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John Sculley On Apple Today, & HyperCard Regrets

John Sculley On Apple Today, & HyperCard Regrets

by , 8:00 AM EDT, October 3rd, 2003

C|Net has published an interesting interview with former Apple CEO John Sculley. Mr. Sculley left Apple in the early 1990s after overseeing some of Apple's headiest expansion, and is somewhat credited with both the failures ad triumphs of the Newton, as well as a variety of other things beyond the scope of this article. The interview with C|Net focuses mainly on the tech industry of today from Mr. Sculley's vantage point as an investment partner with technology-oriented venture firm Sculley Brothers. The interview also touches on some specific Apple memories that we found interesting. From C|Net:

When you watch the technology field, are there any times when you say to yourself that they really got it wrong in this area, or they are hitting it on the nose?
I think the computer industry now is almost like the fax industry or printer industry, in that it has been totally commoditized. The only exception to that is what Apple has been able to do with just beautiful products, well-thought through, no compromises, great styling. And that, at least, so far has not turned into a mainstream industry. It's much more of a selective market industry. Taking an automobile analogy, it's more like a BMW selling inside of a much larger mainstream automobile industry.

Any missed opportunities that you wish you could do over?
As I look back on things that I wished we would have done differently when I was at Apple, I think one of the biggest missed opportunities, and it was on my watch, so I feel responsible and disappointed that we didn't do more with it, was Hypercard. It was created back in 1987 by Bill Atkinson, Apple's first software programmer. We could never figure out exactly what it was. We thought it was a prototyping tool. We thought it was a database tool. It was actually used by people as a front-end communications device for TCP/IP to connect the Internet to large Cray computers.

We weren't insightful enough to recognize that what we had inside of Hypercard, essentially, was everything that later was developed so successfully by Tim Berners-Lee with HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) and HTML (Hypertext Markup Language). We didn't call it that. But essentially, we had all that hypertext, radio buttons and linking capability architected in the original Hypercard. In hindsight, I wish Apple had recognized that we had a huge opportunity to go take our user interface culture, and our know-how, and applied it to the Internet. I think we would have had a very different story for Apple during the 1990s. But that, of course, is hindsight.

There's a lot more in the full interview at C|Net's Web site, and we recommend it as an interesting read.

The Mac Observer Spin:

We spoke to Mr. Sculley at last month's AppleLore event, and he told us in an interview something similar about Apple of today:

Apple is alone again, this time with the same first principles that Steve Jobs created when he created the company, which is to think about the people who are going to use the machines, and not just the bits and bytes and the power of the technology itself.

That quote didn't make it into the TMO story on AppleLore, but is included in a broader story that will be in an upcoming issue of the UK magazine MacFormat.

We also found the regret expressed by Mr. Sculley in the C|Net interview to be very interesting. He's certainly right that the technology had all the earmarks of what would become the Internet, and failing to recognize that may well be one of those pivotal moments on which Apple didn't turn. It's an interesting thought.

For those who don't know, HyperCard is still used today by many people, despite the fact that Apple largely abandoned it years ago. Former Apple COO Del Yocam, for instance, told us at AppleLore that he still manages his old contact database in a HyperCard stack on an old Quadra, and there are many teachers and businesses that also have HyperCard software that they use on a daily basis.

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