Apple Survived ’80s Thanks To One Piece of Software, Says Guy Kawasaki


Author and former Apple evangelist Guy Kawasaki at Ad:Tech
Author and former Apple evangelist Guy Kawasaki at Ad:Tech

SAN FRANCISCO, AD:TECH CONFERENCE: The survival of Apple beyond the 1980s is thanks to one piece of software, says Guy Kawasaki, best-selling author and Apple’s former chief evangelist.

The comment came during a highly entertaining keynote speech at the Ad:Tech conference on Tuesday to promote Kawasaki’s new book, Enchantment. The book is a manual of persuasion in the mold of Dale Carnegie’s “How to Make Friends and Influence People.” (I’m reading it and will have a review soon).

According to Kawasaki, the Mac would have died shortly after its introduction in 1984 if it hadn’t been for a single miraculous piece of software: Aldus PageMaker, the original page-layout program.

Kawasaki said the original Mac wasn’t much good for spreadsheets or databases, but was good for designing print publications.

“PageMaker was a bright spot that created this gigantic bright spot — desktop publishing,” he said.

“Desktop publishing — it saved Apple,” Kawasaki continued. “It was a gift from God to save Apple. There is no other explanation for the survival of Apple than it is evidence of a benevolent god.”

This line got a pretty good laugh from the audience of ad industry types — all of whom were touting MacBook Airs or iPads.

Kawasaki also said that the original Mac was a “piece of crap” but it was a “revolutionary piece of crap.”

And that the Mac development team was the greatest collection of egos in one room in the history of Silicon Valley — “and that’s saying a lot.”

The Mac division held this record for 20 years, Kawasaki said, until the title was taken by — wait for it — Google.

Most of Kawasaki’s talk focused on 10 points to enchant people. Enchantment is a higher form of persuasion that involves likability, trustworthiness, and a higher cause.

One of his points was to “sell your dream.” He gave the example of the iPhone, which he said is rightly described as $188 dollars worth of parts, manufactured in a plant where workers tend to commit suicide, and is hitched to a America’s worst cell phone network.

“But this in not how Steve Jobs pitched the iPhone,” he said to a big roar of laughter.

If you get a chance to see Kawasaki speak, I highly recommend it. We’ll post a video if one surfaces. Also check out his book Enchantment (Amazon link): it’s a great and entertaining read so far, and is proving to be full of practical advice.

  • Alan Hewett

    That just goes to show that Apple is more than the sum of its parts.

  • List Aggregate

    I’d say the “evangelist” mailing list that he ran in the mid-late 90s had a lot to do with why apple is still so highly defended and really set the benchmark for online advocacy and the ripples of it are felt today…

  • Raj

    Great guy except for the fact he is making fun of people killing themselves…

  • Robert Pruitt

    Anyone else think Guy Kawasaki is kind of a tool? I’m not strictly judging from this article, just in general. I found “Enchantment” pretty fluffy too.

  • 5imo

    Dose anyone else hope he gets cancer?

  • stevewoz

    Headline reads “survived the 80’s” but Guy’s comment was “Survival of Apple beyond the 1980’s”. The Apple ][ revenues were major in the 80’s so Apple was OK in that decade.

    Guy’s point is relevant at the very end of the 80’s, as Apple’s major revenues shifted toward the Macintosh, and Pagemaker was a key item. The Macintosh had the hardware (principally enough RAM, also the affordable networked LaserWriter) for desktop publishing, Photoshop, video editing and other ‘creative arts’ software. The extra cost of this hardware (compared to PC’s of the day) may well have been a factor in losing market share. It’s a tradeoff. Build the chepest hardware for needs of the day or pursue greater software goals, with Apple taking the latter course. This made Apple the brave leader into the future of computing and captured so many of our hearts and minds.

    Just my opinions.

  • Buzz

    Say what you want, but I remember the Evangelist, and it was one of the (few) things holding Apple together in the public eye during a very, very bad time. I’m typing on this “insanely great” thing in front of me right now in large part because of Guy Kawasaki.

  • VungWoo

    Wow, that actualyl makes a lot of sense dude.

  • BMWTwisty

    Desktop publishing had already been up to speed on the Apple II for quite some time (thanks IIGS!). I can remember reading about guys diddling around actually writing Postscript code to print their documents on the first LaserWriter (cost ~$5,500). There was quite an interest in desktop publishing as well as a number of magazines dedicated to the topic just on the Apple II.

    When the Macintosh came along it was The Next Great Thing to make people more productive and have a great time doing so in an Apple kinda way.

    And does anyone remember, fwiw, how THICK MacUser and MacWorld used to be back in the early 1980’s?

    And does anyone remember when Photoshop used to be an Apple Menu, Control Panel item?

    And were the aforementioned ad industry types “touting” or “toting” their MacBooks?

  • xmichaelx

    “And does anyone remember, fwiw, how THICK MacUser and MacWorld used to be back in the early 1980’s?”

    I do, and would argue that Apple wasn’t kept alive by any single piece of software or capability, but by a devoted fanbase and a thriving community that kept it vital and interesting.

  • FreakinGenius

    OS X is such a horrible desktop operating system, it’s no wonder that nobody uses it on real computers; just those horrible little walled-garden handheld units.

  • Roger Chucker

    is this the real woz???

  • Jon Grumm

    IIgs came out in 1986, Mac in 1984.

  • Jon Grumm

    Yeah you’re right man. Glad you came here and said something. Time to head to Best Buy and get a HP.

  • Mark Crummett

    I was in journalism school in the NW in 1985 when a rep from a little company called Aldus came to a class to demo this thing called Pagemaker. I was, yes, enchanted as I watched text flow into columns and around pictures. My boss in the Army a year before had one of the first Macs; I was not impressed. My only thought after that demo was “I gotta get me one of those!”

  • FreakinGenius

    When you buy a Mac, you don’t own it. OS X is not your operating system, you’re just renting Apple’s user experience. It’s a toy for children and that’s why nobody uses their desktop systems. LOL.

  • FreakinGenius

    The original Mac wasn’t the last piece of crap that Apple produced, I’m pretty sure that walled-garden called OS X is. Oh and their chief evangelist looks like he got dressed in the dark.

  • Jon Grumm

    What are you some kind of FreakinGenius?

    Unless you wrote your own operating system, you’re renting someones User Experience. If your using Linux or some “free” os, then your renting it with all the time you spend getting your peripherals working. Been there man, I can do as much and more with my BSD workstation with the shiny metal case then I ever could on Debian or whatever flavor you prefer.

    If you’re using Windows then your just a fucking idiot.

  • FreakinGenius

    Windows runs great in a virtual machine. It’s so flexible and nice. OS X? Nope. Not even on your Mac hardware. Bwahahaha. You lose.

    Steve Jobs doesn’t want you to do that.

    I got the latest video card for my Windows box today. You fools using OS X are stuck with whatever Apple decides you can use.

  • The_CW

    Kawasaki’s always had this passive aggressive pro-apple/anti-apple thing since Jobs returned.

  • Travesty

    Carnegie’s book is actually “How to WIN Friends and Influence People.” Not “How to MAKE Friends and Influence People.”

  • Barbara


  • Barbara

    Go troll on some other forum.

  • Jan Meyer

    You can watch the keynote on YouTube:

  • stevewoz

    I’m one of the real Woz’s.

  • Tim Lang

    I’m sure Guy was just trying to get a laugh, but regarding the last bit about pitching the iPhone:

    $188 worth of parts– meaningless
    Manufactured in a plant that had a lower suicide rate than the national average
    ATT arguably had a better network for data than others, which makes more sense for a smartphone

    The job of an evangelist is to promote products that are having trouble selling themselves. Guy’s message is weakened if he admits that truly great products sell themselves.

  • JohnDoey

    Yeah, especially when the suicide rate in the US is much higher than at Foxconn. Also the chance of being murdered, raped, or dying or being maimed due to lack of access to healthcare is much higher in the US than at Foxconn. Like exponentially higher. The workers at Foxconn deserve our respect and gratitude for building the future.

    And the idea that iPhone parts cost $188 excludes the design, software, services, and support, which is the bulk of the product. It’s like saying that a great music album cost 20 cents to make because that’s what the blank CD cost. It’s a way of telling so little truth that you are actually lying. Maybe that is fair game since he then says that is not how Jobs pitches it. Of course not. He pitches the design, software, services, and support and what all of those enable you to do without having to take an I-T course.

  • JohnDoey

    Mac OS X is by far the most open operating system shipping on a name brand PC. It features over 200 open source projects, including an entirely open source Web stack.

    Apple WebKit is one of the most successful open source projects ever produced. It’s also the most popular mobile open source project, running on every smartphone or tablet with the exception of Microsoft.

    All of Apple’s Mac OS and iOS devices run open standard W3C apps from any source, open standard ISO audio video from any source, open standard ePub and PDF books from any source, and have a standard C/C++ API to which native software is portable, and they all run the open source xnu kernel and open source WebKit HTML5 engine.

    So you don’t actually know what you’re talking about.

    All you have to do is look in the “garden” and see that f’ing everybody is in there to figure out there are no walls.

    Check to see if there is a string hanging out of your back that Google’s marketing department has been pulling. Then STFU and do some reading and learn what is actually happening.

  • JohnDoey

    90% of high-end PC’s are Macs, troll.

  • FreakinGenius

    “Mac OS X is by far the most open operating system shipping on a name brand PC”

    Nice try, but you’re delusional. You also sound like a marketing drone.

    Are you even allowed to put Open Sores apps on the App Store? Also, there are thousands of OSS projects targeting Windows. Much more than the Mac, thank you very much.

    Oh and hey, do any businesses actually us OS X in their operations? No? Gee, wonder why that is. Maybe because it’s much less flexible and open in ways that really matter?

  • FreakinGenius

    Which equates to like 2% of the market.

    And the only reason they have that much is because their systems also run Windows. Without Windows, they wouldn’t have half of that. :)

  • FreakinGenius

    Oh my, what a witty (and original) retort!

  • FreakinGenius

    You say Troll, I say Truth.

  • person1597

    The early eighties saw the rise of digital music, mostly based on MIDI compatible hardware and software products from numerous vendors. The Mac enabled widespread use of MIDI in the music studio.

    The artist depended heavily on good customer support to achieve proficiency in the digital studio. While Apple was restrained from making musical products at the time, the plethora of entrepreneurs filled the market will all manner of computer controlled music synthesis.

    Performing artists received at least as much attention as graphic artists in the early days of rivalry with the PC. The Mac’s wow factor seemed to offset the additional cost compared to the industry standard architecture.

  • Bob Washburn

    I agree with Guy. We were both at Apple in the ’80s. The original Mac was a weak machine – remember how many times you had to stuff in a diskette to load a program? And without a doubt Aldus’ Pagemaker saved the product line. In June 1985 we shipped only 16000 Macs! With PM and a shared Laserwriter, we stormed the dealers with Desktop Publishing and Mac’s future for the next year was assured.

  • Dexter32

    Apple OSX now hold 14.9% market share, up from 5% two years ago. Windows 7 is 30%. I use both, and the Mac is far more reliable. Quite simple concept really: make products that people enjoy to use and that work reliably and they will buy them.
    Apples revenue and stock price proves it works.

  • FreakinGenius

    I use both and Windows 7 is far more reliable (and flexible, since I can run Win7 on any hardware that I want and also in a virtual machine which is great for testing). My anecdotal evidence is better than yours.

    For some empirical evidence of the reliability of Windows, see the fact that almost every business on Earth has relied on Windows for the past 15 years, it’s near flawless backwards compatibility and the uptime of sites like StackOverflow.

  • Halloween_Jack

    More than a quarter-century since the introduction of the Mac, and modern science is still trying to discover the relevance of Guy Kawasaki. Srsly, the big point of his speech is that a killer app is key to the success of a device that challenges the current paradigm? Is that what he brought to the jamboree? He can still manage a clever turn of phrase, but…

  • gerbras

    “tyranny of the majority” proves nothing. Most people thought the world was flat at one point too! And a majority of Americans voted for GW Bush ( the first time around). I would guess that most business’s purchased pc boxes w windows in the past 15 years on one factor only: price!

  • FreakinGenius

    It’s very naive to think that you can point to one thing and say “that’s why Microsoft won the desktop war.”

    First, Windows ran on the commodity hardware that businesses already owned. Nevermind the price, think about the time that it would take for a business to switch and how much of an advantage they’d really get out of it.

    Second,  they played a huge hand in commoditizing the hardware market which made computers more accessible to _everybody_, not just businesses. They made themselves much more available than Apple.

    Third, they cater to Developers, Developers, Developers (which is just another set of users) MUCH more than Apple.

    Meanwhile, Apple’s becoming just another Consumer Electronics company.

  • Sundeep Chugani

    Hate to disagree with you on one thing, but I think we can all agree that stock price is not a reflection of the performance of a company’s products or business…at least not as PROOF.