The Macintosh and Desktop Publishing, Part Two
Originally Published: Apr. 17, 2003
By 1985, Steve Jobs had been forced out of Apple to be replaced by John Sculley and his band of merry men. Sculley made Apple into a respectable corporation but a respectable corporation in the PC industry is a nasty creature indeed. Successful high tech corporations tend to be ruthless and opportunistic. Apple was definitely not immune to these leanings, and in fact had become very successful at the game.
Successful high tech companies deal with the competition in different ways. Microsoft, for example, tends to operate with the philosophy of not reinventing the wheel. It is very hard to find an example of anything profound originating from Microsoft. They sense a trend and move in to take what is already invented by making it their own. Apple has an all-together different problem. For all of the 1980s and most of the 1990s, Apple operated with the "not invented here" mentality. If it didn't originate with Apple, it was garbage.
PostScript didn't originate with Apple per se but it was Steve Jobs who gave it wings. Jobs took one look at PostScript and realized that it fit beautifully with the Mac and his new LaserWriter printer. PostScript used a new formula to describe computer-generated characters. Until then, when PC documents unfurled from a printer, they looked as though they had been hammered out with an old typewriter. PostScript made documents look like they had been created by a professional typesetter.
Jobs got Apple to invest $2.5 million for a 15 percent stake in Adobe Systems. Warnock was ecstatic and spent the better part of the 1980s making the Macintosh a viable platform. PostScript soon proved its value. It made it possible for PageMaker's beautiful graphics to be reproduced on printed paper. PageMaker, created by Aldus, turned the Macintosh into a powerful home printshop. PostScript and the Apple LaserWriter printer made it possible for PageMaker to turn design into hardcopy. The original Macintosh floundered until PageMaker came along, turning the Mac into a miniature publishing house.
It seemed like a marriage made in heaven. Unfortunately, Apple was drunk with its own success. The "not made here" attitude became all too real for faithful developers like Adobe Systems. Soon, Apple would stab Warnock in the back and send a cold chill through the Mac developer community.
Microsoft was working on a PC version of PostScript called True Image. It agreed to license True Image to Apple in exchange for Apple's own incomplete version of PostScript called Royal. The two companies came up with the name TrueType for the fonts and True Image for the printer language.
At the Seybold Desktop Publishing Conference in San Francisco on September 20, 1989, Apple and Microsoft announced their Frankenstein creation to the world. Bill Gates stood up on stage and proclaimed TrueType as the new standard. When it became time for the visibly shaken Warnock to speak, he stated, "That's the biggest bunch of garbage and mumbo jumbo." Warnock's eyes were brimming with tears and his voice trembled as he said, "What those people are selling you is snake oil!" Adobe's stock price plunged the days to follow and Apple dumped all its stock for a gain of $79 million on the original investment.
TrueType turned out to be so inferior to PostScript that it never ended up shipping on many printers. Microsoft, however, pushed TrueType into a rousing success on Windows where inferiority has always been a way of life.
The whole affair sent a chilling message to Apple developers. If Apple could do this to Adobe of all companies, what chance would we have? The developers would have their payback in years to come. In the end, Adobe was forced to lower its prices. Apple would lose in the long run. By the time Steve Jobs took over control of Apple in the later 1990s, many developers had left the platform. It didn't make economic sense to deal with the arrogant minor-player Apple had allowed itself to become. So when you hear rumors of Adobe's PC-leanings, take a moment to consider where it began. Adobe's passion for the Macintosh has turned into passion for profits. Whether that passion be with Windows or Mac OS depends on which will make it the most money. Passion for the Mac alone almost ruined Adobe.