Amelio on Competition
Tuesday, August 26, 1997 by Dave Winer.
Gil Amelio, email@example.com, is the former CEO of Apple Computer.
As if in reply to my Apple Avoids Competition, 8/23/97, reading an interview with Amelio yesterday, I was struck by one thing -- he and I have reached the same conclusion at pretty much the same time.
After years of struggling with Apple, after microanalyzing every skirmish, now the picture is clear.
Apple has never learned the discipline of competition.
Here's a brief excerpt from the Amelio interview: "Apple is not a competitor. Apple does not know how to compete. It knows how to innovate, but it doesn't know how to compete, and they're different.
"So you have a situation where you got the innovator here, you got the competitor here, and guess what? The competitor won that because, their things are great, but in the final analysis, if you can't compete, you can't make it attractive in the marketplace, you can't have people lusting after buying it, it doesn't matter."
There was no coordination here. I haven't talked with or emailed with Amelio for months. I highly recommend reading the full interview. Search for the word "compete".
Doing some baseball browsing, I looked up the official web page for Tom Seaver, the Mets pitching ace of the late 60s and early 70s.
When it was time for Seaver to retire, in 1987, he said "There were no more competitive pitches." He went on to say "My god, it's been a beautiful career."
For him baseball was about being competitive. "Win some lose some" is a basic philosophy of sports and of business. You don't have to win every time. Even great hitters strike out more often than they hit home runs.
To me, competing is about going thru your fear of losing and realllly wanting to win.
It's as if we're from different planets. We're always shouting at Apple "Use us to win!" And they don't understand what we're saying.
Where this goes depends on how well Apple's new board members are hearing. Developers can teach Apple about competition. The world we live in is unforgivingly competitive. Luckily for Apple, Ellison and Campbell both understand competing.
Apple has always believed it must come up with all the messages. As a result they've missed the other side of the conversation. Apple directors could watch The Joy Luck Club and listen to the daughters and mothers struggling to be heard by each other. That's what it's been like in this world. Lots of talk, very little listen.
Every developer has a proposition for Apple, a deal they would love to do. That's the opportunity for System 9 -- find a way to incorporate the visions of Mac developers in the evolution of the platform.
The easiest way to do this, of course, would be to free the OS and let anyone do anything with it they want. There may be smaller steps that would accomplish a similar result.
Viewed as something independent of Apple Computer, the opportunity for the Mac OS is very simply stated as a question -- How to compete in an operating system world dominated by Windows?
Answer -- zig where they zag. Microsoft would be crazy to give away Windows. (They might do it, Microsoft is a very competitive company!) But there would be huge value in going first here. Could Apple's shareholders capture some portion of the value? As they say in Fargo, yoooo betcha!
All it takes is courage to allow things to change and realign in different ways. Please read Programmers, 5/7/97, for some ideas on how to change.
The power of a non-Microsoft operating system with lots of apps has been bottled up forever behind a wall of fear. Letting go was good for Tom Seaver (it was realistic, he realized) and it would be good for the Mac OS to give up any pretense of having cash value, since it doesn't actually have very much of that as an Apple-owned thing.
It's time to be creative, I think.