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I Don't Get It

Dave Winer has posted a brief blog entry extolling the virtues of a five-year-old piece on Apple by Denise Caruso for the New York Times:

On this day in 1997 Denise Caruso wrote a kickass story about Amelio's Apple in the NY Times.
I've met both the principals here. I've known Dave since the Living Videotext days. We met at his offices then, and then again years later over breakfast at Buck's. As for Denise, I met her during, I believe, my time at Be. When she was writing for the Times, I was a religious reader -- she's one of the sharper commentators on our industry.

All that said, and even knowing the character that Dave is, I just don't get this. Why would he sing the praises of something so wrong? In her original piece, Denise's comments on CEO exit packages -- especially for the likes of Mike Spindler and Gil Amelio -- were right on. Then, though, she went on to write:

And speaking of the incredible, why has Apple's board re-admitted Steven Jobs, the company's mercurial co-founder, to the inner sanctum by making him its trusted adviser?

Apple watchers found it surreal enough that Amelio agreed in December to buy Jobs' unsuccessful company, Next Software Inc., for more than $400 million plus stock options -- then made its software the cornerstone of Apple's new operating system strategy...

But looking upon the record of both Jobs and Markkula -- Jobs picked Sculley, and Markkula kicked out Jobs, then kicked out Sculley, then hired and dismissed both Spindler and Amelio -- raises the question of whether Apple can endure another chief executive selection (and severance package) engineered by the two of them.

Imagine what the company might have done with all that money -- almost $20 million in chief executive severance pay alone, plus millions of dollars in stock options, and more than $400 million for Next.

Dave Winer, an on-line columnist and president of Userland Software Inc., which develops programs for the Apple Macintosh among other computing platforms, recently wrote an essay about Apple called "The Sure Road to Bankruptcy".

In it, Winer contends that the $400 million spent on Next might have done more for the Macintosh had it gone to capitalizing 100 start-up software companies. But Apple's executives, he wrote, were "unwilling to open their eyes and look outside for new direction."

At this point, it is unclear whether Apple's new direction will be much the same as the old -- a continuing downward spiral. But if survival is even possible, it may hinge on whether Apple's board of directors can hire a chief executive without promising to give him a king's ransom if he fails.

Denise strongly implied in this piece that bringing Jobs back was a bad thing. I myself admit to having reservations at the time -- especially about the price paid for NeXT. But I was wrong, and it ended up being the best thing possible for Apple and the industry. From a product standpoint, Apple is undeniably resurgent under Jobs. From a shareholder return standpoint, well, take a look at this five-year graph of AAPL:

On 15 July 1997, the date of Denise's story, AAPL had an adjusted close of 7.97. As of last Friday, it closed at 17.51 -- a gain of 119.7 percent. At its peak to date under Jobs, on 22 March 2000, AAPL had an adjusted close of 72.10 -- a gain of 804.6 percent. Clearly Jobs has been spectacularly successful leading Apple. So what's up with Dave's piece?

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