Naked Launch

CV1_TNY_11_25_13Viva.inddHere is a brief excerpt from an outstanding article written by Nathan Heller for The New Yorker. To read the complete article, check out others, and obtain subscription information, please click here.

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One Tuesday in January, 2007, Steve Jobs, the C.E.O. of Apple, sat backstage at San Francisco’s Moscone Center and prepared for the most audacious bluff of his career. The iPhone was about to be unveiled, but the device was not remotely ready for the public eye. Its external casing didn’t always fit together properly. Curious things would happen when you pressed the letter “E.” Jobs had been rehearsing for five days straight, but almost every time something went awry. The unveiling would be broadcast live, a bid for dazzling immediacy which now seemed extremely ill-advised. A few high-ranking Apple engineers and managers had concealed Scotch about their persons, and, as Jobs strode onstage with the phone, they took to drink.

The iPhone’s problems were legion and unpredictable. It randomly dropped calls on its cellular channel. It had trouble holding connections on Wi-Fi. Its memory was so buggy that it needed frequent re-starting, like a ten-year-old computer, and it crashed when anybody tried to play a video in its entirety. Jobs intended to announce a late-June shipping date, as if production were already under way. In truth, the iPhone lacked even a manufacturing plan: no one at Apple knew how the company was going to be able to build and ship the device in volume.

Jobs was both the source of this predicament and—at least in the sense that enslaved oarsmen rely on their captain for a route back to land—the solution. His management style was to commit to the impossible and drive his staff, often cruelly, to produce results. He treated his employees with a mixture of fickle favoritism and blame. “Very rarely did I see him become completely unglued,” one of his engineers tells the journalist Fred Vogelstein, in his new book, Dogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution. “Mostly he just looked at you and very directly said in a very loud and stern voice, ‘You are fucking up my company,’ or, ‘If we fail, it will be because of you.’ ”….

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To read the complete article, please click here.

Nathan Heller is a columnist for Slate and a film and TV critic for Vogue. He has also written for The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Bookforum, n+1, and elsewhere. He grew up in San Francisco and lives in New York.

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