Who should be thanked for the return of Mr. Jobs to Apple?

Who should be thanked for the return of Mr. Jobs to Apple?

Summary: Microsoft is touting its Singularity OS, a fresh, built-from-scratch, non-Windows OS and in the past, Apple tried out similar efforts. But for its next-generation OS, Apple looked outside the company to choose between a built-from-scratch OS and Unix. And then there was Steve Jobs.

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Who should be thanked for the return of Mr. Jobs to Apple?News of Singularity, a non-Windows operating system from Microsoft, sparked my interest in OSes past and present. It got me thumbing though the back issues of MacWEEK for memories of OSes that were built from scratch and now forgotten. But in the research, I found some ironic gold regarding NeXTstep, the foundation of what became Mac OS X, and the return of Steve Jobs to Apple.

Microsoft's "proof-of-concept" Singularity OS was introduced at its annual Research Techfest in Redmond. According to Mary Jo Foley, it's being offered to computer science departments.

Singularity is an operating system and set of related tools and libraries that is developed completely in managed code. Singularity is not based on Windows; it was written from scratch as a proof-of-concept.

“We decided not to build operating systems that are built on technologies that are 30 years old,” said Principal Researcher Galen Hunt.

Ouch. Tough talk for someone inside Microsoft. But my guess is that Hunt is talking about Unix and not just Windows, so the shot may pass muster with the corporate communications dept. on the Redmond campus.

Now, Apple has plenty of experience in the OS research area. Back in the late 1980s, a group of its programmers got together and brainstormed ideas for a new OS, some that could be grafted onto the existing Mac OS core and others that were more difficult, requiring a whole new kernel and OS. The ideas were put on pink and blue cards, with the former being the tougher set. This was the origin of Project Pink, and the Blue Meanies, the team that pushed forward System 7.

In 1992, Apple and IBM (and Motorola) formed an alliance to create a RISC processor, reference hardware for that chip and operating systems that would run on it. Around the time of that deal, Pink and its development team were shipped out to a new Apple-IBM company called Taligent, which was to develop the future Mac OS and replace OS/2 on the IBM side.

We should note that Pink/Taligent was aimed at the next-generation Microsoft OS, also built from scratch, called Cairo. (Remember that?) It was also aimed at NeXT, which offered its NeXTstep-based workstations.

Of course, Taligent's directions and visions were changed on a quarterly basis. And then there were delays upon delays. The system was to offer Personalities, modules that would run Mac OS and OS/2 applications. The object environment used a graphical interface called "People, Places and Things."

And as one might image, there was a bit of a cultural gap between the Apple and IBM coders and marketing execs. Taligent was headed by then IBM exec. Joe Guglielmi, who had been the general manager of marketing and biz dev for the IBM PC.

Then there was the chutzpah. In a MacWEEK story from the 1994 PC Expo in New York, Taligent executives touted the alpha version of the Taligent Application Environment, which would let developers develop apps for OS/2, AIX and HP-UX.

According to Guglielmi, IS managers and independent software vendors need to take a close look at Taligent as their next-generation operating system. "If they think they're going to simply drift from Windows to Chicago, they're wrong," he said.

Right. Big talk for an alpha product. History shows that the ISVs and IT managers did mostly drift to Chicago, the code name for Windows 95.

So, where's the irony already?

In early 1993, NeXT gave up its hardware strategy and sold its workstation designs to Canon. The company, headed by Steve Jobs, would offer its OS and object-oriented application design environment to Intel PCs.

In a guest editorial at the time, Jean-Louis Gassee, the former chief of Apple's product development and worldwide marketing groups, looked at the prospects for NeXT. Gassee had in 1991 started a company called Be Inc. that aimed to create a new OS from scratch. It would be called the BeOS and ran on a multiprocessor machine offered by the company.

Later development work ported BeOS over to the Macintosh. In 1996, Gassee was in serious negotiations with Apple about becoming the next-generation version of the Mac platform. Apple had given up on Taligent and Copland, its later in-house effort.

In the MacWEEK piece, Gassee ran down the challenges to NeXTstep and for Jobs.

Steve Jobs just called it quits in the hardware business, choosing instead to focus on becoming, in his words, the Avis of system software, with "you know who" being Hertz.

It would be premature to count Jobs out after this unpleasantness. We are dealing with a master of persuasion. And there is evidence that this master, freed from his beloved black cube, is eager to play the next round.

Gassee said the enterprise market was looking towards commoditization of hardware and software.

The strategy requires a sharper focus for NeXTstep: custom development of mission-critical networked applications. This skillfully positions NeXT away from the big general-purpose players such as Windows NT, Solaris or Univel. In fact, this is the area where NeXT has encountered some success with information-systems departments anxious to develop applications but unwilling to face the challenges associated with hard-core Mac or Windows applications programming.

It looks good: Play on your strengths, exploit the IBM PC clone momentum instead of fighting it, and stay away from the big guys.

At the bottom of the piece, I found this gold:

An even more sacrilegious thought: Imagine Jobs calling Messrs Sculley and Cannavino and offering NeXTstep as an alternative to Pink. Just in case. Freed from the responsibility of selling boxes (transferred to Canon Inc. after it invested an estimated $220 million in NeXT), almost anything is possible with the newly emancipated Mr. Jobs.

Calling Steve resourceful and persuasive is probably like calling Houdini agile. All of us who are in his debt hope he'll escape the water trap one more time - assuming he realizes there is a difference between a magic show and the computer business.

Holy cow! Could he have imagined that in about 3.5 years from that issue date, Gassee himself would be negotiating with Apple on its next-generation OS?

In 1993, John Sculley was Apple CEO and Jim Cannavino was IBM's chief strategist. Could someone have remembered those words and pointed them out to someone inside Apple who passed on Gassee's smart words about Steve Jobs and NeXT? Or perhaps there was a pile of old issues of MacWEEK in the bathroom outside the board room in Cupertino? It could happen in the days of hardcopy content.

In late 1996, everyone outside CEO Gil Amelio and the cadre in Apple's top executive suite thought BeOS was a done deal. In fact, the drafts of MacWEEK's year-end editorial package and timelines included the "fact" that BeOS would be introduced at the upcoming Macworld Expo in San Francisco.

Even Gassee thought it was a done deal. All that was needed was to move Apple's offer up a few hundred million dollars. But Apple wouldn't budge.

However, Ellen Hancock in the fall was steered over to NeXT and the rest is history. The announcement was made in the weeks before the Expo, which thankfully, left MacWEEK some hours to tear apart the content and art and make it right before the section needed to be sent to the printer. (I was in charge of the package, so I remember well the day.)

Jobs came in and the great reorganization and purges began. And the next-generation of Mac OS with that long-in-the-tooth Unix stuff.

Topics: Operating Systems, Apple, CXO, Hardware, IBM, Microsoft, Software, IT Employment

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11 comments
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  • So far ahead...

    Two different experiences ... the first was going to MS campus in 1994 to view MSN dev tools (for MSN), when asked "what about the Internet" the MS suits would say, that's nothing, we're after AOL and MSN is going to crush AOL...

    In 1995 Macworld ran a question: what advice would you give to a flailing Apple... I had recently read an article about how when Oracle was going downhill Ellison hired a consultant who told him to fire the board and start anew... I sent Macworld my response: "fire the board and find that consultant, and where is a Jobs when you need one?" -- they fired the board and found Steve. The rest is history.
    kkrimmer@...
  • History re-writing...

    Of course Ziff-Davis (back then kindly referred to as "Ziff-Gates" due to its pro-Windows stance had NOTHING to do with the peddling of "Vaporware" and the mentions of "Windows 4.0 sneak peeks" or "Chicago!" on the covers, one year and a half before Windows 95 actually shipped....
    berlindsucks
  • RE: Who should be thanked for the return of Mr. Jobs to Apple?

    Bill Gates
    miaxapa
    • That's true. Indeed - he is the ONE.

      NeXT, let's say politely, was useless for Apple - it was not compatible with the Apple platform, but BeOS.

      BeOS was 4 times faster that NeXT.

      BeOS can't print? But First OS X also could not print!

      How good OS X now? Let's skip too buggy Mac OS 10.5 and take a look on 10.4

      If you run a Intel iMac with 2 GB RAM for several month or more - you can make a test:

      Turn on your iMac and check the remaining RAM - don't be surprised - it has less that 1GB available (just OS X).

      Now turn on several applications like FireFox, Photoshop, ... and work with them for 10 minutes. Close them and check the available RAM. Guess what - you have around [b]25 GB RAM[/b] available (do not forget - no apps are running and that the total RAM - 2GB).

      It means that you cannot run e.g. Apple's Logic Pro until you'll restart your iMac.

      It also means, that if you believe that with e.g. Parallels you can have the best of the two worlds - [b]you are deeply mistaken[/b]. Yes, you can run relatively smoothly IE and MS Word, but not serious applications, DOOM-alike games, etc.

      What I'm smoking about?

      The bottom line - NeXT (OS X) vs. BeOS was an inferior OS and due to this it cannot be taken by sane people. But the fact - it was taken means that other factors were involved.

      The main factor - BeOS was the only real danger to MS monopoly and, therefore, the dream of MS is to kill BeOS without being punished for it (I mean dirty killing).

      Second factor - Gates and Jobs were secret friends for decades (see the links at the bottom).

      Other factors I'll skip to make it simple.

      [b]According to logic what MS had done:[/b]
      It made a deal with Apple - Apple takes Jobs with NeXT and MS (Bill Gates) will let Apple live and will port MS application on Mac. Actually due to this deal, Apple becomes a part of MS. Thus, Apple had no choice as to find an excuse not to buy the superior to the NeXT BeOS. Apple did it professionally.

      At the same time another deal was made with Palm - it buys BeOS and will never use it.

      For the rest of the world it looks like BeOS had died by natural cause, when it was not. As you see monopoly is good, isn't it?

      That's a short explanation for your conclusion:

      "Who should be thanked for the return of Mr. Jobs to Apple?"
      "Bill Gates."

      Now Linux is in danger too. Guess, what tactics Bill Gates and his Co. use to kill Linux?

      The links about Gates-Jobs .... (?):
      http://d5.allthingsd.com/20070530/steve-jobs-and-bill-gates-together-part-1-of-7/

      and read:
      Jobs: "We?ve kept our marriage secret for over a decade". Guess what is the reason
      http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=5214
      Just_true
      • what the heck are you talking about?

        the memory issues you're citing in OSX don't exist.
        lostarchitect
        • Actually, I'm talking about dirty Gates-Jobs alliance.

          You probably, did not notice it. By the way - you wrote:

          "[i]the memory issues you're citing in OSX don't exist[/i]"

          If you would read my post without Steve's "pink glasses" - you would notice, that the memory issues doesn't exist only on the BRAND-NEW Mac. The longer you use your Mac - the worse its memory ...

          That's why I proposed to test a Mac after several month of use.
          Do you know how many Macs I tested before this post?

          It seems, you, lostarchitect, change your Mac each week... if you do not have memory issues.
          Just_true
          • I'm looking at a G5 imac right now

            It runs 10.4, upgraded from original 3, and has 1.5 gigs of RAM.

            Indesign, illustrator, photoshop, acrobat pro, firefox, entourage, preview, and word are up That's the norm.

            It shows 741 gigs of ram free. You obviously don't understand how OSX gives up memory from an inactive app to and active one (see active/inactive in Activity monitor) when necessary.

            We run a small fleet of G4 powermacs, G5 imacs and G4 emacs, most using 10.3. None has more than 1.5 gigs of ram none has ever had a bog down or app quit due to memory usage,
            j.m.galvin
          • But you didn't try Logic Pro ... after ...

            Can you pay attention to what you read?

            Do you have Parallels?
            Just_true
          • If you don't have Logic Pro - try GarageBand. Why?

            In the described situation, GarageBand cannot handle even a [b]single midi track[/b] - it gives the error message - "Too many tracks ..."

            Rebooting solves the problem.

            Thus, is Mac OSX a superior OS or not yet? The above mentioned memory problems won't be an issue if Apple would take BeOS. But, unfortunately, there are enough reasons to say, that Bill Gates is the ONE who did not let Apple to go with the superior OS.
            Just_true
      • nothing you have said

        has even remotely made any sense or even came close to making a rational or complete thought. People are now dumber for having read it. I award you no points, and may god have mercy on your soul.
        Snooki_smoosh_smoosh
  • The MS Corporate Communications Dept.

    [?We decided not to build operating systems that are built
    on technologies that are 30 years old,? said Principal
    Researcher Galen Hunt.]

    "Ouch. Tough talk for someone inside Microsoft. But my
    guess is that Hunt is talking about Unix and not just
    Windows, so the shot may pass muster with the corporate
    communications dept. on the Redmond campus."

    So, 'Corporate Communications Dept." is what Microsoft
    calls their vast propaganda apparatus. I was curious about
    what biz euphemism they would use. At least it's not as
    ominous sounding as the Scientology "Office of Special
    Investigations". And at least Microsoft gives you real virtual
    guns, and real virtual aliens to kill.
    zato_3@...