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I, Cringely - The Survival of the Nerdiest with Robert X. Cringely
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The Pulpit
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November 07, 2008 -- Love-Hate
Status: [OPEN] add a comment

"I invented the friggin' iPod. Have you heard of it?" -- FSJ

Notorious bWg | Nov 07, 2008 | 4:18PM

This has to be true, because if it were fiction no one would believe it.

Ike | Nov 07, 2008 | 4:35PM

Bob thanks for the audio version!!

Jared | Nov 07, 2008 | 5:02PM

I've read this rant twice, and I still can't determine what the author's point is.

Apple is run by a tyrant?
The Pulpit hasn't had new content in a week and I have nothing to say?
I, John Dvorak, being of sound mind... wait, forget that.
Water is wet?
I for one welcome our new ant overlords?

Ken Brockman | Nov 07, 2008 | 5:16PM

Patton is not, in fact, available on iTunes.

J. Blankly | Nov 07, 2008 | 5:50PM

That's pretty out of control, Mr Cringely.

You spend a lot of time thinking up very topics. Most of us read these things understanding that, though you're not usually right, you sometimes have an interesting idea.

What you're doing now, though, is a very extreme and misguided rant. This isn't the Dallas Cowboys, Jerry Jones, Jimmy Johnson situation. Faddell wasn't forced out during the iPod's early ascendancy, amidst press coverage praising him and spurning Jobs.

Why is it that no one is allowed to leave a company without it being some power-play conspiracy thing?

Ron | Nov 07, 2008 | 6:09PM

Do you think having Papermaster at Apple will ensure Cringely gets NerdTV season 2 out the door before Christmas?

Jerry | Nov 07, 2008 | 6:23PM

"Jobs wants Papermaster to lead Apple’s PA Semi acquisition and create a new family of scalable processors optimized for Snow Leopard and beyond."

While this is possible, for mobile devices (e.g. iPhone, iPod touch and whatever else is in the works.) I don't see Apple abandoning the Intel relationship for desktops and laptops. Enjoying Intel's economies of scale and R&D is working too well. Also, running on X86 lowers the barriers to switchers. (Try the Mac. If you don't like it, you can always switch back on the same hardware.) Snow Leopard reportedly won't even support PPC.


Building low power mobile chips could sit under Papermaster as the head of the iPod division and start day one without competing with blade servers at IBM regardless of the chip architecture that they choose to implement. If they do it well, and it looks like they are building the team to do it well, it will provide a well differentiated mobile product line that can't be matched. Google is mounting a challenge on the s/w side. It's not clear how that will work out. Having a hardware differentiator that the handset makers can't compete with in the pipeline is good insurance if Android becomes a hit.

If you extrapolate from the tens of millions of devices Apple sells today by an order of magnitude or two, the plan starts to make sense.


There is a lot of detail about the inner workings at Apple in this article without a single source. Of course no one is going on the record due to the fear factor mentioned. Having worked at Apple, the fear of stepping out of line is real. And the basic premiss, that Jobs will throw employees under the bus when it suites his purposes is true enough. However, with Fadell locked up to 70K shares of stock, we won't know the real story for quite a while.

Tech Grump | Nov 07, 2008 | 6:26PM

Like so many columnists you have been mesmerized by the personality of Steve Jobs, and his ego. You're very wrong thinking the personnel move was due to ego. Of course your barking up the wrong tree is not the first time.

The future of the iPod will be intimately involved with processor design. For that effort to go forward for many years Jobs had to put the right person as head of the hand held division. Apple's future plans required it, period. Read what AT&T just said of the future capabilities of the iPhone to get some of this picture.

There was no appropriate slot for Fadell considering his present status.

REB | Nov 07, 2008 | 8:08PM

Like so many columnists you have been mesmerized by the personality of Steve Jobs, and his ego. You're very wrong thinking the personnel move was due to ego. Of course your barking up the wrong tree is not the first time.

The future of the iPod will be intimately involved with processor design. For that effort to go forward for many years Jobs had to put the right person as head of the hand held division. Apple's future plans required it, period. Read what AT&T just said of the future capabilities of the iPhone to get some of this picture.

There was no appropriate slot for Fadell considering his present status.

REB | Nov 07, 2008 | 8:09PM

This is pretty interesting drama. But isn't it possible that after 6-7 years, one can get tired of even the best IT project? Maybe Tony and Dani have family plans (which are hard to start when you work 60 hours a week)? Since Fadell also interviewed Papermaster, could he and Dani not recommended him to sabotage the company if they were forced out? Or is Jobs so mesmerizing everyone is content to fall on the sword for him?

However, I think the biggest point Bob failed to convince is WHY Papermaster is so good he must be hired. Nothing here offers more insight than any other tech piece this week into Papermaster's pedigree and potential.

"... ipods and blades couldn't be farther apart..." - that does not sound like someone who "Think Different."

Deanston | Nov 07, 2008 | 8:17PM

I am going to give you the benefit of doubt on the accuracy of your sources on this well written column because your "Love Hate" reads like a mini Stephen King novel, Entertaining, and I like Stephen King.

I am especially interested in Apples' plan for the re-introduction of a new Power PC chip and the plate tectonic paced withdrawal from Intel that seems to be occurring now.

IBM and Motorola’s slow MHZ PPC development pace caused Apples move to Intel based processors in the first place, does Apple’s ego need to produce an all Apple designed and built machine or is it just the economics of in house chip production? A topic for a future article perhaps?


Thanks for the insight!

Blue Buzzard | Nov 07, 2008 | 8:36PM

Great article. Obviously Papermaster's value is in the chip arena and Apple sees a huge future for putting its own chips in the iPhote/iTouch and whenever is next in Apple's ultra portable division. However, I don see why Apple would ever switch back to PowerPC for its desktop or laptop lines. The switch to Intel is part of the reason for the company's current success. Also, producing your own chips make sense for the ipod-type products but not for anything where raw power is important. Sun is bleeding money from its SPARC line. Best leave the performance chips to Intel or AMD.

Scott | Nov 07, 2008 | 9:03PM

Hardly any more brutal than any other big company and Apple and IBM I suspect know how this will play out already just like Apple and Cisco did. You see Microsoft and Sun are the kind of companies that saber rattle, Apple, IBM and Cisco make strategic legal plays

Dave K | Nov 07, 2008 | 9:06PM

I've got the same problem with this story that I've got with a lot of journalism. Too much buildup, too few facts, not well written. Also, just as I don't trust the NY Times, except for movie reviews, or the Washington Post, except for the comics, I don't trust PBS.

thomas Hart | Nov 07, 2008 | 9:25PM

Where do you get all this theory about Fadell and Jobs, i mean did you get any fact to support your claims? I don't think so right?

Or are you so bored that you did not find anything else to do than spreading fud?

Shall i recall you that Apple issued a press release where it is explained why Fadell wanted to leave Apple and it is also said that Fadell's wife will also leave Apple as both want to devote more time to their young family. And it is also said that Fadell will remain at Apple as an advisor to the CEO. So are you saying that Apple is lying? (http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2008/11/04papermaster.html)

Why do you need to search for a conspiracy theory?

hakime | Nov 07, 2008 | 10:09PM

hakime -- You've not spent any time at high corporate levels. There's no more, and likely less, truth than govt. press releases.

When a company (read "CEO") wants someone gone, you will NEVER see the inside story in print.

Like Rumsfeld left to spend more time with his family -- just after the Democrats took Congress. Yeah, right.

jj | Nov 08, 2008 | 12:09AM

I stared my career at Apple and was there from 2003-2005. I never interacted with Steve Jobs, but I did with Tony Fadell a couple times. I think back then, his team was only around 20-30 people.

What is amazing about the Tony Fadell story, is he managed to go from contractor to Manager to Director to Senior Director to V.P. to Senior V.P. in five years. I remember hearing rumors at least twice during the time I was at Apple that Fadell threw tantrums and put in his resignation if he did not get promoted. I even remember they even had a going-away party for him once when people thought he was really leaving.

I think people that know Fadell would tell you it's amazing he stayed (or survived; depending on viewpoint) at Apple for a full consecutive seven years stretch.

Even though the author of this article does not have facts, I think he is dead on. I think it is very possible that Jobs wanted to strategically hire PaperMaster to oversee the PA Semi integration as he saw it as the cornerstone of Apple's future mobile product developments. Fadell most likely saw this as a threat to his power and gave another ultimatum and Jobs finally called his bluff this time.

What I am very much interested to see is whether Fadell can be successful without the Apple marketing machine and talent behind him in his next product development. Before his success at Apple, he seemed very good at hustling to get in the spotlight, but never was able to really succeed. I know he has a giant chip on his shoulder now. It should be interesting.

I don't think he can do much worse than the guy's footsteps he is now following (Jon Rubenstein at Palm).

RP | Nov 08, 2008 | 3:09AM

I had a personal friend who was directly involved in the creation of the Lisa computer. One of his stories directly supports the likelihood of this unwinding tale. I trust Cringly in knitting together rumor and fact to create a plausible scenario.

Thomas | Nov 08, 2008 | 8:28AM

I agree with the others who deem it unlikely that Apple would divorce Intel on the Mac platform, simply because BootCamp gives Macs a strategic edge over all other PCs: 'You can run any OS on a Mac.' Steve Jobs would no doubt hate to admit this publicly, but he is savvy enough as a businessman to acknowledge it.

On the other hand, Jobs is also an A-1 negotiator, and with AMD on the ropes, it would be very nice indeed to be able to bluff Intel with the PPC chips, 'Which we make ourselves, and if you don't lower your prices and give us special deals and considerations, we will start by using PA Semi PPC chips to power OUR netbook and tablet line, and show the world that Atom ain't so great.'

Jobs is also worried about Psystar and other potential cloners, if that case does not go Apple's way. Snow Leopard can use not only multiple CPUs more effectively, it can also use GPUs to help out the main processing. A PPC 'co-processor' of some sort would, like the original Mac ROM chip, allow Apple to develop an OSX that would not run on any motherboard that lacked this Apple-only chip.

I do expect that Apple would like a slate tablet 'iPod grande' not so much as a PC but as a iTunes movie-watcher and iPod Games-player, with 720P resolution. This just isn't possible on today's chips (unless you forego portability and tether it as plug-only), so that's where I see the PA Semi acquisition coming in. A netbook would fit in with this model, so putting Papermaster in charge of iPod division makes sense. His job will be to guide the PA Semi team in designing chips to power the Apple slate and netbook, as well as iPod Touch and iPhone.

pond | Nov 08, 2008 | 8:59AM

Bob, a hugely entertaining article that for once is much better on the podcast. 100% true or not, it's a terrific tale. You are beginning to broadcast like Garrison Keillor, and I think that is just great. You are hitting your stride again! Adam

AdamD | Nov 08, 2008 | 3:09PM

There is an opportunity for higher-performance mobile chips; the ARM architecture seems to be stalling. Low-power PPCs, like the Gecko used in the GameCube (and Wii?) could be the future of mobile computing.

Rick | Nov 08, 2008 | 7:33PM

Mark,

You are so full of shit, the whites of your eyes have turned brown. Tony Fadell isn't even leaving Apple. He's cutting back on the 70-hour weeks because he's got small children and he wants to spend more time with them. He worked like hell, got rich, and now he and his wife are going to enjoy it.

Your soap-opera fantasy really makes you look ridiculous.

-jcr

John C. Randolph | Nov 09, 2008 | 12:51AM

Whether Jobs is an egomaniac or a megalomaniac or even a psychotic sociopath, I'd still love to work at Apple. Everyone wants to be valued for their intelligence and their contributions. Working for IBM has to be like the squirrel on the treadmill putting one foot in front of another and getting nowhere. IBM likely will lose their lawsuit. Non compete clauses are touchy and so open to interpretation.

It is interesting that Apple bought a semiconductor company. What's more bizarre is that it makes PowerPC chips. The very chip that Apple dumped. How long of a development time will there be to get what Steve wants out of a chip? How long will it be before Apple spins off that acquisition into a separate entity? I guess we'll have to see what happens. What about a replacement for Steve? He's not part cyborg and has a limited lifespan... Will he pull a Balmer?

Mondrain | Nov 09, 2008 | 9:20AM

"What is amazing about the Tony Fadell story, is he managed to go from contractor to Manager to Director to Senior Director to V.P. to Senior V.P. in five years"

That's not unheard of for Apple. Scott Forstall, Jeff Robbin, and several other VPs at Apple have made similar progress. Jeff was writing iTunes code and reporting to Tony in 2002.

-jcr

John C. Randolph | Nov 09, 2008 | 11:43AM

I think it's safe to say that Apple and IBM are two extremes in terms of management style. Personally, I'd rather have a different path because I don't like living in fear (Apple) or spinning my wheels (IBM).

Big Mike | Nov 09, 2008 | 10:06PM

There are days when I'd love to be a fly on at Apple.

Assuming Steve is in good health. Age is catching up on him. At some point he and Apple need to start seriously thinking about succession planning.

Maybe this was part of a bigger plan for life after Jobs in Apple. Maybe it is not and maybe it was a step in the wrong direction.

Apple's board and Steve need to find and cultivate a person or team of people who can replace Steve.

John | Nov 10, 2008 | 2:39PM

"Spinning my wheels (IBM)."

The lucky people at IBM actually get wheels to spin. In my case I am trying to start a car engine with a rope as the starter is missing. Others on my team are looking for some wheels that will fit. You'd be amazed much scavenging one has to do just to get to the point where one can spin one's wheels.

Pray for us.

John | Nov 10, 2008 | 3:01PM

In light of all this, it is interesting watching things play out in court as IBM attempts to enforce its non-compete agreement.

Ray | Nov 10, 2008 | 3:12PM

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