[NTLK] End of year reflections

James Fraser wheresthatistanbul-newtontalk at yahoo.com
Wed Jan 2 19:46:11 EST 2013


--- On Mon, 12/31/12, Lord Groundhog <lordgroundhog at gmail.com> wrote:

> It shows Jobs describing the eMate as having a bright future
> and the latest MessagePad (the beloved MP2100) as selling briskly even
> though it was more expensive and potentially more limited.   He
> even ended with what sounds like a promise:
>> Don't worry - we are pulling this group back into Apple so
>> that we can invest even more sales and marketing
>> resources into these products, rather than dumping the products
>> into a small spin-off which lacks such resources.

It might be helpful to put the above into some sort of context:


(The relevant portion is under "The Newton Protest and Letting Go")

The text you quoted was from an email between Steve Jobs and (in relative terms, at least) "some guy."  Yes, at the time Adam Tow was president of the Newton Developer's Association and my remark is -not- intended to belittle him (compared to Adam Tow and his many and valuable contributions to the Newton community, I am just "some guy," a mere pimple on Adam Tow's left buttock, really, and I am fully conscious of that).  

I'm only attempting to point out that Adam was not exchanging emails with Steve Jobs as part of any sort of formal media interview (or follow-up to one). They appear (to me, at least) to be simply two guys chatting via email.  

Once Steve Jobs made the decision to give the Newon the heave-ho, Adam's position as president of the Newton Developer's Association would, I would guess, suddenly mean a whole lot less to SJ than it did when Adam was heading up a group of developers who were developing software for a living, breathing platform that was making Apple at least -some- money at a time when they needed every dime they could get.  

However, once Steve made his choice, Adam and the rest of the Newton developers were instant nonentities.  The immorality of treating people like dirt aside, that's how it works in the corporate world.

(Again, no disrespect to Adam intended.  For completeness' sake, I am taking it as read that SJ even -knew- that Adam was president of the NDA when he was talking to him.  Something that, reading Adam's own account, I see no distinct evidence for [or against, for that matter]).

Once you're informed of the backstory behind the exchange, you then become aware that Adam got a response to his original email because of the unusual, eye-catching subject line he chose and the fact that he had a brief-but-memorable personal encounter with Steve Jobs. 

Where am I trying to go with this?  When companies (or heads of companies) have something to say officially to the media (i.e. are talking "on the record"), they tend to do their talking either at some sort of conference that they themselves have put together beforehand (e.g. Macworld) or they communicate via a well-thought-out (or even an ill-thought-out) press release.  


However they choose to do it, exactly, everyone present is clear that what is being said is on the record.

The point being that, while the correspondence between Adam Tow and Steve Jobs is noteworthy, certainly... 

(Speaking for myself, were I in the Adam Tow role, I would have printed the email out, had it emblazoned on a t-shirt, and then I would NEVER TAKE OFF that shirt.  No, not ever.)

...it might be stretching things a tad to weight it with the same importance one would give to one of Steve Jobs' keynote speeches or an Apple press release.  

I say  "might" because I'm not going to kid myself that my judgment in these sorts of matters is any better than yours.  I'm only saying that, given the context and the circumstances surrounding the email, I myself would be hesitant to attach any more importance to it than I would any other form of so-called casual correspondence.

So while what Steve Jobs said might well have *seemed* like a promise (I won't attempt to make any claims about he did or didn't mean to say), once you take the context into consideration, the weight of his words might not seem quite so imposing.  I can't say for sure, exactly.  

I'm only asking that you sit back for a moment and consider the possibility that Steve wasn't viewing what he was saying as any sort of long-term commitment, but only as how he was seeing things at that particular moment in time during a casual chat with someone whom he hardly knew and who wasn't (at least as far as I can tell) acting in any sort of media representative role at the time.

> Yet we know that what really happened is that he drew both
> products close, kissed them on the cheek, slipped red carnations into 
>their lapels and sent them to swim with the fishes.

That's true.  It's also true that carrying out that kind of onerous (joyful?) task is exactly the sort of thing that CEOs get paid big money (or, in Jobs' case, got pig-chokingly large stock options) to do.  

Please let's not kid ourselves here.  CEOs are there to do one thing: enhance shareholder value.  If they can do so and look cool while doing it, great.  If not, that's okay, too: they either carry out their primary task effectively or the board replaces them in exactly the same way that Apple's board had replaced Steve Jobs with John Sculley years earlier when they (correctly) divined that SJ had temporarily forgotten what he was there for and needed to be replaced by someone who needed no such reminding.

Say what you like about John Sculley (and who doesn't?), Apple grew from an $800 million dollar company under his guidance to an $8 billion dollar one.  Why was he eventually forced out himself?  Simple: the stock had started to decline (that irksome shareholder value thing rearing its ugly head again).

>What was the thought process behind this change of heart?   

Perhaps more to the point: was this decision a net benefit?  Or a net detriment?  Whether it was one or the other depends, perhaps, on how you choose to view it.  In my own (likely demented; I make no claims otherwise) case, I happen to view it as a win-win all around.

Meaning that, on the one hand, Apple was able to take the engineers and money they were sinking into the Newton and redirect that effort and money elsewhere.  On the other, a bunch of hardware and software geeks on a certain forum somewhere (naming no names) were, in practical terms, handed a piece of extraordinary hardware by Apple and told (again, in practical terms), "Here, we don't want this any more.  You take it!"

When you stop and think about it, Steve Jobs jailbroke the Newton.  In fact, he was -so- ahead of his time in that respect that he jailbroke it nearly a decade before the term "jailbreak" was ever applied to electronic devices.

That's the kind of visionary he was. ¬_¬

In short, it's possible to view Steve's giving the Newton the axe as either a heinous crime, or the unwitting jailbreaking of a device that still causes hearts to flutter* more than a decade after it was officially "dead."

And, who knows?  With the strenuous exertions of Matthias M. (assisted by Frank G., Steven F., and others) to make Einstein all it can be, the Newton platform might -still- be causing hearts to flutter in 2023.  Who can say for sure?  Not me, certainly.

>I guess we're waiting for more correspondence to emerge.

Honestly, with less than eight weeks to go until the 15th anniversary of the Newton being jailbro^dub^dub^dub axed, I would be very surprised if we were to get any fresh perspectives on the matter at this point.

(I just need you to skip over the text found within these parenthesis because this is the bit where I admit to being surprised all the time.) :D

Anyway, it's a new year, and the beginning of each year is a good time to look forward in anticipation of coming events rather than backward at a past that is irrevocable and cannot be changed (as much as we might wish to do so).

For myself, even if the only "contribution" I can realistically hope to make here is gawping and clapping at the efforts of others from the view of the nosebleed seats (and when I say "others," I am of course referring to the folks wearing those fancy-dan lace up shoes as opposed to the EZ-tie velcro jobs I myself am currently sporting), I look forward to the opportunities that the new year will afford me to gawp and clap as best I can. 

(Though I expect to have to gawp and clap alternately rather than at the same time.  No point in getting ahead of myself, is there?)


James Fraser

*Well, one heart, at least.  I know that whenever -I- come across anything Newton-related I haven't seen before, I get all excited and have to have a lie-down.  Naturally, no one else here goes through such a "phase" on a regular basis (it's the sort of thing best kept to one's self, really).

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