The year was 1997. Steve Jobs had just returned to the company from which he had been fired, and Apple designer Jony Ive still wasn’t a member of Steve’s inner circle of decision-makers, as highlighted in Becoming Steve Jobs, a new biography co-authored by longtime Jobs interviewer Brent Schlender and Fast Company executive editor Rick Tetzeli.
At the time Ive’s Design Lab, as it was known in the trenches of Cupertino, was hard at work on two new devices: The eMate, Ive’s take on the Newton Message Pad, and the 20th Anniversary Macintosh, his “pride and joy at the time.”
It was a striking piece of out-of-the-box industrial design thinking. Jony and his team had placed the guts of a top-of-the-line laptop inside a svelte and slightly curved vertical slab, which had on the top half of its surface a color LCD monitor, and on the bottom half a vertical CD-ROM drive, all of which was framed by specially designed Bose stereo speakers. It was packed with state-of-the-art technology, including cable and FM tuners and the circuitry necessary for the computer to double as a TV set or radio.
Jobs immediately took a liking to Ive. (“He’s kind of a cherub,” Jobs said of his soon-to-be co-conspirator.) But perhaps more importantly Ive liked him back, inevitably making the decision to stay with Apple instead of pursuing other opportunities. And then:
Steve killed both of Jony’s pet projects. The eMate disappeared along with all other traces of the Newton (save a few key patents), and the 20th Anniversary bit the dust after selling just 12,000 units. The products didn’t fit into his quadrants. Besides, he told me one day, “I just don’t like television. Apple will never make a TV again.” This was Jony’s introduction to Steve’s coldhearted decision-making.
Stay tuned to Fast Company online and in our forthcoming April issue for exclusive coverage and excerpts from Becoming Steve Jobs you won’t find anywhere else in the days to come.
Interview with Rick Tetzeli, author of Becoming Steve Jobs: