On the way to somewhere else in preparing the last couple of blog posts, I came across a reflection document I prepared in 1990 “ALL-IN-1 Ten Years Later.” Buried in the document was an article that caught my eye about Steve Jobs vision for NeXT Computer. Now that we are twenty years farther along, I found it interesting to reflect on Steve Jobs vision and the ALL-IN-1 vision.
In the January 29, 1990, Businessweek, an article appeared about Steve Jobs vision of what the NeXT computer meant for business. NeXT is about making Electronic Mail systems happen. Excuse me. Maybe timing is everything, but I thought that was our vision for ALL-IN-1 in the 1980s. Then I got to thinking that for his target market – PC users upgrading to workstations and Local Area Networks – electronic mail that automates workflow processes (like expense reports, capital appropriation requests, etc … ) probably is a far out vision. I also remembered a conversation with the DuPont account team as DuPont was doing a review of their return on investment for their ALL-IN-1 systems. DuPont realized they had only put the infrastructure in; they had not implemented the customized work flows of the original plan.
The following article represent a view of time of the 1980s in relation to the VISION of what office automation is (could be) about.
The Third Wave According to Steve Jobs
“What’s good for Next Inc. will be good for Corporate America. That’s how Chairman Steven P. Jobs sees it. “We put a NeXT on each desk, and it changed the company in ways I never expected,” he says. Those computers, networked and programmed with sophisticated electronic messaging software, have nipped the incipient bureaucracy that can slow even a 300-employee startup. Once refined, Jobs adds, such systems will launch a third wave in PCs – “far bigger than spreadsheets and desktop publishing.”
“Jobs says that the third wave will raise productivity by doing away with paper memos, forms, and even phone calls. At NeXT, for instance, purchase requisitions are written on a computer, passed along the network for approvals, and checked against the budget. Only then is a paper purchase order printed. Check requests work the same way. Schedules, notices, and announcements are posted electronically. And because electronic mail lets participants prepare better, meetings are more productive. “They’ve been cut in half, and more people get involved in key decisions,” Jobs says.
“Detractors note that this is not unique and can be accomplished with cheaper computers, such as IBM PCs. “I don’t see where it’s all that different,” says John R. Lynch, director of business markets for NeXT rival Sun Microsystems Inc.
“But Jobs insists that built-in features, such as software that lets the Next computer do several things at once, will make it a networking standout. PCs have options for handling digital sound for voice mail, but sound is standard on Next, as is voice-mail software. Today, Next uses custom software to exploit such functions. When third-party companies develop special software for that – later this year – then Corporate America can try the third wave, too.”