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Apple vacancy leaves Jobs empty

As any student of SiliValley knows, the persuasive powers of Steve Jobs are legendary.

As any student of SiliValley knows, the persuasive powers of Steve Jobs are legendary. There's the verbal haymaker he used to entice John Sculley to leave Pepsi, something to the tune of "Do you want to sell sugared water or do you want to change the world?" And the story how, when everyone else in the room hated Chiat/Day's rough cut of the "1984" TV commercial, Steve exclaimed that he loved it, convinced the rest of the room to give it the green light, and basked happily as the spot made television history. His hypnotic prowess led people to believe in a "reality distortion field" that he used to alter the terms of a debate and carry the day.

As Obi-Wan Kenobi once said, "There has been a disturbance in the Field." Force, actually, but I think you catch my drift.

A trusted Skinformant tells me that Jobs has had some trouble filling the key VP position in charge of Apple manufacturing. Despite a monthlong onslaught of black-turtlenecked charisma, one apple of Apple's eye--a highly placed exec at a large hardware/software maker just up the road from the Cupe--took a page from the company's own ad campaign, finally telling Steve to "think different" candidatewise.

What possible Jobstacles could our reluctant recruit have seen barring the way to success and satisfaction once within Apple's hallowed halls? The dwindling market share? The lack of a "permanent" CEO? The thought of being micromanaged into insanity? I must admit to some surprise, given that Steve has been on a roll with software and hardware timetables falling into place, a popular online sales site, a profitable quarter under his belt, and a nice little feather dans le chapeau with the international standardization of QuickTime.

Perhaps this failing of Steve's golden tongue is just a blip, a strange anomaly. However, the post is a crucial one if Apple is to successfully transition its manufacturing strategy towards a "build-to-order" model a la Dell--especially given that the company has a history of shooting itself in the foot with bad forecasting of demand. The company used to swing wildly between overforecasting products consumers didn't want and then not being able to make enough of the systems they want to buy, but lately it has started to get its manufacturing act in line.

BTW, that golden tongue with the reputation for charming public crowds has a reputation for berating employees like a cat o' nine tails, as well as business partners. I once heard that last year he tore Motorola execs a new navel for being a lousy supplier of chips. They weren't very appreciative of that, and they probably appreciate their embedded chips business a lot more now because of it.

Even if Apple's head honcho may be in the throes of a temporary persuasion funk, his good buddy Larry Ellison--CEO, VIP, and BMOC of Oracle--seems to have no problem attracting first-class talent into his fold. Now if only Larry can keep the talent from vigorously defending Oracle's most hated enemies. Case in point: perennial White House pretender Jack Kemp, who sits on Oracle's board of directors.

As some of my colleagues in the tech press noted, Jacques le Quarterback recently let fly a verbal missile at the Department of Injustice for its "wrong-headed, misguided, and potentially harmful use of government's power under the guise of antitrust enforcement" against Microsoft. Zut, it sounds like Jack is smack-dab in the center of one of those empowerment zones he's always haranguing Ted Koppel about. He even urged us to "celebrate Microsoft as an American success story...and turn a deaf ear to the government regulators and lawyers for whom success is always a problem that must be corrected." You can almost see Bill Gates writing out the campaign contributions right now. Got Lincoln Bedroom?

But enough podium-bashing Beltway rhetoric. Let's get nerdy! These gems from the recent International Solid State Circuits Conference (and undercover Star Trek convention) should convince most liberal-arts Skintelligentsia that it was a good move to leave the comp-sci to others in college. Here for your perusal are the casual musings of the chip designers among us, overheard and duly noted by Agent 00486:

  • "We replaced the binary adder with the carry propagation free adder with decoder."

  • "'What about clock skew and source jitter,' you might be asking." (Well, they DID cross my mind.)

  • "We distributed a global scan gate signal that toggles between scan and function mode."

    Then there's this nugget, straight from the tri-panels of Dilbert: "To use a layman's interpretation, we compare it at the phase and frequency detector." Ah, yes, a "layman's" interpretation. And who might that layman be--First Engineer Scotty? Ach! I canna do it, Cap'n, she doesn't have any more power! So please, get up off your binary adder, set your gossip on stun, and send me a few rumors.