When the hype died down, the reaction to the NeXT computer

When the hype died down, the reaction to the NeXT computer was muted, especially since it was not yet commercially available. Bill Joy, the brilliant

and wry chief scientist at rival Sun Microsystems, called it “the first Yuppie workstation,” which was not an unalloyed compliment. Bill Gates, as might be expected, continued to be publicly dismissive. “Frankly, I’m disappointed,”

he told the Wall Street Journal. “Back in 1981, we were truly excited by the Macintosh when Steve showed it to us, because when you put it side-by-side with another computer, it was unlike anything anybody had ever seen

before.” The NeXT machine was not like that. “In the grand scope of things, most of these features are truly trivial.” He said that Microsoft would

continue its plans not to write software for the NeXT. Right after the announcement event, Gates wrote a parody email to his staff. “All reality has

been completely suspended,” it began. Looking back at it, Gates laughs that it may have been “the best email I ever wrote.”

When the NeXT computer finally went on sale in mid-1989, the factory was primed to churn out ten thousand units a month. As it turned out, sales were

about four hundred a month. The beautiful factory robots, so nicely painted, remained mostly idle, and NeXT continued to hemorrhage cash.

Hovering Backstage

“It’s rare that you see an artist in his thirties or forties able to really contribute something amazing,” Jobs declared as he was about to turn thirty.

That held true for Jobs in his thirties, during the decade that began with his ouster from Apple in 1985. But after turning forty in 1995, he flourished. Toy

Story was released that year, and the following year Apple’s purchase of NeXT offered him reentry into the company he had founded. In returning to Apple, Jobs would show that even people over forty could be great innovators.

Having transformed personal computers in his twenties, he would now help to do the same for music players, the recording industry’s business model,

mobile phones,

apps, tablet

computers, books,

and journalism.

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“Well,” he concluded, “I don’t think ‘mercurial’ is so bad after all.”

“Well,” he concluded, “I don’t think ‘mercurial’ is so bad after all.” After the applause, he used the quotations book to make a more subtle point, about his reality distortion field. The quote he chose was from Lewis Carroll’s Through

the Looking Glass. After Alice laments that no matter how hard she tries she can’t believe impossible things, the White Queen retorts, “Why, sometimes I’ve

believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” Especially from the front rows, there was a roar of knowing laughter.

All of the good cheer served to sugarcoat, or distract attention from, the bad news. When it came time to announce the price of the new machine, Jobs did what he would often do in product demonstrations: reel off the features,

describe them as being “worth thousands and thousands of dollars,” and get the audience to imagine how expensive it really should be. Then he announced what he hoped would seem like a low price: “We’re going to be

charging higher education a single price of $6,500.” From the faithful, there was scattered applause. But his panel of academic advisors had long pushed to keep the price to between $2,000 and $3,000, and they thought that Jobs

had promised to do so. Some of them were appalled. This was especially true once they discovered that the optional printer would cost another $2,000,

and the slowness of the optical disk would make the purchase of a $2,500 external hard disk advisable.

There was another disappointment that he tried to downplay: “Early next year, we will have our 0.9 release, which is for software developers and aggressive end users.” There was a bit of nervous laughter. What he was

saying was that the real release of the machine and its software, known as the 1.0 release, would not actually be happening in early 1989. In fact he didn’t

set a hard date. He merely suggested it would be sometime in the second quarter of that year. At the first NeXT retreat back in late 1985, he had

refused to budge, despite Joanna Hoffman’s pushback, from his commitment to have the machine finished in early 1987.

Now it was

clear it would

be more than

two years later.

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The event ended on a more upbeat note, literally.Jobs brought

The event ended on a more upbeat note, literally. Jobs brought onstage a violinist from the San Francisco Symphony who played Bach’s A Minor Violin Concerto in a duet with the NeXT computer onstage. People erupted in

 

jubilant applause. The price and the delayed release were forgotten in the frenzy. When one reporter asked him immediately afterward why the machine was going to be so late, Jobs replied, “It’s not late. It’s five years ahead of its time.”

As would become his standard practice, Jobs offered to provide “exclusive” interviews to anointed publications in return for their promising to put the

story on the cover. This time he went one “exclusive” too far, though it didn’t really hurt. He agreed to a request from Business Week’s Katie Hafner for

exclusive access to him before the launch, but he also made a similar deal with Newsweek and then with Fortune. What he didn’t consider was that one of Fortune’s top editors, Susan Fraker, was married to Newsweek’s editor

Maynard Parker. At the Fortune story conference, when they were talking excitedly about their exclusive, Fraker mentioned that she happened to know that Newsweek had also been promised an exclusive, and it would be coming

out a few days before Fortune. So Jobs ended up that week on only two magazine covers. Newsweek used the cover line “Mr. Chips” and showed him leaning on a beautiful NeXT, which it proclaimed to be “the most exciting

machine in years.” Business Week showed him looking angelic in a dark suit, fingertips pressed together like a preacher or professor. But Hafner pointedly

reported on the manipulation that surrounded her exclusive. “NeXT carefully parceled out interviews with its staff and suppliers, monitoring them with a

censor’s eye,” she wrote. “That strategy worked, but at a price: Such maneuvering—self-serving and relentless—displayed the side of Steve Jobs that so hurt him at Apple. The

trait that most

stands out is

Jobs’s need to

control events.”

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But Cao Cao said to Zhang Liao, “He has rejected all

But Cao Cao said to Zhang Liao, “He has rejected all I gave him, so bribes were powerless with him in whatever shape. I have the GREatest respect for such as him. He has not yet gone far, and I will try to strengthen his attachment to me and make one appeal to sentiment. Ride after him and beg him to stop till I can come up and bid farewell and offer him a sum of money for his expenses and a fighting robe, that he may remember me kindly in after days.”

So Zhang Liao rode out quite alone. Cao Cao followed him leisurely with an escort of a score or so.

  Now the steed that Guan Yu rode was Red Hare, and it was very fast. No one could have come up with him but that there was the ladies’ carriage to escort, and so Red Hare had to be held in and go slow. Suddenly Guan Yu heard a shout behind him, a voice crying, “Go slowly, Guan Yu!”

  He turned and made out the person to be Zhang Liao. Ordering the pushers of the carriage to press on along the high road, he reined in his steed, held the GREen-dragon saber ready for a stroke, and waited for Zhang Liao to come up.

  “Of course you have come to take me back, Zhang Liao?” said Guan Yu.

  “No; the Prime Minister, seeing that you are going a long journey, wishes to see you on your way and told me to hasten forward and beg you to wait till he can come up. That is the only thing.”

  “Seeing that he is coming along with mailed men, I shall fight to the very last,” said Guan Yu.

  And he took up his position on a bridge where he waited the approach of the party, who advanced quickly. Four of Cao Cao’s generals, Xu Chu, Xu Huang, Yu Jin, and Li Dian, followed close. Seeing Guan Yu was ready to fight, Cao Cao ordered his escort to open out in two lines, and then it was seen they carried no arms. This relieved his mind, for it proved to Guan Yu they meant no attack.

  “Why do you go in such haste, Guan Yu?” asked Cao Cao.

  Guan Yu inclined his head but did not dismount, saying, “I informed you in writing that since my lord was in the North of Yellow River, I had to leave at once. I went to your palace again and again but was refused admittance. So I wrote a letter of farewell, sealed up the treasure, resigned my lordship seal, and left everything for you. I hope you recall the promise you once made me.”

Cao Cao replied, “My desire is to keep my troth with all people.

I cannot go back on my word. However,

you may find the journey expensive,

and therefore I have here prepared a sum of money to help you.”

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Sun Qian had joined Guan Yu in escorting the two

Sun Qian had joined Guan Yu in escorting the two ladies, and they were on the road to Runan when

Xiahou Dun suddenly determined to pursue. So with a couple of hundred horse, Xiahou Dun set out.

When Xiahou Dun was seen approaching, Guan Yu bade Sun Qian go ahead with the carriage while he remained to deal with the pursuers.

  When they were near enough, Guan Yu said, “In coming after me thus you do not reinforce the magnanimity of your master!”

  Replied Xiahou Dun, “the Prime Minister has sent no definite instructions. You have caused

the death of several people, among them one of my commanders,

and so I have come to capture you! You have behaved most grossly. The Prime Minister will decide.”

  thereupon Xiahou Dun dashed forward with his spear ready to thrust.

  But at that moment a rider came up behind him at full gallop, crying, “You must not fight with Guan Yu!”

  Guan Yu stayed his steed at once and waited.

  the messenger came up, drew from his bosom an official letter, and said to Xiahou Dun, “The Prime Minister loves General Guan Yu for his

loyalty and honor, and fearing lest Guan Yu might be stopped at the various passes, he sent me with this letter to show when necessary at any point on the road.”

  “But this Guan Yu has slain several commanders of the passes. Does the Prime Minister know that?” said Xiahou Dun.

  the messenger said these things were unknown.

  “then,” said Xiahou Dun, “I will arrest him and take him to the Prime Minister, who may set him free or not as he wills.”

  “Do you think I fear anything you can do?” said Guan Yu getting wrathful.

  And he rode forward. Xiahou Dun, nothing loth, set his spear

and prepared for battle.

they met and had reached the tenth encounter when a second horseman came up at full speed, crying, “Generals, wait a little!”

  Xiahou Dun stayed his hand and asked the messenger, saying, “Am I to arrest him?”

  “No,” replied the messenger. “Fearing lest he should have

difficulties at the passes, the Prime Minister has sent me with a dispatch to say he is to be released.”

  “Did the Prime Minister know that he had slain several commanders on the way?”

 “He did not know!”

 “Since he was ignorant of that, I may not let this Guan Yu go,” and Xiahou Dun gave the signal to his men to close in round Guan Yu.

  But Guan Yu flourished his sword and made to attack them and a fight was again imminent, when a third rider appeared,

Jobs had the audience cheering from his opening line

Jobs had the audience cheering from his opening line: “It’s great to be back.” He

began by recounting the history of personal computer architecture, and

he promised that they would now witness an event “that occurs only once or twice in a decade—a time when a new architecture is rolled out that is going to

change the face of computing.” The NeXT software and hardware were designed, he said, after three years of consulting with

universities across the country. “What we realized was that higher ed wants a personal mainframe.”

As usual there were superlatives. The product was “incredible,” he said, “the best thing we could have imagined.” He praised the beauty of even the parts

unseen. Balancing on his fingertips the foot-square circuit board that would be nestled in the foot-cube box, he enthused, “I hope you get a chance to look

at this a little later. It’s the most beautiful printed circuit board I’ve ever seen in my life.” He then showed how the computer could play speeches—he

featured King’s “I Have a Dream” and Kennedy’s “Ask Not”—and send email with audio attachments. He leaned into the microphone on the computer to

record one of his own. “Hi, this is Steve, sending a message on a pretty historic day.” Then he asked those in the audience to add “a round of applause” to the message, and they did.

One of Jobs’s management philosophies was that it is crucial, every now and then, to roll the dice and “bet the company” on some new idea or technology.

At the NeXT launch, he boasted of an example that, as it turned out, would not be a wise gamble: having a high-capacity (but slow) optical read/write

disk and no floppy disk as a backup. “Two years ago we made a decision,” he said. “We saw some new technology and we made a decision to risk our company.”

Then he turned to a feature that would prove more prescient. “What we’ve done is made the first real digital books,” he said, noting the inclusion of the

Oxford edition of Shakespeare and other tomes. “There has not been an advancement in

the state of the

art of printed

book technology

since Gutenberg.”

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The Launch, October 1988Jobs had perfected the art

The Launch, October 1988Jobs had perfected the art of turning product

launches into theatrical productions, and for the world premiere of the NeXT computer—on October

12, 1988, in San Francisco’s Symphony Hall—he wanted to outdo himself. He needed to blow away the doubters. In the weeks leading up to the event, he drove up to San Francisco almost every day to hole up in the Victorian house

of Susan Kare, NeXT’s graphic designer, who had done the original fonts and icons for the Macintosh. She helped prepare each of the slides as Jobs fretted over everything from the wording to the right hue of green to serve as the

background color. “I like that green,” he said proudly as they were doing a trial run in front of some staffers. “Great green, great green,” they all murmured in assent.

No detail was too small. Jobs went over the invitation list and even the lunch menu (mineral water, croissants, cream cheese, bean sprouts). He picked out a video projection company and paid it $60,000 for help. And he hired the

postmodernist theater producer George Coates to stage the show. Coates and Jobs decided, not surprisingly, on an austere and radically simple stage look. The unveiling of the black perfect cube would occur on a starkly minimalist

stage setting with a black background, a table covered by a black cloth, a black veil draped over the computer, and a simple vase of flowers. Because

neither the hardware nor the operating system was actually ready, Jobs was urged to do a simulation. But he refused. Knowing it would be like walking a tightrope without a net, he decided to do the demonstration live.

More than three thousand people showed up at the event, lining up two hours before curtain time. They were not disappointed, at least by the show. Jobs

was onstage for three hours, and he again proved to be, in the words of Andrew Pollack of the New York Times, “the Andrew Lloyd Webber of

product introductions, a master of stage flair and special effects.” Wes Smith of the Chicago Tribune said the launch

was “to product

demonstrations what

Vatican II was to

church meetings.”

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The negotiations lasted into 1988, with Jobs becoming prickly

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 business altogether.

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.

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Jobs came up with a brilliant jujitsu maneuver against Gates

Jobs came up with a brilliant jujitsu maneuver against Gates, one that could have changed the balance of power in the computer industry forever. It required Jobs to do two things that were against his nature: licensing out his

software to another hardware maker and getting into bed with IBM. He had a pragmatic streak, albeit a tiny one, so he was able to overcome his reluctance.

But his heart was never fully in it, which is why the alliance would turn out to be short-lived.

It began at a party, a truly memorable one, for the seventieth birthday of the Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham in June 1987 in Washington.

Six hundred guests attended, including President Ronald Reagan. Jobs flew in from California and IBM’s chairman John Akers from New York. It was the

first time they had met. Jobs took the opportunity to bad-mouth Microsoft and attempt to wean IBM from using its Windows operating system. “I

couldn’t resist telling him I thought IBM was taking a giant gamble betting its entire software strategy on Microsoft, because I didn’t think its software was very good,” Jobs recalled.

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 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.

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When they happened to meet in the hallway at a conference

When they happened to meet in the hallway at a conference, Jobs started berating Gates for his refusal to do software for NeXT. “When you get a market, I will consider it,” Gates replied. Jobs got angry. “It was a screaming

battle, right in front of everybody,” recalled Adele Goldberg, the Xerox PARC engineer. Jobs insisted that NeXT was the next wave of computing. Gates, as

he often did, got more expressionless as Jobs got more heated. He finally just shook his head and walked away.

Beneath their personal rivalry—and occasional grudging respect—was their basic philosophical difference. Jobs believed in an end-to-end integration of hardware and software, which led him to build a machine that was not

compatible with others. Gates believed in, and profited from, a world in which different companies made machines that were compatible with one another; their hardware ran a standard operating system (Microsoft’s Windows) and

could all use the same software apps (such as Microsoft’s Word and Excel). “His product comes with an interesting feature called incompatibility,” Gates

told the Washington Post. “It doesn’t run any of the existing software. It’s a super-nice computer. I don’t think if I went out to design an incompatible computer I would have done as well as he did.”

At a forum in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1989, Jobs and Gates appeared sequentially, laying out their competing worldviews. Jobs spoke about how

new waves come along in the computer industry every few years. Macintosh had launched a revolutionary new approach with the graphical interface; now

NeXT was doing it with object-oriented programming tied to a powerful new machine based on an optical disk. Every major software vendor realized they

had to be part of this new wave, he said, “except Microsoft.” When Gates came up, he reiterated his belief that Jobs’s end-to-end control of the software and

the hardware was destined for failure, just as Apple had failed in competing against the Microsoft Windows standard. “The hardware market and the

software market are separate,” he said. When asked about the great design that could come from Jobs’s approach, Gates gestured to the NeXT prototype that was still

sitting onstage and

sneered, “If you want

black, I’ll get you

a can of paint.”

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