Apple Computer announced that it had acquired NeXT, Inc. for about $400M.
We had been working our asses off for about 3 years to get our OpenDoc-based database components to a usable and sellable state. Together with a band of other OpenDoc developers, we intended to make a big splash at MacWorld 1997, San Francisco. And a reasonable splash we made. Customer were excited about our products, other developers were excited about interfacing to our components and international Distributors were lining up to localize & sell our components.
Members of the Apple Enterprise Sales team (yup, back then there was such a thing) had been arranging a meeting at NeXT headquarters with a couple of NeXT engineers for us to promote our components and to get a feeling for where thing are heading. I do vividly remember sitting in a conference room in Redwood city with several NeXT engineers, among them a rather young opinionated guy named Scott Forstall, and the NeXT engineers basically dismissing the idea of loosely coupled, componentized software.
On March, 14th, Apple Computer was putting OpenDoc into maintenance mode – which was the marketing weasels way of saying that the platform our product was based on was dead in the water. We were devastated – For three years, we had been pouring our heart, soul and last, but not least, a lot of our personal money into the product and it was dead.
CeBIT, the world largest computer fair, was upon us and, despite Apple’s announcement about OpenDoc’s demise, we were scheduled to show our OpenDoc components at the Apple booth in Hannover. We didn’t go.
Mark B. Johnson, a fine man and head of European developer relations back then, called us and expressed his hope that, despite the OpenDoc debacle, we would support the Apple platform going forward. He offered us WWDC tickets so we could talk to Apple engineers and get a glimpse on where Apple was heading in the future.
WWDC was in San Jose Convention Center back then. I do remember sitting in the main hall next to @BradHutchings during Friday’s Q&A session. I’m not 100% sure, but I think it was Brad who was asking the infamous question “What about OpenDoc?” at the very beginning of the Q&A session (about 4:30min into the video).
It wasn’t fun. Steve’s answer was frank, to the point and, in hindsight, spot on – but see for yourself:
Rest in peace, Steve. I’ve learned an awful lot from you over the years.
And now I’m off pre-ordering an iPhone 4S for both me & my oldest daughter.
OK, so the actual “what about OpenDoc” clip made top billing of TechCrunch’s coverage:
I do remember sitting next to you at the rightmost aisle of the audience, halfway between stage and back. I vaguely remember the questioner being someone we didn’t recognize more center and behind us.
But when I watched the clip the other day, that initial question “What about OpenDoc?” sounded vaguely like me, i.e. some guy with a perfect California non-accent. I listened several times, and the follow-up of “there’s a lot of people working on it, and it makes me sad” — well, that sure isn’t a way I’d phrase anything :-).
There are a few things he said here that are factually inaccurate, and then bringing in the whole San Jose Mercury thing, as if the OD team or the developers like us were out doing that. Well, anyway, I was permanently disillusioned that day. I pick and choose my Apple products. Still use MBPs as main computer, had an iPhone, switched to Android, really like the latter a lot better.
Let’s just say this about Steve. He was combative, he was entertaining, and he had a very interesting vision and focus on detail. But things sucked if you were in his line of fire. I really feel for the Flash folks and the Samsung folks today.