deception.

And isn't that to some degree how all political leaders work?

Not only that, but look at the way he bullied other Silicon Valley companies into enteringing no-poach agreements with his companies (threatening some with IP litigation), depressing software engineer wages for years.

I’m definitely not condoning the no poach agreements, but he wasn’t bullying poor helpless startups - the other companies were Adobe, Google, and Intel. Only Adobe could have been considered at a financial disadvantage to the other three and even they could have gone nuclear and threatened to stop producing software for Apple and put them at a disadvantage.

The smoking gun email came out in 2007. Google was actually a larger company back then. Apple was in no position to bully Google.

You've left out quite a few companies from your list that joined the agreement and also forgetting companies he threatened that didn't join, like Palm. What he did was evil and reduced overall innovation in the sector, just for Apple's gain.

I missed the three companies that were not part of the lawsuit since they settled individually - Pixar, Lucasfilm and Intuit.

But why was he the only evil one and not the CEOs of Google, Adobe, and Intel.

But still the idea that Jobs was the mastermind “bullying” these other companies instead of all of them being equally responsible doesn’t pass the sniff test. And one of those companies - Pixar was also run by Jobs at the time.

> But still the idea that Jobs was the mastermind “bullying” these other companies instead of all of them being equally responsible doesn’t pass the sniff test.

That's exactly what the documents that came up in discovery showed. Not only does it pass the sniff test, but it passes the legal test too.



> But why was he the only evil one and not the CEOs of Google, Adobe, and Intel.

I never claimed he was. Still, measuring evilness on a scale, the one who proposed the no poach agreement to the others and tried to force it on unwilling other companies is clearly far more evil than the rest.

> And one of those companies - Pixar was also run by Jobs at the time.

How does that matter? In a world without illegal collusion, a graphics expert could be poached from Apple to Pixar or vice versa and make more money. What matters is that Jobs instituted his illegal program at all his companies, and that is evil.

Or the "he can leave any time" response to domestic abuse.

(My point is, it's not gender specific. The research shows that abuse happens both ways and happens a very similar amount for either gender.)

Yes, and I was also at a company that didn’t appreciate me and gave me menial raises for 9 years. I stayed for a lot of (bad) reasons, one of which is that I let my skills decay. I vowed I would never make those two mistakes again - letting my skills be out of step with the market and never getting paid less than I’m worth.

It is gender specific: https://ncadv.org/statistics

Less so than it used to be, in that women now more often have the financial means to leave, but still gendered.

That isn't surprising to me, in that a lot of the psychology of abusers is clearly patriarchal. E.g.: https://www.amazon.com/Why-Does-He-That-Controlling-ebook/dp...

That is not to discount abuse against men, of course. Indeed, most of the people facing Jobs's abuse were surely men. But the trope I'm referring to is pretty clearly gendered.

Without some evidence, I don't think NCADV is a neutral source. (See their blog, https://ncadv.org/blog, where they post opinions on unrelated or very indirectly related matters. This is not a research organization but a political organization.) I've seen plenty of actual published, peer reviewed papers that show near equality of violence between the sexes and sometimes even more violence against men by women. I've seen plenty of advocacy groups claim hugely stacked ratios of violence against women, which is not what I see in scientific research. (If someone looks I'm sure a few articles can be cherry-picked that do that, but not a majority of them.)

Not that Wikipedia is a reliable source, but they do have citations anyone interested could look into, and they seem similar to the numbers I saw in my own reading.


However, even on NCADV, I see "1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.1" That's a somewhat skewed ratio but I wouldn't call it a one-sided gendered issue. And I suspect the reason that only 1 in 7 men have been victims of "severe" violence is that men are harder for women to significantly injure, and women are easier for men to significantly injure, so you would assume women would be more often worse injured even assuming both are aggressors in a similar number of situations and using the same amount of aggression, with difference in outcomes for their victims due to their difference in strength.

> If I had a choice between working on the original iPhone and writing yet another software as a service CRUD app, I know which one I would have chosen.

So those are the only choices there are? There are a lot interesting things than working on the iPhone and a CRUD app.

I know someone who worked on the original iPhone. As soon as it shipped, he quit. He didn't like being yelled at by Jobs.

It’s not about what’s “interesting”, it’s about being able to put something on your resume that lets you write your own ticket for the next few years.

It's unrealistic to expect any leader to know everything, understand everything, or even to consider every idea with rational equanimity.

The factor that comes through all these Steve Jobs stories is his incredibly strong drive to move forward. He didn't wait or equivocate... if he thought something was wrong, or he should hear from someone on a topic, he personally and immediately went after the very best information or person he could get. In my short career, it is striking how rare that seems, even among senior managers.

And if you think about it... those same traits are what you see demonstrated by the author in the linked story. He was worried that his company was headed in the wrong direction, so he personally and immediately went after the best solution he could think of: secretly calling the CEO of Intel!

The secret to reading these "Steve Jobs leadership" stories is that Jobs is usually not the only leader in the story.

> The secret to reading these "Steve Jobs leadership" stories is that Jobs is usually not the only leader in the story.

People can debate the whys and hows, but there's no denying that key point.

Maybe it was by accident; maybe Steve's careful design; or perhaps a consequence of Steve's personality and the kind of people he found himself in the company of--those attracted to him, him to attracted to them, or both. I don't think those questions are easily answered. But you can't even begin to answer those questions without realizing that he was surrounded by leaders, and it probably wasn't a random fluke--that is even if it was accidental, the accident happened once in the beginning and thereafter perpetuated itself, not accidental in the sense that at every pivotal moment he was by chance surrounded by leaders.

And even if by accident there's much to be said that Steve didn't ultimately fritter away that initial good luck. Again, deliberate or not, conscious or not, most people would have frittered that good luck away. It's hard to deny that there was something peculiar about the man. But debates get caught up in our contemporary moral narrative about merit, intelligence, worth, etc. There can't be an objective assessment, if at all, unless we appreciate how that narrative colors our perspective and understanding.

> The secret to reading these "Steve Jobs leadership" stories is that Jobs is usually not the only leader in the story.

This is a good point and probably not an accident. During my time there I worked with middle managers who, at most other companies would qualify as C-level executives. Yet there they were: world class leader sitting there managing small team X on project Y, Because Apple.

Different jobs have different responsibilities, and the personal characteristics of strong leadership are largely orthogonal to those.

What I mean is, being a C-title executive means a different set of daily tasks than leading a small project or product team. A self-aware person who doesn't want to do the C-level tasks won't take a C-level job, even if they are a great leader who maybe could get that job. Instead, they look for the best environment in which they can do the job they want to do.

A big goal for any CEO is to create that environment and find those people. Steve Jobs seemed to be pretty good at that.

After his return to Apple, Jobs explicitly said that Apple should be better at partnering. It was on the event were he announced the Microsoft deal.

I guess Steve learned this during the Next years.

The size of your team is not a strong correlate to the quality and importance of your product.

I never worked for the guy but sure seems like he had a knack for hiring and inspiring world class talent. I'd work for anyone with that ability.

I think there's something ""illogical"" or non linear in these cases (jobs, musk, whomever). Some people, and I can include myself, would happily 3x more than what the market or society estimates is normal if I'm in a context and project that I like.

Even suffering nasty behavior. Now I'm sure that the minute Jobs would lose the original value people saw in him, his drive, his aesthetics, product-ethos .. they'd bail out in a second.

I'm even pretty sure I despise average boring friction-full project even more. I don't have a lot of mileage, but when I see people doing fluff just to put their name in a document, on top of a stack of other similar here-to-justify-a-raise names it sucks life out of me (not for their individual behavior but the overall project).

ps: similarly, some line of work, health, firefighters is full of people who can tolerate insane difficulties, because what they achieve is still more satisfying to their mind.

> he had a knack for hiring and inspiring world class talent

Never said the guy didn't have any good traits. Obviously, Apple and NeXT had lots of great people work there.

> I'd work for anyone with that ability.

Yeah you lost me. I won't work for someone who can't admit fault and treats their employees like dirt. I don't care how good they are at convincing people to work for them.

You should have priorities in your life. "Not being abused" should be higher than "being able to say you've worked with the greatest talent."

I think i'm personally willing to make some concessions on personality in exchange for doing something like building the future. Does the end justify the means, sometimes?

Kind of like the instructors at my workout classes, I don't always like them, they're not always that nice but they definitely make me better.

The instructors may be tough, in order to motivate you. But there's a difference between being tough and being mean. I would imagine your instructors wouldn't talk down to you outside of class.

Working for an abusive boss can seriously take a toll on your mental health.

And then the thing you get in return - building the future. You think that will make you happy. But I know people who have a long list of accomplishments, who are deeply unhappy, because of the crushing work schedule and toxic people they work for. And in the end, the future you build may not be what you hoped. You wake up and realize you sacrificed your wellbeing all for a phone app or a new piece of adtech.

It's just not worth it. There are plenty of places where you can impact your industry and not be treated like shit. Your dignity is worth more than that.

Oddly, I've never heard any stories of people standing up to Jobs. They just stand there and take it. What was the worst he or any boss could do? Fire you? So what. Quitting is not your only option.

There are plenty. Two that are often cited is bringing iTunes to Windows.


And Forstall convincing Jobs to add the Carbon API to OS X.

What I was thinking was more along the lines of "Steve, don't talk to me that way." That's different from getting him to change his mind.

Jony Ive did and the answer, while surprising, contains a grain of truth.


I don't see it in the text of the article. Can you quote what you specifically are talking about?

I remember having a conversation with [Steve] and I was asking why it could have been perceived that in his critique of a piece of work he was a little harsh. We’d been working on this [project] and we’d put our heart and soul into this, and I was saying, ‘Couldn’t we … moderate the things we said?’

And he said, ‘Why?’ and I said, ‘ Because I care about the team.’ And he said this brutally, brilliantly insightful thing, which was, ’No Jony, you’re just really vain.’ He said, ‘You just want people to like you, and I’m surprised at you because I thought you really held the work up as the most important, not how you believed you were perceived by other people.’

I was terribly cross, because I knew he was right.”

- End of the first paragraph, Jony Ive says to be nicer. - Next paragraph Steve shuts him down.

edited for formatting.

Looks like Jony caved, because Steve's rude remark was "brilliant".

I don't see that as standing up to Steve at all - just the opposite. Jony justifies Steve's rude behavior.

What about when Burrell Smith was going to quit by urinating on Jobs' desk?


Steve challenged him. Burrell caved and walked out instead of standing up.

Standing up to Jobs happened all the time. But if you were going to do it, you had better have brought your A game.

Totally agree. There is a reason this sort of thing happens though.

Some people (like yourself) have more of a sense of agency than others. It's not my cup of tea but some people prefer to implement the goals of others ("be part of something bigger"). Sometimes they get sucked in by abusive leaders.

> "Not being abused" should be higher than "being able to say you've worked with the greatest talent."

There are people who say that working under Jobs was the best work they ever did.

I've read glassdoor reviews for companies that could "hire and inspire world class talent" and then fail to actually retain them due to terrible culture, so I'd think twice. Stability and balance are crucial, as well as growth potential.

lol. I'll assume that you've never run a bigger company before. It's literally everything, there is a story for everything. If you want to cut the leadership as being absentee, it's easy to track a thread back to absentee'ism leading to success, same for slave driving, got one for that. That problem once you get past a few 100 employees is that you'll find the narrative you want to craft.

The interesting take away here at least in my eyes is that incredibly seemingly irrelevant plot points become climaxes. The fact that they invested a bit into the Intel chip for reasons unrelate may have been the fulcrum for the most valuable company in the history of the world.

Yeah but it's not journalists telling these stories, looking for the right angle. It's independent accounts from people who worked with Steve. And not just the two I mentioned. Read folklore.org or read the walter issacson biography. You get to see the good and bad sides of Steve. And the same patterns emerge.

So no this isn't an artificial narrative. There's probably some truth there.

This is really unnecessarily dismissive. I'm not a Steve Jobs expert, but have read his biographies (both the sanctioned one and the other one Becoming Steve Jobs), and the comment seemed right in line with what I had read and understood of Jobs.

The more I read about him the more it feels like he had some sort of extremely high functioning borderline personality disorder. I know how unacceptable it is to label people as a layperson, but all of these articles where people were great friends then suddenly dead to him, and the stories of his rage events fits with a few people I know who suffer from this. It is such a strange disorder as some people are complete failures who fall into suicide and drug addiction, yet others go on to lead extremely successful projects and develop a cult of personality around them.

Was he ever known to display any great amount of empathy? I don't know as much about him as many here I'm sure, haven't read the biography. But I have known people with BPD. If the answer to that question is no then I would think sociopathy would be more likely than borderline.

They're both in the same cluster of personality disorders but borderline tends to be associated with more self-loathing and self-destruction since there is still harmful and hurtful behavior like sociopathy but also a good deal of empathy related to an overactive amygdala. Those mix like fuel and air. Sociopaths have reduced empathy so they find harming others and transgressing much easier to live with and move on, so they tend to be less self-destructive as long as they're somewhat high-functioning. They can both be quite manipulative but in my experience people with BPD are less likely to capitalize on it.

“Managing Upward” is part of just about every job I’ve ever had or seen. Influencing what your manager (or their manager, or their manager’s manager) needs to know, needs to decide on, or needs to escalate further is a critical part of getting things done in any hierarchical organization. When you work for someone, they are relying on you to apply a sane filter/judgment over the details coming up, just as much you rely on them to filter the shit that’s coming down. They also rely on you to “own” and take bold action on those things that are in their blind spots. The other comment about Jobs “not seeing obvious things and also seeing things nobody sees” is exactly right and applies to all good leaders.

> ...these behaviors are actually signs of poor leadership. If you work for someone like this, don't! You're better than that.

Yeah, work for that other asshole right out of McKinsey who perfectly matches the leadership templates in the management handbook written by another asshole out of HBS or McKinsey and have moved up the ladder in a hierarchical organization by perfectly playing politics and being diplomatic.

That's considered good leadership, by the management books, sure.

> But let's all agree he accomplished them in spite of these flaws, not because of them.

I don't know that you can separate the success from the flaws. It's hard to find truly impactful leaders that didn't have a large number of character flaws.

It's hard to find people without large numbers of character flaws, IME. I try not to draw any correlations from those to success - I think the flaws in successful people are there because they're people, not because they helped them succeed. Were any of those flaws required to have Jobs' vision, or required to motivate people (maybe there was another way to get this part done than by being an asshole)?

I think that nails it. We x-rayed Steve Jobs’ character because he was so successful and at the same time controversial. Other people are probably no saints either but just fly under the radar or are much more interested in people liking them. He wasn’t. So what’s the big deal?

The problem is that there's a cottage industry of people who think they can cargo cult their way to Steve Jobs' success by emulating his flaws.

Lacking patience for people sensibilities can be a very good thing in high level leadership, but acting like this will always get you labelled as an asshole by people who take it personally.

Yeah every leader has flaws. But not every leader is an asshole on the level of Steve Jobs.

Only because people are flawed. It’s hard to find leaders who metabolize cellulose too. We can still try to figure out which parts helped and which parts hurt.

At the same time he had people talented enough to make these calls too.

He apparently worked with / found people who did these things without Steve knowing and it helped. If you had a bunch of yes men (or if that is what Steve had chosen) things would be different. Indirectly or directly he had people around him making these calls and it worked.

Not trying to dispute your statement at all, just add to it. Perhaps it illustrates how hiring knowledgeable, talented, passionate people is more about them doing the things you don't know they're going to do than say a resume or such... (I say that of course because I'm looking for a job and in that mindset). There is a video making the rounds on LinkedIn where Steve talks about hiring talented people and getting out of their way to some extent. Even apparently when he doesn't realize it (i'm sure he eventually figured some of it out).

Watch Pirates of Silicon Valley. Wozniak says it's the only one that's an accurate depiction of all of their personalities and schemes. It was budget but good. Noah Wyle stood out from the rest in acting skill.


If you're fine with spoilers, look at Steve Jobs meets Bill Gates scene. Or a bunch of them. :)

Even Bill Gates in his AMA said its reasonably accurate.

+++ for PSV. Incredible show. Actor for Gates was really good as well. A little creepy, but very calculated.

> I think it's important to remind everyone that these behaviors are actually signs of poor leadership.

Maybe not. Could also just be an example of manipulation on a higher level than what appears to be obvious.

For example take this part from the article:

> Steve spent all day in early Apple recruiting Bill Atkinson, a Phd student in neuroscience. Steve told me he didn’t know if they could have pulled off the Mac without him.

Seems like he is just complementing a brilliant guy, right?

Well maybe not. Maybe he is just manipulating a brilliant guy. In other words part of the plan is to appear to be boneheaded or not as smart. This is almost a cliche "I surround myself with people smarter than I am". As if 'being smart' can be definite the way winning a road race can (in absolute terms).

You find this sometimes also with guys who put their wife up on a pedestal intellectually. Maybe it's true but maybe it's also a way to get them in a place where they feel smarter and you get the benefits of that at no cost whatsoever. Women do this with men as well to get things they want from them.

Once again not saying Atkinson was or wasn't what Steve says but there are also methods to madness that have to be considered just the same.

Thanks for saying so. He certainly had talent, and some of his visions turned out to be true. But imagine what he could have done if he were just as visionary and had been a good manager!

And let's also take a moment to imagine all of the people he harmed with his abusive ways. E.g. how many marriages foundered because people worked insane hours? How many kid-parent relationships were harmed? How many people burned out and left the industry, or never did as much as they could?

>Since there's a cult-of-personality around the guy, I think it's important to remind everyone that these behaviors are actually signs of poor leadership.

Yeah, such poor leadership that he founded 3 huge multi-100 million companies (Apple, NeXT, Pixar) and turned the third one to the largest company of earth from its near-bankruptcy at the time he returned to it.

Perhaps what's "poor leadership" or not should be correlated with actual results?

> he founded 3 huge multi-100 million companies (Apple, NeXT, Pixar)

Steve Jobs bought Pixar from George Lucas.

Nope, he got the "Graphics Group" team of Lucasfilm and turned it into Pixar.

The team had not done anything previously as Pixar.

> Nope, he got the "Graphics Group" team of Lucasfilm and turned it into Pixar. > The team had not done anything previously as Pixar.

In which case it would be more accurate to say that he acquired and rebranded. But you said he founded Pixar, including Apple and NeXT in that statement, which sounds as though he launched Pixar from scratch.

According to Steve Wozniak "Steve couldn't code"[1].

Obviously being able to code is better than not being able to code! Steve succeeded despite never writing code, not because of it!

Can you imagine what kind of Supersteve we would have had if he learned to code! Rather than an Apple worth $0.95 trillion in 2018, might it be worth $3 trillion? $5 trillion? $30 trillion?

After all knowing how to code is obviously better than not knowing how to code!

Moral of the story: if you want to succeed like Steve don't be like Steve! If you work for someone like this, don't! You're better than that.

(My comment is entirely sarcastic. It's a rebutt to your

>Not saying Steve Jobs didn't do great things. But let's all agree he accomplished them in spite of these flaws, not because of them.

NO. I don't agree with you that Steve accomplished what he accomplished despite the qualities, practices, influences, and decisions that made him Steve, and not because of them. In fact it's kind of a laughable claim as I hope my sarcastic "critique" that he didn't code, shows.)



Results matter and if your boss keeps delivering you boatloads of cash in the form of share value increases maybe there is something to be said about putting up with it.

I would call Jobs a "taste leader" (contrasting "thought leader." That is, he's someone you have to fit your work to the (very particular) aesthetic sensibilities of, if you have any hope of pursuing it. And I think this isn't an uncommon job-role, actually. Jobs wasn't uniquely flawed.

There are "taste leaders" in other fields—this is what a movie director is, or a chef, or a newspaper's editor-in-chief, or any master of a trade. It's a job-role that's all over the arts. It's just not seen much in science-driven, engineering-driven, or business-driven industries, because taste doesn't usually drive customer-demand in these fields. Apple's consumer-electronics niche is even an exception within their larger field. (I.e. taste certainly doesn't drive computing products in general—just look at the "gaming" PC peripherals on the top of the Amazon rankings to see what I mean.)

Usually, to get a project off the ground when a "taste leader" is in play, you have to ensure that your project is already to their tastes before they see it. That is, the taste-leader will can any project that doesn't currently fit their aesthetic, even if it might later fit their aesthetic. This is what forces the underlings of these people (in all of these fields) to work long hours, and to hide their work, and to lie about their work: they can't show it to the "taste leader" until it will suit their taste.

Why is this done? Why do taste leaders do this? It's a pretty universal trait of taste-leaders in successful businesses, so it's probably a good strategy somehow (if it's not just an effect of success.)

My guess is that taste-leaders do this for two reasons:

• They think that if they don't, a project will gain momentum while still not matching their tastes, and then they won't be able to stop it from "taking off" once it has enough smiling, happy faces invested in it. They just won't have the heart to can it at that point, even if they think it sucks. Much easier to can it early.

• They know that, by forcing everyone to adhere to this stringent set of aesthetic criteria at all times, they're imparting these same aesthetics to everyone around them. In order to please a taste leader, you can't just learn their tastes; you have to grok their tastes. Their tastes have to become your tastes. If you can't just iterate a project toward being something they like, but have to get it right from the start (or from the earliest point they're allowed to see it), then you have to be able to evaluate your own concept work against the aesthetic—and in fact use the aesthetic to figure out how to move across the fitness-landscape of possible features for the thing.

And, if those two things are true, then "taste leaders" are probably not as flawed as you think—rather, they're playing a role. Some might play it naturally, but I think that for a lot of them, they know that this is how to best drive their business toward optimizing for their taste (which they believe is a taste customers have demand for.)

That is: there are plenty of stories about people lying to Jobs. But did anyone ever get a chance to ask Jobs whether he knew they were lying, and just pretended to be oblivious to these skunkworks projects because he had faith in these people to eventually produce something he'd like (but just didn't want them showing their not-yet-aesthetic iterations off where others in the company could get excited about them)?

I've known both chefs and directors who do this sort of thing. Why would Jobs be different?

> A recurring theme is that Steve is such a bonehead that his underlings have to do things to "manage him." Whether that be doing things behind his back, withholding information from him, controlling who he meets and talks to. You also read about people working insane hours to complete things which probably didn't merit it, just to please steve's whims.

I feel like you can replace Steve Jobs name by Donald Trump and it still sounds true.

The difference is that Jobs had an ability, not perfect, but an ability, to listen to people and understand what they were saying.

I've honestly never understood the love for Steve jobs, he nearly drove apple into the ground, wasn't actually responsible for the good products apple actually made. He was a marketing guy, quite frankly a huckster and a complete asshole to boot.

Everyone has their flaws, and a leader is also a member of a team.

What's impressive, to me, is that this leader was able to inspire his team to take such steps while sticking around instead of jumping ship. I think that's a big part of what makes a good leader; maintaining a team which wants to see you succeed, despite whatever flaws you may have.

Hah... I remember I went to a tradeshow - I think it was the CeBit and can't remember the year, must've been before '93.

NeXT had a booth there and I remember asking the folks if it ran on Intel processors.

I distinctly the remember all the folks there laughing at me as if that was the most ridiculous thing they had ever heard and asking me to move right along.

Edit: Spelling.

NeXTSTEP 3.1 with Intel support shipped in May 1993, so it must have been a few years before that.

That reaction sounds like they already had the project underway, but were trying to keep it a secret.

According to the article, Apple's CEO said they chose NeXT over Be because "In the end it came down to NeXT already supporting Intel and that was important to us".

Why was running on Intel important to Apple? Apple didn't use Intel at that time (Dec 1996), and didn't decide to use Intel until much later (announced 2005)? Whereas BeOS already did run on the CPU platform that Apple did use at that time?

I purchased one of the first Macs that ran on a PowerPC processor and I was profoundly disappointed. Performance was no better than a 68040-based Mac and it was pretty crashy. As time went on and software was updated that machine became less crashy but performace was always poor.

I don't have any insider information, but I wouldn't be surprised if Apple felt like they needed a backup plan in case the PowerPC alliance was unsuccessful at matching the speed growth of Intel's products. I'd say the G3 was the first PowerPC CPU that impressed me, I think Apple only stuck with PowerPC for two more generations (the G5).

I got one of the first PowerPC computers in a lab full of high end spare no expense PCs and it cranked. If your experience was otherwise, I suspect you were running software under emulation so the fact it was “no better” was a borderline miracle. The second gen PowerPC macs were “the fastest 680x0 boxes ever shipped” (an Apple engineer boasted to me at WWDC and he wasn’t wrong)

The PowerPC allowed Apple to overtake the Pentium and gave it boasting rights until the failure of the G5.

Yes, I believe the majority of software and even parts of the OS ran in emulation. Still, even when they moved a lot of that code native, performance wasn't amazing. Someone else mentioned that the rest of the hardware may have been holding these machines back and I could easily believe that.

My opinion: when released, performance didn't meet my expectations and failed to meet my expectations for another five years (when the G3 was released). IMHO, I don't believe the Mac was competitive against the PC until the release of the G4. I could understand why Apple would want to hedge against the PowerPC.

That's funny, I too remember things differently. As Mac advocates often, and loudly pointed out, the Mac consistently smoked the PC -- especially at the only benchmark that mattered, Photoshop filters. It was the 90s and RISC architecture really was gonna change everything. At the time, Intel was playing the "megahertz myth" heavily in its marketing, the false belief that more MHz made for a faster CPU, which just wasn't true when comparing across different microarchitectures like Pentium and PowerPC.

And of course, as those from the Lost Amiga Civilization recall, it took about a 500 MHz Windows 9x PC to feel as responsive as a 25 MHz Amiga.

It's been a long time, my memory is less a collection of data and more a hazy soup of anecdotes.

I do suspect that Photoshop filters might get some real performance gains out of AltiVec instructions, maybe my boring developer style workloads weren't reaping similar benefits from the availability of those instructions.

What the G4 giveth, Objective-C/Carbon/Cocoa taketh away.

And the G5 really only failed because of cooling issues - obviously, IBM has been able to continue to push the POWER platform that undergirded PowerPC far beyond the G5

Not just cooling -- the G5 drew too much power to be viable in one of Apple's growth markets at the time: laptops. The Intel Core chips were based on the Pentium M microarchitecture and so already had power characteristics that were suited for laptop use.

Of course, POWER would go on to be a great arch for desktop and server use, but that wasn't enough for Apple after the G4.

Excessive power draw ... which, while seen in abysmal battery life, was most directly seen in an inability to cool

The computer lab manager at the Uni I went to was obsessed with Apple, and he had one of the 601 based PowerMac's as well. And yes, I can confirm how underwhelming it was. Granted much of the OS was 68000 based, which certainly didn't help things in the slightest, but even Wolfenstein 3D on the thing really didn't run all that much better than our existing 486DX/2 66's.

Running on Intel certainly saved NeXT in that by version 3.3 with the ability to support IDE CD-ROM's the cost of a machine that could run NeXTSTEP 3.3 had dropped dramatically. It's just a shame that the OS cost nearly as much as the machine.

Being more open like the later Darwin sure may have helped, although I don't think NeXT much like later on Apple really wanted to either take in code from outsiders, or made the open software rediably usable.

The PPC processors were not the problem. The performance issues were caused by both a crippled bus on the first gen PPC computers and MacOS wasn’t fully native.

Right, BeOS ran like a bat out of hell even on low-end 603 PowerPC's. The 68K emulation in MacOS worked surprisingly well in terms of compatibility, but at a significant performance cost.

Most of the software was emulated early on, so not completely unexpected.

How long would it have taken to get BeOS on Intel to OS X 10.5 level?

Or, perhaps Apple was considering switching earlier than they did. Maybe they thought G3->G4 was going to experience the problems that didn't end up cropping up until G4->G5.

Apple was working on X86 compatibility as early as Mac OS 7 in 1992. [1]


I don't think it'd matter for the future of Apple though. Since Steve had purchased Pixar, he had that 'in' for the entertainment industry and he was able to squeeze both music and film to get content for his iPod. Once they put the iPod on Windows Apple became a far more profitable media company.

The iPhone just further cemented Apple's position as the device people want to carry to consume media. I don't see how going with Gasse or Be would have made the Apple of today possible.

My hunch is that they were absolutely hedging and that they liked not being dependent on a single CPU vendor.

NeXT was far, far more mature as an OS than BeOS. For years, people had been shipping mission-critical custom software on NeXT.

You had Improv, which when Lotus killed it, was cloned into Quantrix which is still sold today to financial modelers.

You had the McCaw Cellular custom app (don't know what it was called) that allowed them to grow - they later became Cingular, then ATT Wireless. William Morris Agency, Booz Allen Hamilton (big consulting firm), etc. all had custom apps that they used under NeXT.

In contrast, BeOS had a few small desktop apps and some other cool demos.

It's because back then, if I remember correctly, new revisions of Macintoshes with PowerPC processors had CPU speed increments like, 80, 90, 100mhz, and meanwhile the Pentium was going 100, 200, 300, 400... (at least that's how it felt being a mac user...)

Also, I believe around that time the deal between IBM and Motorola was ending and they had already decided not to continue development of the PowerPC.

In the G4 era, the marketing back then from Apple talked about the "Mhz Myth" and largely showcased stuff that was pretty much "Hey, this hand-tuned AltiVec code blows away this C++ -> x87 code on intel!"

It's an interesting bit of history about how many very bright engineers had zero faith in intel being able pull off what they did with the P6 micro architecture: A superscalar, out-of-order x86 CPU that supported SMP on a power budget that, while high for the time (25 watts!), wasn't astronomical. That breakthrough ultimately became the foundation for Intel's Core micro architecture, which Apple later adopted in their first intel-based machines.

If Apple had switched to Intel with the arrival of the Pentium, things could have been very different.

Macs basically kept pace, pretty nose-to-nose, with the Mhz speed of Intel CPUs until the Pentium II era. Apple actually beat them to about 350mhz on the 604e for a year or so, whilst the fastest Pentium Pro of the time was about 200mhz.

This was quite a stretch of time (92->97?). What happened after that, though, was that Intel hit the afterburners, and rocketed up to about 800mhz, and PPC got left in the dust. There was a huge 500mhz speed bump that the G3 and G4 both stalled at for a few years, and by the time they got over that, the pentium 4 was coming out, which started another jump from the P3's 1.5ghz, pushing the P4 up to about 3.5ghz.

The G3 and G4 were much faster than either the 603 or P2/P3 and especially the P4, per mhz, so the launch day ad campaign saying the iMac's 233mhz CPU was "twice as fast" as the 250mhz pentiums that were out at the same time was true - it just didn't stay true once 500 mhz P2 machines came out less than a year later. It's notable that intel was so focused on the marketability of that metric that the later pentium series were worse per clock than their predecessors - a P4 had to actually be several hundred mhz faster than a P3 to be the same speed. Intel was primarily doing this to fight AMD, and it got bad enough that AMD actually had to introduce a new marketing term to indicate how fast their chips were compared to the mhz ratings of P4s.

Intel completely reversed course on this with the core series - modern "core" chips like the i5 and i7 are several times faster than P4s running at the same clock speed. Far better heat/power consumption specs, too.

Probably a factor. The money coming into Intel from the PC biz probably dwarfed Motorola's, leading to much bigger R&D budgets.

Maybe it was really because NeXTStep could print.

I think they knew at the time that Motorola processors weren’t quite living up to their promise. Theory didn’t seem to line up with practice and while they were technically faster per clock it didn’t always translate to performance. Intel also cleared some pretty incredible technical hurdles during this time period as well.

I’ve no doubt that internally Apple engineers knew this.

Remember how when Steve announced the transition to x86, he mentioned they'd already been working on it for a few years?

It goes all the way back to the release of NeXTSTEP 3.1, which included i386 support. And more importantly it never ended.

The Rhapsody DR1/DR2 releases that would shape up to become OS X Server 1.0 were intel based. And the then released source code for Darwin 0.1/Darwin 0.3 although commercially only released on the PowerPC, still compiles and runs on i386 just fine.

I'm sure with the overhaul of the kernel while going from OS X Server 1.0 to OS X 10.0 where the Objective C driver model was dumped for a C++ framework, along with updating the Mach code from 2.5 to 3.0 broke the i386, but it was quickly fixed in the Darwin releases, making the overall chain unbroken from the inside.

It wouldn't surprise me in the lost years of Apple looking for a plan out of the demise of the 68000 that there would have been projects looking again and again at Intel, especially after the Star Trek project.

At the time Apple was licensing MacOS to clone manufacturers like Power Computing. It's likely they thought the only way to grow the clone business was to open the floodgates to Intel PC clone manufacturers.

Of course the NeXT merger brought back Steve Jobs who killed the clone program immediately.

Honestly, it sounds like an answer you give to avoid disclosing the real reason: relationships and cultural compatibility.

It's possible they might have considered giving up on hardware and making a pc-compatible macos?

In early 00's Apple actually provided x86 binaries for the Darwin (in form of essentially complete rpm-based distribution with Darwin kernel). Obviosly this didn't include the high-level NeXT/MacOS X ObjectiveC frameworks.

As a shameless plug, the Darwin 0.1/0.3 sources which align with OS X Server 1.0 & 1.2 actually still compiled on intel just fine. Even better you could take a Rhapsody DR2 system, and overlay the newer stuff on top of it, and it'd still happily run.


And Rhapsody (Mac OS X Server 1.0) shipped a developer preview on Intel, including UI (this was pre-Aqua and Mach 3.0, but otherwise a lot of similarities to MacOS X 10.0).

That's a good theory, and there's precedent for it. Apple already sold their OS to Mac clone makers, and NeXT (earlier) and Be (later) did indeed gave up hardware.

Great story. All too often - and particularly when it comes to Apple - there is a mythology that a company grows based solely on the decisions and leadership of one individual. The reality is that the vast majority of critical decisions are rooted in stories like this. Apple, Dell, MS, Sun, Oracle, etc.

The funny thing is I remember BeOS running on x86. Wikipedia says the first release containing that was 1998, which puts it a year or two after the NeXT acquisition. I wonder if these two facts have something to do with each other.

I can't imagine "doing the right thing" would not end up with immediate termination in the current "top" corporations running internal surveillance 24/7... Will there be ever a good time for accidental inventions again?

Does anybody know how jobs decided to base next on open source code (bsd)? It seems sort of antithetical to everything he stood for.

The Computer History Museum has one of their long form interviews with Avie Tevanian, who led the creation of Mach (multiprocessor BSD) as his Ph.D project. (His faculty advisor went on to head Microsoft Research)

Next and Microsoft both sought to hire him, and he eventually went on to be in charge of the OS at Next and later Apple.

One of the topics he covered in the interview was how Next (and Apple) decided to use and contribute back to open sourced software at the lower levels of their stack.

He also covers what it was like to work for Steve Jobs.


It's funny, for a long time Avie had a calculator on his NeXT screen to show Microsoft stock and the cost of coming to NeXT. But Apple stock did okay later, so it wasn't the disaster it once looked to be.

No, because with BSD license companies are free to withhold their code.

NeXT was never about UNIX, rather the foundation libraries, UI Builder and everything that was possible to do with Objective-C, including writing device drivers.

UNIX compatibility was a way to embrace the software of the blooming market of UNIX workstation startups, and fill a checkmark on the requirements list.

That's a good question, although I wouldn't characterize it as antithetical to his beliefs.

I'd wager it was far more expeditious to develop on top of a professional-grade OS than to start over from scratch. He wanted to sell high-end hardware, and it's hard to do that with a primitive operating system.

Anyway, interesting question, would also like to know how that decision was made.

I don't know the story, but 4.3BSD, which went into NeXTStep, was not open source. It wasn't until 4.4BSD that BSD was available without a paid Unix license.

NeXT tried to get away with a closed-source fork of GCC for Objective C, but eventually backed down under legal threat.

I think OPENSTEP for Mach 4.0, the version with the new UI that never shipped post-beta, may have been based on 4.4BSD. It wasn’t until Rhapsody that this was dusted off with bits pulled in from FreeBSD, NetBSD and OpenBSD (you can see this history in the Darwin libc source hierarchy).

Which was probably one of the reasons why they ended up writing LLVM.

The dropping of GCC and adopting LLVM is directly related to the pending switch to GPLv3 of GCC.

If there's one thing companies don't like, it's uncertainty - and the whole GPLv3 discussion gave them exactly that. They needed an alternative - and placed their bets on the more liberally licensed LLVM project.

LLVM was a UIUC project.

Ok, hiring the project lead early in development and steering the project towards Apple's goals, then.

Don't forget RMS's refusal to accept patches to gcc to run on the Mac.

The Mach kernel was never really open source, I think?

Mach kernel is open source for much longer time than that term itself exists. Original "GNU system" (what is known today as GNU/Hurd) was supposed to use Mach as kernel.

In late 80's there were multiple projects that attemped to build unix-like system on top of Mach (what essentially is academic project) out of these NeXT/OS X is the only one still really relevant. Another such project was OSF/1, which also took the way of running essentially all of real unix kernel space as one big Mach thread with code derived from BSD, this became DEC/Compaq/HP(E) Tru64 and all other systems build on this OSF/1 base never really worked with sufficient performance. (And for Tru64 on it's original Alpha platform Mach is slightly weird choice as the CPU essentially comes with it's own "microkernel" in microcode/firmware).

Yes I mis-remembered. The source was always open, but parts of it were encumbered by ATT Unix licensing.

It was heavily based on 4.3BSD, so it needed an AT&T 32v license at the time....


Why'd Steve call Bill about TrueType? Apple invented TrueType and then licensed it to Microsoft.

I've read a few of these articles from Cake now and I like how it looks but I find using CTRL+F doesn't work correctly. On this article it doesn't seem to pick up anything past the second post unless you go to that post, click on it, and then type in your search.

Hey, I'm the guy who built that. Sorry about the Ctrl+F troubles. That's happening because we don't actually render all the posts in the conversation; to improve performance, we only render visible posts and a few posts above and below the visible region of the page.

Unfortunately browsers don't currently offer any good way for us to make Ctrl+F work for not-yet-rendered posts in this scenario, so this is a tradeoff between better performance and worse find-on-page functionality.

I'll give some thought to how to improve this.

If I disable JavaScript everything is apparently rendered server-side and is indistinguishable from the page loaded with JavaScript enabled, except that ctrl-f works as expected. What's the benefit of progressive rendering via JavaScript here?

With JavaScript disabled, you'll get a server-rendered page that renders up to 25 posts per page and relies on traditional prev/next pagination. When you scroll to the bottom of the page you'll have to click "Next" to see the next page of posts.

With JavaScript enabled, you'll get a hybrid or client-rendered page that only renders the posts that are visible or likely to be visible soon. More posts will be loaded and rendered seamlessly as you scroll until you reach the end of the conversation.

The benefit of the JS approach is that we can load and render only the stuff you're likely to see, which keeps data usage down and performance up. This is especially nice on mobile devices and slow connections. We think the infinite pagination is also a nicer experience than manual pagination.

But we also want things to work when JS isn't available, primarily because that improves SEO. It's a nice bonus that the tiny percentage of people who prefer to browse with JS disabled can still read Cake.

Since this conversation has 19 posts, I didn't notice the pagination. There's less than 20k of actual text with all 19 posts though (which is somewhat sad since the full page source grabbed via curl is nearly 300k). If this 19 post conversation is typical, how much are you saving by using client-side rendering?

As well, how many conversations are more than 25 posts? Looking at your front page I only see one and it's just 26 posts (https://www.cake.co/conversations/x97rrxl/why-can-t-apple-ma...). Pulling it up, there's just not that much text there across all 26 parts (less than 30k of actual text).

I don't mean to be grumpy-old-man here, but it seems like you've added a bunch of complexity and broken ctrl-f for questionable gains.

I know it's not easy to see the justification when looking at the front page, especially since Cake is still pretty young, but we designed Cake to scale to conversations with thousands of posts in order to allow for the kinds of long-lived conversations that continue to attract a trickle of new posts for months or even years.

Cake also uses client-side routing when JS is enabled. While the initial pageview might be on the large side since it contains all the data necessary to render the entire page (albeit gzipped for most clients, so typically much smaller than the uncompressed sizes you shared), subsequent pageviews will load a much smaller amount of data.

We also use a few heuristics to avoid serving a server-rendered page if we know the client can render it more efficiently, which can further reduce the size of the initial pageview (pretty significantly actually). So you're pretty much measuring our worst case scenario. :)

Well, fair enough. I wish you luck getting to those thousand post conversations. Aesthetically the site design is pleasing and I find it easy to read. And I hope you can find a solution to ctrl-f. :-)


If anyone else doesn't recognize the author, here's a CV:


Is this a paid-for service? I get redirected to https://www.bloomberg.com/markets/stocks

No, it just opened up for me. Maybe uBlock helped, but here's the relevant text:

> Mr. Chris MacAskill serves as President of SmugMug, Inc. Mr. MacAskill serves as Chief Executive Officer of Cakes Inc. Mr. MacAskill served as Chief Executive Officer of Barnes & Noble.com Professional, Technical and Business Bookstore since co-founding Fatbrain in June 1995. From September 1983 to September 1990, Mr. MacAskill served as Vice President of Engineering at Western Atlas International. In September 1981, Mr. MacAskill founded PSI, which was acquired by Western Atlas International in October 1983. Mr. MacAskill also serves as the Chairman of the Board of Barnes & Noble.com Professional, Technical and Business Bookstore. He serves as a Director of Cakes Inc. From June 1991 to June 1995, Mr. MacAskill served as Director of Developer Relations at NeXT Computer and General Magic. Mr. MacAskill received his B.S. in Geophysics from the University of Utah and received his M.S. in Geophysics from Stanford University.

Sorry for the formatting, but it's the same on the site.

If there's a better bio somewhere, I didn't see it.

Here's my LinkedIn. I dunno why Bloomberg has me as Chairman of bn.com. Fatbrain.com was bought by them but I was never chairman. https://www.linkedin.com/in/chris-macaskill-970ab1/

Awesome, thanks! Those automated profiles are indeed often wrong or outdated.

Thanks for all the great stories from the NeXT era -- either you have an incredible memory or took very good notes during those years. The level of detail in the stories sets them apart from many you read.

Thanks! I pass them by people who were there at the time as much as I can because sometimes it seems too insane to be real. Did we really think that? Andy Hertzfeld wasn't at NeXT, but he helped me tell the story better.

Dunno if you saw this one from Wayne Goodrich, who was there and continued to Apple:


Huh.. is that title linkbait? Other than the photo of Andy Grove, I don't see anything about a call with Andy? (Or I'm really slow today)

(edit: oh I am slow today. Its told in story form, the meeting with Andy Grove is several posts down on the page).

It's a multiple part post... read a bit further down

"I closed my office door, picked up the phone, and asked for Andy Grove. I wanted to know why they weren’t in the conversation. I guessed it was because we used the Intel i860 chip on one of our graphics boards and it didn’t impress us. But what were Michael Dell, Bill Gates and Andy going to do about the Intel 80486 facing the same fate as Motorola’s 68040? I had to know."

It's a super hard article to follow. I felt like I was reading a list of tweets or something.

The call with Andy established a relationship between NeXT and Intel, which, while not bearing fruit immediately, lead to the Apple CEO's decision years later to acquire NeXT.

The story stretches across several "posts", just keep scrolling

There are multiple parts. Keep scrolling.

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