Friday, November 30, 2007

How Woz Saved the Mac AND Windows AND Linux?

You usually think of Steve Wozniak as the Apple II guy, but Kevin Burton's New FeedBlog links to a Skrentablog story that indicates that Wozniak may have saved the Macintosh, and with it all graphical-based computer operating systems, including the operating system that you're using to read this right now.

From Tom Hornby:

[Steve] Jobs wanted a blockbuster for his product. Chiat/Day's copywriter and art director, Steve Hayden and Brent Thomas, created a tentative storyboard to present to the newly installed John Sculley for approval. The storyboard featured hundreds of men listening to Big Brother on a huge screen delivering a speech on the virtues of censorship. In mid-speech, a model runs into the room and destroys the screen with a baseball bat, freeing the men from Big Brother's grasp.

Steve Jobs was thrilled with the commercial. He thought that it would generate a buzz for the Macintosh without even featuring the product itself.

Sculley, the creator of the Pepsi Challenge and Pepsi Generation while he was VP at PepsiCola (PepsiCo's beverage wing), disliked the ad, but was willing to defer to Jobs. The ad was approved, and Chiat/Day was told to buy the airtime during SuperBowl XVIII....

The ad was the pride of the entire agency. They were confident that 1984 would generate a tremendous interest in not only the Macintosh, but all Apple products.

Unfortunately, Apple's board didn't concur. When the board was shown the ad, cofounder Mike Markula suggested that Apple drop Chiat/Day altogether. The rest of the board was not impressed either.

Sculley was discouraged by the board's reaction and asked Chiat/Day to sell back both the timeslots to CBS (the commercial was to air uncut during a minute spot, and an abreviated version would be aired during a thirty second spot). If a buyer could not be found, Manuals would be run instead. Chiat/Day defied Sculley and only sold the thirty second spot.

Steve Wozniak, who was still friends with Jobs at the time, heard about the board's refusal to support the ad from Jobs, who also showed it to him. Wozniak loved the ad and offered to pay for the spot personally if Jobs was unable to get Apple to air the ad.

When Jobs told Sculley of Wozniak's support, he gave the decision to marketing manager, Bill Campbell (future CEO of Intuit), who loved the ad....

Skrentablog sums things up:

Amazing. The ad agency ignores the CEO's instructions, and Woz the founder steps in to offer to pay for the ad out of his own pocket if they don't run it. That's so cool...

Popular history remembers successful efforts being destined for greatness from the start. But there's usually a messier story behind the scenes.

Indeed. And what if Apple had run the other ad instead - the one that featured the difference in the number of manuals? I suspect that the Macintosh would have become another Lisa - a nice little peripheral player in the computer landscape, but nothing to write home about. "1984" gave Apple the first big push to get the Mac out the door, buying it time until improved Mac computers and software (remember the all-important phrase "desktop publishing"?) could enter the market, and literally change the computer hardware and software industry as we know it.

Without 1984, we probably would have had some form of Microsoft Windows, but we may not have had Microsoft Office, and we may still be saving our work on 5 1/4" floppy disks.

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