When I Joined Apple

April 2nd, 2010

When I joined Apple in May, 1996, the company was filled with geniuses who were trying to invent the future. Despite that brilliance, Apple was failing. I came on board because I was young, had just started using a Macintosh, and I knew something great was happening. I was eager to find out what it was and, if possible, to help it grow.

I was lucky to join one of the most cavalier and competent teams in the company: the Mac OS system integration team. In a nutshell, we were in charge of the Mac OS System File, “System Enabler,” and other crucial bits that made your Mac a Mac. Whoo-hoo! Power! We made or broke your Mac experience, hopefully making more than breaking. I took my new job seriously and stepped carefully with every change. It felt great, and I cherished every contribution I made.

Later, I moved to the Mac OS X team and did similar work on the infrastructure of Mac OS X. In particular, with how it deals with older applications that rely on the “Carbon” framework. After years of using a custom Mac-only environment called MPW, I was using standard UNIX tools and building UNIX libraries. This felt awesome! I had grown up using an Amiga, then switched to Sun OS, where I spent a lot of time getting familiar with UNIX. There I was, and Apple decides to put the best UI in the world on top of Unix. I was in heaven.

While I was at Apple I saw a lot of failure. I saw the Newton fail. I saw Pippin fail. I saw PowerTalk fail. I saw Cyberdog fail. I saw Apple desperate to sell even a few hundred thousand Macs in a quarter. I saw the press lambast us and declare us dead. “Beleaguered” became an unfortunately common word in our office life.

But I kept looking around me, and I saw nothing but signs of success. I marveled at QuickTime, speech recognition, networking technologies like ZeroConf (Bonjour), and other things that have never seen the light of day. This company is awesome! I want to work here! They’re going to change the world!

Of course, they already had changed the world with the Apple II and the Macintosh, but as a young 20 year old, I was anticipating future growth. It was a bad time for Apple: competitors and the press were declaring our obsolescence. Michael Dell said we should give the money back to the shareholders and close the company. We persisted on a wing and a prayer, driven by Steve Jobs’s admonition that we could beat Dell. I believed in that mission, and I believe in it still.

In 2005, I wrote boldly about the end of Dell, and I have to confess I was a little over-ambitious. I could see a path where Apple would take Dell down faster than they have. I was wrong. Dell is still a strong  company. But that will change soon.

I joined Apple because they were threatening to change the world. I stayed on at Apple because they were changing the world. And I remain loyal to that company because, in spite of my absence, they have changed the world. In more ways than I can imagine, they’re inventing the future. And I’m along for the ride.

Dell is not changing the world, Microsoft is not changing the world. Hewlett-Packard is not changing the world.

Apple is changing the world, and damn it feels good to be part-Apple today.

12 Responses to “When I Joined Apple”

  1. Corentin Cras-Méneur Says:

    Very nice piece Daniel!

  2. Ron Adair Says:

    Thanks for the great insights Daniel, both on the value of vision, as well as the insights into Apple specifically and your time there. Fascinating read. It’s a great reminder to us all to be more committed to excellence and our own personal vision.

  3. chris Says:

    In 2004, I attended a course in Networking and the schedule was, we should also learn some OS like Windows 2000, Windows XP, AS400, some Linuxes (RedHat and Suse) – and Mac.

    Later, they told us, we would skip the MacOS, “because it is obsolete”.

    We were really upset. We wanted to learn about this Mac OSX. So, finally, we got an out-of-schedule lesson on a saturday. Nearly everybody came. Our trainer was very enthusiastic about Mac – I don’t know if he even got paid for this weekend. He had a 12″ powerbook which looked very advanced and sophisticated compared to other notebooks. The next day I ordered one.

    Since then, I have never bought hardware from other companies and I feel like christmas every time Apple has new products.
    And I really appreciate the way people at Apple put so much effort into doing a great job. It is visible in every little detail.

  4. Peter Bierman Says:

    Being the underdog is fun. You taught me a ton, including that there’s nothing as great as working with brilliant people who want to make the world a better place and are willing to work their asses off to get there. Keep changing the world! No SUYB either. ;-)

  5. Doug K Says:

    I’ve been a Mac developer since 1984, much of it on my own time, and nothing sums up my feelings better than this post. Thanks, Daniel.

  6. Genuine Chris johnson Says:

    Middlemen.

    There’s a place in the world for a middle man. A competently run company that distributes, scales and aggregates preferences. Dell won’t die because their genes have core competence.

    no style, but competence. and that will keep ‘em around. They are platform neutral, so when it makes sense to make a win win with Apple, they will.

  7. Ryoji Yanawake Says:

    Hello, Daniel.

    You got my heart!! I truly believe that Apple changes the world since its birth.
    At the same time, I am interested in what makes Apple such an innovative company.

    I keep watching how Apple changes the world.

  8. Frank Says:

    System 8 and System 9 sucked.

    I now know who to blame.

  9. Marshall Kirkpatrick Says:

    HP is certainly doing some interesting stuff!

  10. BHH Says:

    Having worked for Google for over 6 years and after embracing their culture, philosophy and vision, I can only tell you one thing. Yes, Apple is changing the world, but for worse.

    BHH

  11. Ron Adair Says:

    BHH—

    You’re either full of crap or blind. Apple has the right idea, even if they sometimes botch the implementation. If you think the stranglehold that handset makers, Microsoft, and others have had on the marketplace has been a good thing for industries or end users you are more ignorant than you sound. Competition and innovation are a good thing. Those that are soured by Apple are most likely suffering loss of control or dollars as a direct result of their innovation. Too bad for them.

  12. Daniel Jalkut Says:

    I’m closing comments for this post. I appreciate that company loyalty fuels emphatic language, but I don’t think this conversation is going to be too productive.

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