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Shades of Hope & Glory

Sometimes priceless news can be found in places where you least expect them. BusinessWeek, Oct 15, has these interesting nuggets (all literal quotes from that issue):

BusinessWeek half-admits that a policy of "licensing portions of Apple’s proprietary OS to outside manufacturers, to broaden the Mac market" is being considered. Apple’s plans for replacement of the Macintosh in the future include a Motorola RISC model code-named ‘Jaguar’ (hmm… speed), still at least 2 years off, that will offer extensive video capabilities and links to VCRs and TVs; possibly also the ability to accept handwritten input. Apple’s next laptop, due in 1991, may well be produced by Sony and/or Toshiba, a heresy previously unheard of at Apple.

The Macintosh models of recent years are now called over-engineered, with the choice epithet of "overpriced, overweight disaster" reserved for the Mac Portable that we’ve all grown to love and hate. We certainly already knew it was overpriced. Now Apple has discovered that as well. Jean-Louis Gassee is out. So are the not-invented-here syndrome, the prima donnas, the "creeping elegance [of overdesigning]," the internal politics, and there’s no more room for "people slowing each other down." So who’s in?

Mike Spindler, the new COO, nicknamed "the Diesel," that’s who, said to be "an antithesis of New Age, touchy-feely Silicon Valley managers," former head of the highly-profitable Apple’s European operations. And what, pray, are his recipes for survival?

Tighter budgets and firm deadlines to start with. Also teamwork, reversing decisions to spin-off Claris, patching up feuds with Adobe, undoing past mistakes, and preparing the company for the times ahead. Company perks, with the excellent workout facilities singled out, are in part said to have contributed to its higher than competition expenses (Apple aerobics-freaknics take note).

With Apple’s market share dropping below 10% mark, Windows 3.0 looming large on the horizon and System 7.0 not yet in sight to offset the lost market advantage, the company has entered on the road toward financial recovery through lower-priced models and a more "substantive-marketing" approach (whatever that means) to engineering and sales. On the home front that stands for phasing out its own major-corporate-account sales force and turning the sales to local dealers.

Thinking ahead, Apple has started dispatching teams of employees on "camping trips" to universities, to suck out the hearts and minds of the best and brightest of tomorrow. CEO John Sculley now devotes fully 70% of his time to oversee the research and development effort of the Advanced Technology Group, "making sense of the various projects launched under Jean-Louis Gassee." His aim is to shorten new product development time from 18-24 months down to 9-12 months from conception to launching. He seems to have succeeded at that; the Macintosh LC has had its color graphics re-engineered a month before its scheduled debut on Oct. 15th "to meet demands of educational buyers" (addition of ‘Government Green’ to the default palette? Fall Fashion Colors? blacker blacks?… your guess is as good as mine).

Still, having for several years produced computers for the rest of Corporate America the company may ultimately have difficulties switching over to make one for the rest of us. That doesn’t concern the Mac Classic and LC, which seem affordable enough (although three years too late) but the future Look-Ma-No-Mice and related products. Perhaps we all should sleep soundly at night now that Apple is tended by an executive "with a turbo for a mind"; someone said to be capable of synchronous-speed activities "by mind, mouth and hands" when in front of a white board. But… hey! wasn’t there another high- sprung executive there recently, in front of the very same board, making substantive plans for Saving Our Souls From IBM-doom, one Jean-Louis Something or Other?

Information from:
Ian Feldman — [email protected]

Related articles:
BusinessWeek, International Edition — October 15, 1990, pg. 40-46
InfoWorld — 08-Oct-90, Vol. 12, #41, pg. 5
MacWEEK — 09-Oct-90, Vol. 4, #34, pg. 1

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