“It will be all gravy to you,” he argued. “You will be ahead of the parade. It’s never been done before.” They agreed in principle and then went out to play skittles over beer at a nearby pub where Lord Byron used to drink. By the
time it launched, the NeXT would also include a dictionary, a thesaurus, and the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, making it one of the pioneers of the concept of searchable electronic books.
Instead of using off-the-shelf chips for the NeXT, Jobs had his engineers design custom ones that integrated a variety of functions on one chip. That would have been hard enough, but Jobs made it almost impossible by
continually revising the functions he wanted it to do. After a year it became clear that this would be a major source of delay.
He also insisted on building his own fully automated and futuristic factory, just as he had for the Macintosh; he had not been chastened by that experience. This time too he made the same mistakes, only more excessively.
Machines and robots were painted and repainted as he compulsively revised his color scheme. The walls were museum white, as they had been at the Macintosh factory, and there were $20,000 black leather chairs and a
custom-made staircase, just as in the corporate headquarters. He insisted that the machinery on the 165-foot assembly line be configured to move the circuit boards from right to left as they got built, so that the process would
look better to visitors who watched from the viewing gallery. Empty circuit boards were fed in at one end and twenty minutes later, untouched by humans, came out the other end as completed boards. The process followed
the Japanese principle known as kanban, in which each machine performs its task only when the next machine is ready to receive another part.
Jobs had not tempered his way of dealing with employees. “He applied charm or public humiliation in a way that in most cases proved to be pretty effective,” Tribble recalled. But sometimes it wasn’t. One engineer, David
Paulsen, put in ninety-hour weeks for the first ten months at NeXT. He quit when “Steve walked in one Friday afternoon and told us how unimpressed he was with what we were doing.” When Business Week asked him why he treated
employees so harshly, Jobs said it made the company better. “Part of my responsibility is to be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” But he still had his spirit and
charisma. There were plenty of field trips, visits by akido masters, and off-site retreats. And he still exuded the pirate flag spunkiness. When Apple fired Chiat/Day, the ad firm that had done the “1984” ad and taken out the
newspaper ad saying “Welcome IBM—seriously,” Jobs took out a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal proclaiming, “Congratulations
Seriously . . . Because
I can guarantee you:
there is life after Apple.”