Jun 6, 2006

Rip. Mix. Burn in Hell.

All Mac users, until recently, were destined for Hell. If you owned or used a Macintosh, you were getting a one-way ticket to Sheol free of charge. But thanks to Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple and Mac Messiah, the Mac community maintained their grace. The dark part of the story, however, is that Jobs himself is the one who put Mac users' souls in danger to begin for the sole purpose of market share. It was Steve's gamble that made Apple what it is today, but things weren't always so sunny. And it all began during Apple's Dark Ages.

A Deal with the Devil

December 20, 1996 was a date fateful not only for Apple but also for the souls of 25 million Mac users. At this point, Apple's next-generation operating system, Copland, had fizzled and Apple purchased NeXT for its OS. Mac users and the rest of the industry waited with eager ears for news. By August of that year, it was clear: Jobs had taken back his company and was simplifying everything, focusing on the G3 and pushing Mac OS 8 through while work on a new OS derived from OPENSTEP began. Jobs slashed many projects at Apple. But, as Apple's market share had fallen to 3.3%, Jobs began new projects in the shadows. And as 1997 drew to a close, he put one of them into motion.

After weeks of meticulous planning, Jobs called an emergency board meeting. As the board members arrived, Jobs drew a magic circle and muttered in Church Latin. In a ritual that CFO Fred Anderson described as scarier than losing a billion dollars in one quarter, Jobs had summoned the Devil. Many of the board fell ill and had to leave while Jobs and Satan haggled over the future of the company, but by the end of the meeting Steve presented a three-year plan to save Apple. After thanking Satan, he flew home in his private jet. Jobs would later have to replace most of the board, now demented or ill from their encounter with the prince of darkness, with his cronies from NeXT.

First Sprouts of the Demon Seed

The first and most obvious sign of something devilish was at MacWorld Boston later that Summer. Steve Jobs announced the departure of Gil Amelio, a new board of directors, and a $500 million deal with Microsoft that featured future Microsoft Office updates. It wasn't hard to believe the Devil was behind this deal. And many in attendance at the Boston MacWorld that year said they could make out distinctly goatish features in Bill Gates's face during his address to the audience. Little did the world know how close to the truth they were.

Several months later, Apple debuted the iMac. And it was a hit. The iMac revolutionized industrial design, got Apple's feet back in the consumer market, and — most importantly — garnered massive media attention. Indeed, the iMac became a thing to remember about 1998. Within another year the iBook and the Blue & White Power Mac G3 debuted, which were also hits with their stylish looks. Satan and Jobs's plan was coming along nicely so soon and they looked ahead to newer, faster systems and in late '99 the seemingly impossible happened: Motorola had completed and released a new PowerPC core without the help of IBM.

Granted, the PowerPC G4 was just a revision of the G3, but it was groundbreaking at the time and gave Mac users a huge speed-boost and something to brag about to their Pentium II-using coworkers. But then Motorola stalled, even with the Devil working behind the scenes, and the G4 was stuck at 500 MHz for 18 months in what Mac users called The 500 MHz Fiasco. This in turned caused Apple's board to see a weakening in Satan's side of the bargain with Apple and they began to mull litigation against Satan for breach of contract.

Devil Inside

As the 500 MHz Fiasco loomed, Apple was hard at work renegotiating with Satan. Since Satan's efforts had flagged, Apple pushed for much more demanding terms the second time around: Instead of culminating in the year 2000, Satan's contract would now end in 2006 and encompass not only hardware but software as well. Apple stuck several more clauses in the dark angel's contract, several at Steve's own behest, and the two parties went back to work making the Mac the best computer platform in the world.

The first move of the new deal between Apple and the Devil was the Power Mac G4 finally moving beyond 500 MHz. Apple also released Mac OS X to the public after five years of development Hell. Mac OS X itself was riddled with daemons, minions in Satan's army that run silently in the background and provide useful functionality to the user. The most important announcement that year, however, was that of the iPod. Seemingly innocuous at the time, it would eventually extend a halo effect — a cross between Steve Jobs's Reality Distortion Field and Satan's unholy aura — that would become the most powerful weapon in Apple's arsenal.

Indeed, Apple's popular ad series at the time — the Rip. Mix. Burn. — reflected exactly what was happening behind the scenes. 2001 through 2003 were Apple and Satan's segue. Apple released Mac OS X update after Mac OS X update, each faster than the last, which was unheard of in the industry. Apple's iPod caught on like burrs in fur, and Apple debuted the iTunes Music Store, making music downloads legal for a nominal fee. Steve Jobs walked around campus with his chest out, shoulders back, as he listened to his new lucky song, INXS's Devil Inside, on his red-and-black special edition Satanic iPod. Apple's success and Satan's allotment were ripening at a fantastic rate.

Annus Diaboli?

YearMac OS XProcessor
2001v10.1PowerPC G4
2003v10.3PowerPC G5
2005v10.5PowerPC G6

Figure 1 Apple and Satan's plan for 2006.

Indeed, everything up to this point was in support of the final day of the contract, the sixth of June, 2006, by which time Apple would have released Mac OS X v10.6 and would be using IBM's PowerPC G6 in its high-end Power Macs. Thus triple-six values would be achieved and every Macintosh user on the face would be damned for all of eternity. They even had a deal where Mac users that didn't believe in a place of eternal damnation could participate in unending punishment with Apple's Mac OS X Up-To-Date program. Unbeknownst to the Devil, however, Jobs had other plans. Though wanting success for Apple, he did care for his customers.

Just as Microsoft had only been able to purchase non-voting stock in 1997, Apple's contract with Satan — the new one, rewritten after the 500 MHz Fiasco — left Jobs a lot of leeway in light of any unforeseen circumstances. And those circumstances just so happened to be leering: IBM, like Motorola before it, was failing to meet Apple's demand for faster processors, and developers and the Fortune 500 IT community complained about the yearly roll-out of new OS technologies. Jobs took his time with his one-two punch for Satan's contract and planned the next two Worldwide Developers Conferences meticulously. The first blow came at WWDC '04.

Tiger will be out in 18 months, Jobs said on June 28, 2004, cutting one piece of the Satanic jigsaw puzzle out of the picture. On this new 18-month cycle, Mac OS X v10.6 wouldn't debut until halfway through 2008! And with that the bottom began falling out of Satan's contract. A year later, at WWDC '05, Jobs dropped his other bomb, the one that would sever Satan's ties to Apple: We're switching to Intel, he announced as the world gasped. Steve had made sure a Power Mac G6 would never exist. Well, at least not publicly. And with these two announcements, Satan's chances of swallowing 25 million Mac-using souls went down the drain.

In the end, Satan had been hornswoggled by the best.

A Devil Put Aside

Since just after WWDC '05, when Apple officially cancelled Satan's contract, things have remained rosy for Apple. The transition to Intel has gone without a major slump in sales and Intel's new chip, the Core, has been a great performer. Intel's Core 2 will be even faster, unlike Mac users' experience with Motorola or IBM. Apple introduced more new iPods to acclaim and sales have gone further through the roof than ever. More TV content has come to the iTunes Music Store, and even the PC mags are starting to doubt Microsoft and laud Apple.

And all without the Devil or sacrificing your soul! It was a gamble Jobs made with our divine essences as the collateral, and it worked. (Except for Apple's lawyers, who must have some very special rooms waiting for them at Hôtel Diable.) So in the end we should be thankful, Mac users, that Jobs isn't afraid to think outside the confessional box. We owe the very success of the Mac and Apple in the 21st century to his deal with and subsequent tricking of the Trickster. Think of this every time you boot up — that startup chime could have been a chorus of demons. Instead, it's the trumpet of our salvation.

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