Guestblog: Louise Kehoe recalls Steve Jobs' rock star comeback to Apple
1997 MacWorld was a memorable event, in many ways. I was sitting in the front row wedged between Muhammad Ali and Ellen Hancock (Muhammad is a large man, the seats were small). This was Gil Amelio’s last MacWorld appearance. He talked for nearly 3 hours. I don’t remember much of what he said, only that Ellen was suffering on his behalf, I was suffering on her behalf and we were all suffering for lack of seating space. Then Steve Jobs walked on stage. He spoke briefly, to wild applause, in sharp contrast to the reaction that Gil received. We all knew then that Gil was on the way out.
Louise Kehoe chatting with Steve Jobs: So what have you been up to, Steve?
And perhaps I can turn the clock back a little further, to the day when Steve came back to Apple. With typical arrogance, Apple called a press conference with just an hour or so notice – late afternoon on the Friday before Christmas (that must have been 1996, I think). The press pack rushed down there…those based in SF arrived late. Gil took the stage in the Apple auditorium to announce Apple’s plans to acquire Next…and that Steve would return to Apple as a “consultant”.
Enter Steve, from the back of the room, bounding down the steps.
When the formal proceedings ended, we reporters rushed the stage. I had just one question for Steve: “What are you up to?” He assured me that he had no intention of reclaiming his role at the head of Apple. “Oh no Louise, I have other interests now. I have a family….” Then I asked Gil if he knew what he was doing. Wasn’t he opening the door for Steve to oust him, in the same way that Steve had attempted to oust John Sculley a decade earlier? Gil seemed sure that this could not happen. The rest, of course, is history.
But perhaps I can add one more reflection. If we are comparing notes on the most memorable Steve Jobs’ presentation, then I would have to say it was in 1984 when he and John Sculley introduced the original Macintosh. Like later events, this one was carefully choreographed. But that, in itself, was an innovation in those days. I, and many others, had been pre-briefed on the Macintosh product and I had written most of my story in advance. But the news desk wanted to add some “color” from the event at the Flint Center in Cupertino. As the event got underway, I made my way to the back of the theatre to use a pay phone (no cell phone in those days) and got through to the crusty FT news editor just as Steve Jobs walked on stage, the music started blaring and the crowd (mostly Apple employees) started screaming!
I attempted to describe the scene, but the background noise was overwhelming and the news editor was skeptical. “Where are you?", he kept asking. “You are supposed to be at a computer event!”