Saturday, December 21, 1996 by Dave Winer.
It was not great theater last night, it was great cash-out.
Jobs is calm, taking a sideline position at Apple, selling his Next investment, at a very substantial profit, it seems. He's a winner. He isn't investing.
Steve can be a spectator. If his operating system fails to attract large numbers of developers, he can blame it on the times, or on Microsoft, or on Apple. He comes out a winner no matter what the outcome.
So Jobs has a job and a bunch of cash. Good for him. I really mean that.
Now, what about the rest of us?
It's uncertain if there will continue to be a Macintosh. There will be a new operating system. It positions all software made for Apple hardware as being Legacy, which is another way of saying Obsolete.
Apple gets to start all over. The developers may start over too. Will they? It seems unlikely. With many developers, I believe NextStep will suffer the same fate as OpenDoc. A decent idea, at a technical level, floated by a company that very few want to follow.
Will current Mac hardware run the new operating system?
Amazingly, it's not clear. The question was asked at last night's press conference, but it was not answered. So, if you're thinking about buying a Macintosh this weekend, consider holding off until you get assurance from Apple management that it's committed to offering a smooth economic ride to its users.
And even then, you should take the promises with a grain of salt. Apple's track record in preserving its customers investment in hardware is spotty. They make money selling hardware, so have limited incentive to bring the old stuff along.
The Macintosh you buy today could be a lame duck, or "an elected official whose term extends beyond the time of the election at which he was not reelected."
I wonder if Amelio and his team have heard of a company called Osborne that disappeared overnight because they got too excited about a future that was too far off?
I'd like to feel good about building systems around Macintoshes, but I don't. Apple finally lost me. What an awful place to be, wanting to invest, but being undermined by the company that stands to gain the most from that investment.
Today I view the Mac platform as a proving ground for new ideas, but not a safe place to introduce commercial software products for customers who deserve assurance that their use of my software has a future. Ask Apple, I must say to my users, if you want to be sure about the future. I can't provide you any assurance.
I try to imagine what Microsoft's reponse will be. They make a suite of applications for the Macintosh OS called Microsoft Office. Will they commit to converting this suite to run under NextStep?
I imagine that Adobe, which already has an investment in the Next OS (it's built on Display Postscript), views this as very good news, and that you will see Adobe products proudly ported to the new system.
It was the belief that something like this could happen that prompted me to switch strategies this summer and devote all our attention to going cross-platform with our web development tools.
After I finish this piece I'll spend the rest of the day working on Frontier 4.2 for the Mac. The ideas are portable. We're moving to Microsoft's OS, not Next's. If Apple wants to take advantage of our innovations, and the work of others, they must get a convincing story in place quickly.
Amelio wants to push the story out to early January, perhaps missing the point that developers need to get their stories together too, and further, that reporters are calling right now, and asking what we think, and what we're doing.
With all the confusion in the Mac business, it seems that Apple execs must cancel their holiday plans, and get to work to figure out what's going on, and then communicate it.
PS: As reports appear elsewhere on the web, I'll point to them from my "News & Updates" page. Add that page to your bookmarks if you want to follow this story. And if you post a story, send me a pointer. Thanks!