What it was like to cover Jobs and Apple
Adam Lashinsky, a senior editor at large at Fortune magazine, writes about covering Apple and Steve Jobs when he returned to the company in the late 1990s.
Lashinsky writes, “I arrived at the San Jose Mercury News in June, 1997, to start a new column on technology stocks for what was the newspaper of record for the IT industry. The Merc’s business staff was full of journalists who were passionate about technology, but none who quite shared my interest in finance. I would be the ‘Wall Street guy’ paying attention to quickly growing tech companies.
“In fact, it was hemorrhaging money. Then CEO Gil Amelio, a former chip executive at National Semiconductor, got the boot in July of that summer. More importantly, in September Apple announced that Microsoft would invest $150 million in Apple and promise to continue developing Office for the Macintosh. This was front-page news and the source of intense discussion. My reaction: yawn. I tried making the case that Apple wasn’t that important anymore, and that this was more of a PR stunt for the truly important company in the industry at the time, Microsoft.
“I was shouted down in San Jose, of course. But looking back I realize that my viewpoint was consistent with the rest of the world’s. Apple was in one business, computers, and its share was small. Most people didn’t have an Apple product in their home. Steve Jobs was still a hot topic in the tech industry, but at that point he was old news elsewhere. Bill Gates was the brilliant visionary who combined technical chops with business savvy.
“The shift from doormat to dominant was slow, and my personal-use habits mirrored the transformation of Apple in the eyes of average consumers. In hindsight, music first led me into the Apple-verse. I got an iTunes account and bought an iPod. Later I got an iPod Touch, eventually, I acquired my first home computer in years — as opposed to using my work-issued laptop — and it was an iMac. Of course, an iPad followed. My behavior was in line with everyone else now, and by everyone else, I mean people outside Silicon Valley. Whereas in 1997 few homes had an Apple product, today there are few that don’t.”
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