Written by David Tebbutt, MacUser Dec 1989 (guess) - scanned
Do you dream about work? I seem to do it all the time. Last night, for example, I dreamed I'd gone to sunny Cupertino. Better than that, I actually found myself in the Apple boardroom while some sort of high-level meeting was going on.
I recognised Jean Louis Gassee, he of the diamond studded earlobe. I also recognised John Sculley. The other three turned out to be Allan Z Loren, Mike Spindler and one Doug Swartz. Loren, at the start of my dream anyway, was Apple USA's president. Mike Spindler was the head of Apple Europe. But who the heck was Doug Swartz? I soon found out.
Sculley kicked off the discussion by saying, "OK fellas, we've really goofed. We've expanded our top-end business dramatically. We've made great strides on interoperability. We're getting the credibility we want in businesses, but we've exposed our flank. The average business person thinks our entry-level offering is still that 'toy' Macintosh which we introduced back in 1984. They can't see that it has changed. Heads are going to roll for this and mine ain't gonna be one of them."
He continued, "So the first item on the agenda is who wants a nice $3m payoff to take the blame."
Loren's hand shot up. He accepted the bribe, figuring that with the interest from that kind of money rolling in, he could just about retire. Gassee, more conscious of his image and with a genuine love of the industry in his heart, watched this pantomime with unease. "I wonder what he's got in store for me," I heard him mutter under his breath.
He didn't have to wait long. "JLG," said Sculley, "we figured you'd like to focus your energies a little more, so we're giving two of your divisions to Mike here. We're also going to make him COO while we're at it. This will enable you to get that long-promised sub-$1000 Macintosh out the door." Gassee, the golden boy, looked quite crestfallen. It wasn't easy to watch two thirds of his responsibilities so casually tossed to someone else.
But he rallied quickly and, jabbing a finger at Swartz, said, "So what eez 'e 'ere for?"
Well spotted, JLG", said Sculley. "He's here with an optional entry-level product which we could launch in mid April. If we don't take it, he's going to launch it anyway and that would really muddy the water."
Sculley continued, "Do you remember the Wallaby laptop that was on show at the Lafayette Hotel during the Boston Macworld Expo? Well, we know that we've got to do something at the low end. It almost doesn't matter what. It's a question of demonstrating real commitment to the Compact range. So either you tell me you can produce something very quickly, or we buy out Wallaby. "
Swartz coughed. "Oh, sorry," said Sculley, "I mean the Outbound. Both the company and the product names have been changed."
I started licking my lips at the prospect of a low-cost laptop in a few months and an entry level machine next year
Gassee then said, "Give me 18 months and I'll blow your socks off with a new Compact machine."
Sculley, clearly becoming exasperated said, "We haven't got 18 months. In truth, we probably haven't even got 18 weeks. Doug here is planning to flood the market with Walla..., sorry Outbounds, starting in nine weeks. Why don't you show JLG and Mike what you've got there, Doug?"
Loren left the room at that point muttering something about depositing his $3m where it would start earning him $40 per hour. "Well gentlemen," said Swartz, "We've been showing the Outbound around and reaction to it has been sensational. Well, that's not strictly true. Most people are unhappy about butchering their Macintoshes to get at the ROMs, and the Outbound can't work without them. The butchered Macintosh can still be used, providing it is connected to the Outbound." He continued, "Our choice seems to be to push ahead with the butchery programme, which we don't think will be that popular. Or we could try and persuade Apple to sell us thousands of legitimate ROMs, in which case you can expect sales of both your entry level machines and your portable to nose-dive. Or we could offer you the rights to our product in exchange for a suitably huge sum of money."
"What do you reckon Jean-Louis?", said Sculley.
"Erm, my designers are not going to be very happy about doing any sort of deal with Outbound. They 'ave their pride, you know."
"Oh", said Sculley, "That is a pity because, faced with more delays on bottom-end product, we really have little choice. I think we have to buy the Outbound and push it out as the Portable Compact. In fact we will probably call it the Laptop Mac.
"Meanwhile, Jean-Louis, I want you to come up with the next insanely great little computer, so we can launch it next year. Your objective is to keep it in the same case but make it visibly different to the present Compact machines. "
"But I can only do this by giving it a colour screen," said Gassee.
"Precisely," replied Sculley, "and while you're at it, make sure you incorporate a compact disc player with dustproof mirrors."
"Do I have any choice?"
"Yes, but I've already given the $3m severance kitty to Allan," replied an insistent Sculley. Poor Jean Louis. I really felt sorry for him. But then again, I started licking my lips at the prospect of a low-cost laptop in a few months and even an entry level multimedia machine next year.
And then I woke up ...