Reply from Nagel
Monday, November 14, 1994 by Dave Winer.
Dave Nagel, president of AppleSoft, has comments on my Platform is Chinese household piece, released on October 29.
You're wrong in thinking that we neither recognize the contributions of nor value our developers. We do very much on both counts. You're certainly right on the other hand in saying that we have shanked the developer program in a number of ways in the past. The gentlemen you mention certainly did their magic but I fear I contributed as well shortly after taking the "helm."
But we are working hard to fix that - and to improve the fortunes (literally) of our developers. I have been constantly on the bandwagon for the past 6 months inside AppleSoft and out on the importance of doing what we can do to make our developers successful, most recently at our three international sales meetings where I tried to rouse the field guys to get much more aggressive with helping "local" developers be successful with their products and their overall business. Of course, the best thing we could do would be to increase our marketshare - but that's a longer story (which will unfold by itself, I am sure).
We are in the process of revamping our developer programs with a view to helping the smaller developer. We also are trying to work much more closely with key large developers (the usual suspects) since their "support" for the platform is both key to success in the commercial segments and important for the press. To succeed in the platform game, it's clear that we have to deal effectively both with the trade and popular press - you can't imagine how much time this takes.
So there are a number of things we are doing - and I am very serious about this. Does it mean that I'll always do everything right by the developers? Probably not from their point of view but I am trying very hard to balance the realities of our current business model with the need to do everything possible to help the developers - both large and small - to succeed better on our platform than on the other guys.
I know that the good old guys are no longer around and from your perspective there are too often a bunch of "suits" in their place - but the world and our business is a whole lot more complex than when the pioneers were around. So... different folks, different problems, different behaviors - some for the better, some for the worst. What *does* seem to be a constant is that virtually everyone at Apple really does want to make a difference still - the culture here is still far, far from IBM-like. I just think we've lost a lot of the "major personalities" and it's created a very different feel for those our you who deal with us.
It has indeed been a very difficult transition for us over the past couple of years. Our profitability (gross margins) worse than halved in a little over a year and that factor alone created incredible pressures (quite apart from the layoff -itself a delightful experience...). Those pressures are certainly felt by our employees, virtually all of whom are working incredibly hard to make our platform a success. It's been admittedly difficult at times to keep the morale high; the employees are barraged every day with popular and trade press opinions that we're going to be crushed under the Gates steamroller (maybe if he starts spending more of his time in those old book auctions...).
And of course there are a lot of startups currently, particularly in the multimedia space, and we have an awful lot of folks targeting our employees as well. We've always had a superior workforce - it's one of the real strengths of Apple. For example, I don't know if you know but Bill opened a recruiting office in Cupertino just down the street from our R&D facility. Morale is actually pretty good now (it was certainly at a low point 6 months ago) but these things can change quickly so keeping morale high is a major goal.
So, like your Chinese family, we have and continue to change. But don't pay too much attention to the superficial changes. Despite the changes there is a certain core of the culture that's intact - there's a tremendous passion at Apple to do great products - and to be a great company. The styles are different, perhaps the pressure's greater - the go/go, indulgent 80's are over and folks here are hunkering down and getting to work without some of the flamboyance of the past.
I'm actually feeling more positive in a number of ways than I've felt for years. We have a good strategy; we have some fantastic technologies and great people; we're developing some new and aggressive marketing talent; we're working on mostly the right things; and the other side has its share of problems to look forward to in the next couple of years. And we've adjusted to our new financial model extremely well. Obviously I don't want to appear too pollyana here - success is certainly not guaranteed. But I truly think we are better situated to do so than we've been in years. And I can guarantee you it's going to be as exciting as hell the next couple of years!
Thanks for the comments, Dave!