Tales from Apple’s other corporate campus

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From Steven Levy’s Oral History of Apple’s Infinite Loop, posted Sunday on Wired.com:

 

For more than a year I’ve been interviewing Apple employees, past and present, about their recollections of Infinite Loop. In their own words, edited for clarity and concision, here is the story of a plot of land in Cupertino, California, that brought us the Mac revival, the iPod, iTunes, the iPhone, and the Steve Jobs legacy.

John Sculley (Apple CEO, 1983–93): When I first started working with Steve Jobs, he had this idea of building an Apple campus. Steve called it SuperSite. He wanted something like the experience of going to Disney World, with monorails going around, where everyone was in different-colored uniforms. When Steve told the Mac group that he wanted to have uniforms, they all looked at him like he was crazy…

Scott Forstall (SVP of software, 1997–2012): Those buildings were mazes. Every time I would bring someone on campus, they would get lost. There’s only one time I remember someone not getting lost, and it was when we were working on a screen reader for sight-challenged people. I brought someone in who needed a seeing-eye dog. He asked to use the restroom. Every other time this happened, I would wait because they would get lost trying to find their way back. Left, right, left, right, right. Five minutes later his dog brings him right back into the room. That seeing-eye dog was the only one who knew his way around the very first time…

Shaan Pruden (senior director, partnership management, 1989–present): It was Friday night before the 1996 Christmas holiday, and a friend of mine called me and said, “Don’t go home today without talking to me.” Four-thirty comes around, and he says, “Oh, you might as well go. Nothing’s going to happen.” Half an hour later, he told me to get back in here. Outside of Town Hall [the auditorium in IL4], I could recognize all the guys from the San Jose Mercury News—this event was meant for the press and not many Apple people were there. Our chief legal counsel goes to the podium and says, “Ladies and gentlemen, we’re here to announce that Apple Computer has acquired NeXT and I’d like to introduce Gil Amelio and Steve Jobs.” They came down the far aisle and I thought two things, “I am watching history right now” and “Oh my God! We’re saved!”…

Jon Rubinstein (SVP hardware engineering, 1997-2006): When the NeXT deal closed, we walked into this insane asylum with Gil Amelio and his staff. Fortunately, Fred Anderson was there. But the rest of them were nuts. It was really crazy. We started downsizing dramatically… Fred was interim CEO for July, August, and part of September. And then Steve stepped into the interim CEO roll to help hire a CEO for Apple. We interviewed a whole bunch of people, and Steve didn’t like any of them. And so he continued to do the job himself…

Phil Schiller (SVP worldwide marketing, 1987–present): Things were so different then—there were no cell phones, not even Wi-Fi. We didn’t get all our news on the internet yet, so the drop of magazines was a big deal to everybody. Somebody would go around with the mail cart of everybody’s magazines, and we’d get our Macworlds and MacWEEKs and look at the rumor column on the back page and say, “Uh, oh, what leaked?”…

Forstall: Whenever I ate with Steve, he insisted on paying for me, which I thought was a little odd. Even if we went in together and he selected something quick like premade sushi, and I ordered a pizza in the wood-burning pizza oven, he would wait for me at the cash register for 10, 15 minutes. I felt so awkward. Finally, I told him. “Seriously, I can pay for myself, so please don’t stand there and wait for me.” He said, “Scott, you don’t understand. You know how we pay by swiping your badge and then it’s deducted from your salary? I only get paid a dollar year! Every time I swipe we get a free meal!” Here was this multibillionaire putting one over on the company he founded, a few dollars at a time…

Tim Cook (Apple CEO, 1998–present): It was an awful time. The stock crashed, it goes down by 60 to 70 percent. We get a call from Ted Waitt, founder of Gateway. He wants to talk about acquiring Apple. Steve and I went to a meeting with Waitt and their CEO, and it’s a different Steve. Very calm, listening to the comments they made, how they’d probably keep the Apple brand. I was sitting there feeling like my organs were being cut out. Then they said maybe they could come up with a role for Steve, and I’m thinking—he’s going to blow! He’s going to blow any minute! Then they start talking about price. And Steve looks at them—he could look at you with eyes that just penetrated your soul—and says, “Who do you think is worth more, Apple or Gateway?” The meeting lasted only two or three minutes more. And in a few weeks they had some accounting scandal, and their stock crashed.

Forstall: Soon after Apple bought land for the new campus, Steve and I walked around the property to get a feel for it. I expected Steve to be happy. But he was melancholy. He explained why as we passed a deserted building on the property and saw an old Hewlett-Packard sign. Apple had purchased the land from HP, which had been one of the most storied companies in the history of Silicon Valley, started by two legendary founders. Steve looked at the building. “Eventually everything comes to an end,” he said. We looked at each other for a few moments, then walked on.

My take: Lots more where this came from. Great read.