Interviewer: What happens when you have a network that allows the relative minorities in a whole different area come together. How does that change the democracy?
Steve Jobs: I don’t know. But what I have seen is I’ve seen interpersonal computing happening at our own company. Or maybe the best way to put it is, I remember when the first spreadsheet came out. I saw it fly through Apple as well as other companies. And when we invented desktop publishing of course it influenced Apple first. And I’ve seen the same thing happen with interpersonal computing here at NeXT. We decided to put a NeXT machine on every employee’s desktop about 18 months ago and connect them with the very high-speed networking that’s built in. And I’ve seen the revolution here with my own eyes. And it’s actually larger than the first two. Let me give you some examples.
If we want to — if we’re going to be doing a special project let’s say with a company, and we — and let’s say the company is called, what’s your…WGBH. We’re going to be doing a special project with WGBH. And what we’ll do is we’ll create a special mailbox, WGBH and we’ll put twenty people on it that are going to be helping on this project. Now these twenty people will be from all over our company, from marketing, from sales, from engineering, some from manufacturing. Maybe some from our Boston office so they can be close by. And if one sends a message to this mailbox, they’ll all get it like that, instantly. And if one sends a reply they’ll copy the whole mailbox so the rest of the team members get to read the intellectual content going back and forth. And everyone on this, in this mailbox will probably get around 30 mail messages a day. And they’ll spend about twenty minutes, thirty minutes reading these and answering these per day. And it will be like a beehive.
Now this project is very important for our company and I want to make sure it’s getting off right. So I’ll put my own name on this mailbox and I’ll see these thirty mail messages fly by. All of the disagreements and the arguments and the thoughts and the decisions. And I can just let it fly by and read it. I can do some background coaching with a few people if I think they’re a little off track. I can get right on the network and kibbutz if I’d like. And after a month or so when I know that it’s going well I can take my name off. And so not only is this a way to organize violating all management and geographic boundaries, it’s also a way to manage where one can see. Again the thoughts, disagreements and decisions of a company fly by a manager in a way that they never could before. And we have seen it reduce the number of meetings we have at least by fifty percent. We’ve seen it get far more managers and individual contributors involved in decisions than there ever were before. We think the quality of the decisions is a lot higher. And we’ve seen a window for management to look into the process of this organism we call our company in a way that has never before been possible. As we become part of this electronically community that’s going to provide us wonderful new capabilities and communications abilities. But we still always want to be able to disconnect that network spigot, take it off, and take our standalone computer somewhere, let’s say home.
Now what’s going to happen rapidly as with radio links and with fiber optics to the home, you’re going to be able to hook your computer up to your network at home. But there’s always going to be that cabin in the middle of nowhere that I want to go for a two week vacation where I want my computer. And if it doesn’t work in a completely standalone way, I’m going to be not happy. So we have to provide a fluid way for these things to kind of dock into the mother load network, but also undock and allow me as an individual to carry my computer up into Yosemite backpacking. And where there’s no radio links and no fiber optic links and still be able to use it and then come back and dock back into the network and find out what happened when I left and share some of my thoughts maybe with some other folks. So we’re working on that. That’s our goal for the next five years is that seamless transition between a standalone computer and the computer as part of this network community.
Interviewer: It also keeps away the welling aspects of always being hooked into the network.
Steve Jobs: That’s right. I actually think what – an interesting paradox is the network which is ultimately going to define and create the home computer market. Not keeping our recipes on these things or something like we thought in 1975. Being a part of that network and not being able to stay away from it while you’re home will drive people to get computers in every house just like we have a telephone in every house.
Interviewer: But computers then won’t be just computers. They’ll be radios, and stereos, and TVs.
Steve Jobs: No I think, I think they’ll be just computers. Just like your phone isn’t your television set. Just like your toaster isn’t your radio. I think they’ll be computers and they’ll have many of the capabilities of these other devices. Multimedia, the ability to integrate sound and video in with the computer is absolutely coming. But a lot of people have mistaken it as the end rather than the means. We see multimedia as more of a means. In other words, people aren’t going to buy a computer for multimedia. They’re going to buy it for training. Or they’re going to buy it for interpersonal communication. And in that communication, in addition to a text, they’re going to want voice. They’re going to want, potentially I might want to send you a video clip. But the real market is to help us communicate better, or to help us train somebody. And we need to not lose sight of that.
Interviewer: I want to get your thoughts on the user interface stuff. And I’d like to look at the transition – Xerox to Apple. When did you hear, what was the image of Xerox PARC and what was it like when you first went in there?