Jean-Louis Gassée is one of my personal heroes in the computing business. After a long career at Apple, 1981-1990, he left the company after a major falling out with then-Apple CEO John Sculley. Please, don't cry though, as this was good news for all of us: JLG then founded Be, Inc. with Steve Sakoman, which brought us the best operating system in history (yes, it was), and most likely, the most annoying type of fanboy (the obnoxiously confident BeOS one - hi!).
Anyway, this is a man with a lot of experience, who probably has very unique views on things - so it only made sense for him to start writing. As it turns out, he's been writing for the Monday Note (bookmark added) for a while now, together with Frédéric Filloux. In his last entry, JLG dissects and debunks the myth that apple will lose if it doesn't license its software.
Earlier this month, Henry Blodget argued that Apple should license its iPhone OS out to third parties, or else it will be beaten by Android - just like what happened in the 1980s. JLG - who was actually, you know, there in those days - disagrees with the notion that Apple lost in the 1980s because it didn't license; he argues it lost because its products were inferior to the PC market.
"We're back in 1981. IBM introduces the PC. At the time, it's pretty much a clone of the Apple ][, slots, a cassette tape interface, game controls and all. The big difference is a 16-bit Intel processor, the 8086," JLG recalls, "The then reigning Apple ][ has the 8-bit 6502 processor, a dead-end architecture, as the supplier, MOS Technology, can't provide a credible transition to a 16 or 32-bit world, markitecture BS notwithstanding."
He further adds that the PC world got ever faster Intel processors, and the first "killer app", Lotus 1-2-3, which was "lightening" fast because it was written in assembly, and was integrated: a spreadsheet, a word processor and a database in one. "I know, because to some people's chagrin, in a small cubicle behind my office at Apple, I maintain a PC," JLG reminisces.
"When the Mac comes out in 1984, this is what it faces. The original Mac clearly shows great promise, its user interface is clearly superior and it builds on the lessons learned from Lisa's failure," he goes on, "But the first Mac, for all its promise and sexiness, is slow, buggy, with a small screen, no hard disk, no color and no application software that could compete with Lotus 1-2-3."
Of course, Apple eventually did license out the Mac OS, but this was a practice quickly killed off when Steve Jobs returned. "You can't be in both the hardware and the licensing businesses at the same time," JLG states.
He also gives an example of licensing not working out for IBM's PC business. "IBM licensed key parts of the original PC design and, for its reward, lost the PC market in spite of its effort to regain control with a new bus architecture, Micro Channel and a new software platform, OS/2, called 'better DOS than DOS' and 'better Windows than Windows'," he argues.
I know we really aren't in the position to argue here, but how do you all feel about this? It's pretty solid logic here, and of course, JLG experienced all this first-hand, so he knows what he's talking about. I see little reason to disagree, but maybe you do?