Sculley, Spindler & Amelio! Oh My! Then Steve returned.

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

In the mid-1980s while working at Bath Iron Works, one of the documentation specialists for the Electrical Engineering Department raved about this PC that so improved the quality and speed of his work. “Called an Apple,” he exclaimed, “it’s incredible, man. It’s like I do my work the way that I want to without wasting time on how the machine works. It’s unbelievable! Everybody in the Department should have one.”

Then I moved to North Carolina and hooked-on to a start-up where everyone was issued one of these Macs with the 9″ screens. We could open two documents at once – yeah, baby! – network with other Macs and even share a $10,000.00 laser printer around the cubicle farm.

Paid $2,200.00 in 1990 for a Mac with 2 megabytes of RAM and a dot matrix printer.

But somehow these Apple products had a feminine overtone; real men used DOS (before Windows 95 introduced phrases such as Blue Screen and Security Patch into the office vernacular). No doubt that Apple had plenty of chances to rule the roost if only they woulda licensed the operating system to other PC manufacturers. Finally, Windows did catch-up by virtue of its broad distribution relegating the Mac to beatniks and hippies and designers and those who favored taste eg ease of use over price. Apple hovered at loyal 6{915b2618a7c304f461205894c34b2284541042d3c677679407e2f30838792dcd} market share for a long time.

Jobs was replaced by the man from Pepsi, John Sculley, who was replaced by the German Diesel, Michael Spindler, who tried to sell Apple to IBM or Sun or Philips, and then was replaced by the NCR execs Gil Amelio and Ellen Hancock. Folks, those were dark days of fractured market positioning and the dullest of product ideas. Mac batteries were reported to burst into flames on occasion. My related personal misfortune was to be an Apple developer during the Spindler-Amelio period; visits to Cupertino felt like a tour of a movie set were a once renown film was made. “Watch out for tumbleweed in the lobby” sort of ambience.

No one dreamed that Jobs would return; that Pixar would rescue Disney; that Apple would invigorate both our telecommunications and retail shopping industries. I spoke with a senior banking executive last week who purchased recently his first Mac product. He said, “when you get it, it’s like.. sort of feels like…” he hesitated. Two of us finished his remark by saying, ‘it’s like receiving a present so well packaged is the product and so welcoming to open. We all feel that way.” He agreed. My colleague rejoined, “I keep my Apple packaging.” With a conspiratorial smile, the exec agreed that he kept his also.

I paid $750 for a Newton in 1993! Hand-writing recognition estt not soet grtate, tho.

I could dance all night on the wonder of this company and the genius of the man who steered it to its brilliance. Of course, I’m saddened by his ill health and scared that we’ll retreat under the onslaught of the cost-accountants and marketeers who treat us as though, well, we have no taste.

For now, and amidst this uncomfortable economic time, we must admit that we have an example of design genius, marketplace understanding, technology-driven productivity and a vivid example that beauty and function are indeed compelling roommates.