Saturday, April 2, 2016

Regis McKenna’s 1976 Notebook

Harry McCracken (Hacker News):

Once RMI decided to sign Apple as a client for its advertising and public relations services, McKenna became one of the very first people in the world to take a stab at understanding the company and its products. Then he went on to play an instrumental role in helping the rest of the world do so. Fortunately for us, he’s an obsessive notetaker, and enough of a packrat that he kept many of the notebooks he’s filled throughout his career—including this one, which contains his jottings from when he began to formulate a marketing plan for the Apple II in December 1976.


Selling the new computer, McKenna felt, would require explaining it to the uninitiated. “I told that to Wozniak, and he got pretty inflamed about it. I said, ‘There’s nothing I can do for you. Goodbye.’ He left, but Steve [Jobs] came back.”


Then there was IBM. McKenna referenced it and Hewlett-Packard, but only to note that they cater to engineers with machines that cost $5,000 to $10,000, far afield from the Apple II’s intended market. The first IBM PC, which would prove an epoch-shifting success when it arrived, was more than four years away—not yet on IBM’s radar, let alone Apple’s.


“I kept on bringing up the Apple Stores because there was no outlet,” McKenna says. “It only made sense that you would sell them through your own stores.” The concept proved rather successful once the company tackled it in earnest a mere quarter of a century later.


His secret weapon turned out to be Steve Jobs. “I took Steve and put him on a plane with me to go all over,” he says. “His personality was what captured people. They didn’t know if he was real or not, but he was smart and articulate and enthusiastic. He was a different kind of person than the president of IBM.”

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