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June 13th, 2000

[3:30 PM] Former Apple VP Jean Louis Gassée Publicly Slams Bill Gates
by Bryan Chaffin

One of the most colorful figures in Apple's past has got to be Jean-Louis Gassée, perhaps even more so than the inimitable Steve Jobs. Mr. Gassée rose to prominence in Apple's US operations after Mr. Jobs was summarily booted by John Sculley in 1985, where he eventually took control over effectively all product development and production. Mr. Gassée eventually lost power at Apple as well and went on to found Be, Inc., a company that made its own computers and still makes its own operating system.

Mr. Gassée has always been known for his style and flash (for instance, he often wore leather pants while at Apple), as well as his penchant for being outspoken. Wired Magazine published an article on June 10th with quotes from Mr. Gassée about Bill Gates as an innovator. It is our opinion that Mr. Gassée has hit the nail on the head. According to Wired:

"I'd be the last one to say that Microsoft makes shitty software, but ... they have not made one significant innovation -- not one," said Jean-Louis Gassée, who headed up Apple Computer's research and design in the 1980s before moving on to found Be Inc., which developed the BeOS PC operating system. The software has since been refocused on the Internet appliance market.

Gassée said he's known Gates personally for nine years, considers him smart -- and innovative -- but only when it comes to legal matters and drafting intimidating contracts with PC manufacturers. As a technology developer, Microsoft has never had the company culture that has fostered innovation at competitors like Gassée's former employer, Apple. Innovation simply hasn't been part of Microsoft's progress as a company, Gassée said.

The result is obvious: less successful breakthroughs in the PC software marketplace. "It's pretty clear that if for the last five years customers had real operating systems and real application choices, everything would be better, faster, cleaner, more reliable, and cheaper," Gassée said.

There is a lot more information on this issue in the full Wired article, and we recommend it as a very good read. Thanks to Macworld UK for bringing this piece to our attention. You can find more information on Be at their Web site.

The Mac Observer Spin [From The Editor]: I have been a fan of Mr. Gassée's for many years, though not because he played the most pivotal role in keeping Apple from licensing the Mac OS in the late 80's and early 90's. Mr. Gassée shoots straight and seems to have little time for unnecessary niceties. He once replied to an e-mail I sent to Be entitled "A shotgun wedding is in order" encouraging them to pursue a buyout from Apple with a note that said "Let's hope they bring the right ammunition." This was in reference to Apple offering enough money to make Mr. Gassée happy, a strategy that eventually failed as Apple bought NeXT and the rest is history. In the meanwhile, Kudos to him for calling a spade a spade when it comes to Mr. Gates.

As we have said several times at The Mac Observer that Microsoft's attempts to claim they are innovators is beyond ridiculous (see "Freedom To Innovate? What A Load Of Bull!"). I am still not clear whether they actually believe that they are innovators or whether they simply think that by repeating it often and loud enough will get others to believe it. In any event, I have certainly heard enough mindless bonehead guests on CNBC repeat it that it would seem that the strategy works. However, this still does not make it true.

Microsoft has done more to stifle innovation and harm the computer industry than any other company or monopoly in any other industry. This company needs to learn to compete on the basis of their merits and not their monopoly power.

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