I was reminded by John Gruber that today was the day Apple acquired Next and with it the return of Steve Jobs started.
Back then I had kinda assumed that Apple was going to die and had already invested some amount of money buying a Be developer machine and started learning all that there was to this really neat OS. It had a lot of forward looking ideas built into it. Apple meanwhile was also failing to deliver any of its varied nextgen OS things (remember Pink?). The rumors swirled that Be, being built by former Apple executive Jean-Louis Gassée (who for a while there had Steve’s old position), was going to be purchased by Apple giving BeOS a home, and Apple a way forward. But at least from the outside, at the last second, Apple changed direction (all of this could have been rumors, I no longer remember) and bought Next instead. I was very disappointed. I thought the energy of the Be development community and Apple’s user base would jump start things. Of course, there’s no way to know if that’s true or not. I was not pleased.
Since then there’s been a lot of changes to Apple—now one of the largest companies in the world. Be is long gone. Little attention is afforded to operating systems by users. They’ve become a layer of services upon which we rely. Occasionally some bit of UI delights us. We have more devices hanging around but most folks don’t know what OS their phone runs, nor should they. It’s not relevant. The choices people make are based on what they wish to do with their phones, tablets, and laptops. If there’s something that they believe is crucial that runs on Windows, that’s what they’ll have, whether it’s true or not.
In fact, that’s kinda what all of this is about. It’s about what we believe, and what’s important to us. And someone believed that Steve could still do some good. What was appealing when I started using computers and then programming them was that Apple had menus when no one else did. Menu’s “remembered” things for me. Since I never had a good memory for trivia (and that’s what my brain considered all that command line stuff) I was more comfortable with Apple’s computers than the others. I could get menus to remember things for me. Also, being a musician full time back then, Apple had the best music software and the hearts and minds of the artistic community. I believed that they were better.
Some things aren’t meant to be. And in this case, who knows what the shape of the world would’ve been if Steve had continued to ply his trade elsewhere. Would he have given up on changing the world via technology? Would he have grown antsy with Pixar and meddled in the story creation process to the point of disaster? Would he have found a way, with a whole new company to create devices that so many love?