Thursday, 9 August 2012

Jean-Louis Gassée

1980s: Apple Computer

Gassée worked for Hewlett Packard before becoming head of Apple France. Later, Apple's CEO John Sculley personally appointed Gassée to Steve Jobs's old position as head of Macintosh development. Gassée introduced several Macintosh products on-stage in the late 80s including the Macintosh Portable in 1989, and also the Macintosh IIfx. In his product introductions, he was often very comical. Gassée was less formal than many executives. He wore tailored suits when necessary, but he often addressed employees wearing a black (lambskin) leather jacket and a single diamond-stud earring.

When the idea of licensing the Mac OS for other companies use was brought up by various members of Apple, Jean-Louis refused to give in to the idea, maintaining that the Macintosh was more powerful than any other computer at the present, and had a superior architectural roadmap for future expansion than any other computer. Although many of the companies were interested (such as AT&T, for the use of the OS in their own equipment—they were so interested in this idea that the then-CEO of AT&T made a personal phone call to Sculley), Gassée would have none of it, and so the idea of licensing the Mac OS was shelved.
In the mid-80s, Gassée started the skunkworks project to create what eventually became the Newton MessagePad.

In 1987, Apple CEO John Sculley published his memoir Odyssey. In the hope of inspiring "excellence," he ordered a hardback copy for each Apple employee, at Apple's expense[citation needed]. Shortly afterward, Gassée ordered a paperback copy of Fred Brooks's The Mythical Man-Month for all product-development employees, in the hope of inspiring good sense in project management. Brooks gave a lecture at nearby De Anza College: the room was filled with Apple employees with copies of his book, who told him stories that confirmed his conclusions.

In 1988, Gassée became head of Apple's advanced product development and worldwide marketing, and rumors of his taking over as president of Apple from Sculley were circling. Other rumors concerning Michael Spindler were also circulating. At one point in 1990, a number of Apple employees held a demonstration, marching around in circles, carrying signs, on the lawn in front of one Apple building, to petition Apple management to retain Gassée. A USA Today reporter saw the demonstration and asked an employee what it was about. The employee, well aware of Apple's rules on divulging trade secrets to the press, succinctly explained the issues. The next day USA Today reported that Apple employees, many wearing black leather jackets and berets in honor of Gassée, had demonstrated to persuade management to keep him at Apple. In fact, the only person wearing a leather jacket (a brown goatskin A-2) and a beret had been the person whom she had asked to explain the purpose of the demonstration.

In 1989, Gassée successfully killed a Claris project, 'Drama', which aimed to start a new brand to sell low-end Macintosh computers. Gassée argued that consumers would continue to be willing to pay the price premium for a full Macintosh experience.

Despite Gassée's efforts and those of his supporters, in 1990 he left Apple, forced out by Sculley and Apple board members dissatisfied with his performance in delivering new products[citation needed]. Spindler got the top job.