Walt: What was the most fun? Tell the story about the most fun that was later.Kara: Or maybe later, not the most fun.Walt: Let them talk.Kara: Teasing.
Bill: Well, you know, Steve can probably start it better. The team that was assembled there to do the Macintosh was a very committed team. And there was an equivalent team on our side that just got totally focused on this activity.
Jeff Harbers, a lot of incredible people. And we had really bet our future on the Macintosh being successful, and then, hopefully, graphics interfaces in general being successful, but first and foremost, the thing that would popularize that being the Macintosh.
So we were working together. The schedules were uncertain. The quality was uncertain. The price. When Steve first came up, it was going to be a lot cheaper computer than it ended up being, but that was fine.
Kara: So you worked in both places?Bill: Well, we were in Seattle and we’d fly down there.Walt: But Microsoft, if I remember correctly from what I’ve read, wasn’t Microsoft one of the few companies that were allowed to even have a prototype of the Mac at the time?
Steve: Yeah. What’s interesting, what’s hard to remember now is that Microsoft wasn’t in the applications business then. They took a big bet on the Mac because this is how they got into the apps business. Lotus dominated the apps business on the PC back then.
Bill: Right. We’d done just MultiPlan, which was a hit on the Apple II, and then Mitch did an incredible job betting on the IBM PC and 1-2-3 came in and, you know, ruled that part of the business. So the question was, what was the next paradigm shift that would allow for an entry? We had Word, but WordPerfect was by far the strongest in word processing dBase database.
Walt: And Word was kind of a DOS text …Bill: All of these products I’m saying were DOS-based products.Walt: Right.Bill: Because Windows wasn’t in the picture at the time.
Walt: Right.Bill: That’s more early ’90s that we get to that. So we made this bet that the paradigm shift would be graphics interface and, in particular, that the Macintosh would make that happen with 128K of memory, 22K of which was for the screen buffer, 14K was for the operating system. So it was …
Walt: 14K?Bill: Yeah.>Walt: The original Mac operating system was 14K?Bill: 14K that we had to have loaded when our software ran. So when the shell would come up, it had all the 128K.Steve: The OS was bigger than 14K. It was in the 20s somewhere.Walt: I see.
Steve: We ship these computers now with, you know, a gigabyte, 2 gigabytes of memory, and nobody remembers 128K. Walt: I remember that. I remember paying a lot of money for computers with 128K in those days. So the two companies worked closely on the Mac project because you were maybe not the only, but the principal or one of the principal software creators for it, is that right?
Steve: Well, Apple did the Mac itself, but we got Bill and his team involved to write these applications. We were doing a few apps ourselves. We did MacPaint, MacDraw and stuff like that, but Bill and his team did some great work.
Kara: Now, in terms of moving forward after you left and your company grew more and more strong, what did you think was going to happen to Apple after sort of the disasters that occurred after Steve left?
Bill: Well, Apple, they hung in the balance. We continued to do Macintosh software. Excel, which Steve and I introduced together in New York City, that was kind of a fun event, that went on and did very well. But then, you know, Apple just wasn’t differentiating itself well enough from the higher-volume platform.
Walt: Meaning Windows, right?Bill: DOS and Windows.Walt: OK. But especially Windows in the ’90s began to take off.
Bill: By 1995, Windows became popular. The big debate wasn’t sort of Mac versus Windows. The big debate was character mode interface versus graphics mode interface. And when the 386 came and we got more memory and the speed was adequate and some development tools came along, that paradigm bet on GUI paid off for everybody who’d gotten in early and said, you know, this is the way that’s going to go.
Walt: But Apple wasn’t able to leverage its products?Bill: After the 512K Mac was done, the product line just didn’t evolve as fast–Steve wasn’t there–as it needed to. And we were actually negotiating a deal to invest and make some commitments and things with Gil Amelio. No, seriously.
Kara: Don’t be mean to him.Bill:I’m sorry?Kara: Just saying the word Gil Amelio, you can see his…
Bill: So I was calling him up on the weekend and all this stuff and next thing I knew, Steve called me up and said, “Don’t worry about that negotiation with Gil Amelio. You can just talk to me now.” And I said, “Wow.”
Steve: Gil was a nice guy, but he had a saying. He said, “Apple is like a ship with a hole in the bottom leaking water and my job is to get the ship pointed in the right direction.”