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On The Flip Side
by Michael Munger

The Mac Walks On Such A Tight Rope To Prosper!
June 6th, 2000

Imagine Apple as the center of a movie with Steve Jobs as well as his management team as a sleepwalker. The scenario? Take a computer platform from Point A to Point B, walking on a tight rope.

In 1984, this is exactly what Apple did. The Macintosh would live or die because of software. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, if not entirely sure of it, had this thought haunting them every single day. In a world where PCs were already spreading fast, there was little time to reverse the tide. Unfortunately, as we know, time played against Apple's eventual plans for computer domination.

Back to 1984. You are in some Apple office. I am Jobs, you are Wozniak. You ask me what we need to make this Macintosh computer platform a big thing. What if we do not want IBM and Microsoft take over everything in information technologies?

"Woz, we need strong support from developers and solid trust from investors", is what I reply.

Then, I initiate a long tirade about the future of technology, the winning strategy to conquer users. I also tell you how the aspects involved form a cycle tied to credibility.

To win developers to our cause, we have to provide them with favorable circumstances and the prospect of making money. We can only do this with a particularly sharp operating system, a bright strategy for the future and strong sales in the marketplace.

In short, these people need the assurance that they will actually sell their software to someone (read millions of adopters); they need to know where we are going; they need to know that we represent a reasonable gamble.

To drive those sales in and build up some serious revenue, we need Wall Street on our side, among other conditions. Although the financial world does not reach everybody, it has a pronounced influence on the consumer part of society. We need them to feel the excitement of a killer project that will make it big.

Once these people give us credibility, another piece of the puzzle will fall in. Success will only contribute to strengthen us in the economic arena.

Now, how do we get people to buy software from developers? We actually need users. These people have to feel that the operating system is good enough and the hardware durable enough to supply them with the perfect technology for their needs. "These people are our bread and butter, Woz!"

We will have to work hard to accomplish all of that at once or over the years! We walk on a tight rope. We have to please everybody and face competition at the same time. If we announce lower earnings sometime next year, Wall Street can take us down at any time and stain our reputation.

If we do not please to our users, how can we dream about strong hardware sales? If developers are unhappy with the state of the operating system and feel that their own Mac sales are too low, how can we keep them with us?

Did I forget to mention how the competition is ready to devour us at any time?

We have quite a challenge to face, and this is in 1984.

[Let us skip... 16 years and go straight to 2000.]

I am still Steve Jobs and I came back around three years ago. My platform has been rocking the computer world since I came back; Mac OS X is the OS of the future; there are still questions surrounding the platform's ability to go further.

Despite all the progress made, it is amazing how this company and its computer platform depend on the same conditions for success as it did so many years ago.

If developers get mad at us for the way we manage our operating system strategy, what is going to happen? If users feel unhappy about the transition to Mac OS X, can we keep them satisfied? Now that we filled the four corners of our product line, how can we keep Wall Street happy with exciting projects?

We look at the state of computer software, and although we have some variety, PCs still dominate the industry. Competition is fierce, especially when it comes to processors!

We depend on developers more than before with that new OS and we need their unconditional support to ensure a smooth shift from the classic Mac OS environment. If they disapprove of us at any moment, we are no better than dead. This would only infuriate Wall Street and consumers!


More than 20 years after its founding and 16 years after giving birth to the Macintosh, Apple and its main character, namely Steve Jobs, are still fighting for the same things: support, sales and credibility. With a certain amount of success, but with questions marks hanging over their heads.

The more things change, the more they remain the same... the tight rope movie featuring Steve Jobs as a crafty sleepwalker.

Your comments are welcomed.

Michael Munger is a French Canadian living in Montreal. He discovered the Mac in 1994 while studying journalism, the profession he loves and practices. He also studied history and communications. In addition to his work at The Mac Observer, he authors the iBasics tutorial column at Low End Mac, and cofounded MacSoldiers in 1998.

You can find more about him at his personal Web site.

You are welcome to send me your comments or you can post them below.

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