Apple launched the Lisa in January 1983—a full year before the Mac was
ready—and Jobs paid his $5,000 wager to Couch. Even though he was not
part of the Lisa team, Jobs went to New York to do publicity for it in his
role as Apple’s chairman and poster boy.
He had learned from his public relations consultant Regis McKenna how to
dole out exclusive interviews in a dramatic manner. Reporters from anointed
publications were ushered in sequentially for their hour with him in his
Carlyle Hotel suite, where a Lisa computer was set on a table and surrounded by
cut flowers. The publicity plan called for Jobs to focus on the Lisa and not mention
the Macintosh, because speculation about it could undermine the Lisa. But Jobs
couldn’t help himself. In most of the stories based on his interviews that day—in Time,
Business Week, the Wall Street Journal, and Fortune—the Macintosh was mentioned.
“Later this year Apple will introduce a less powerful, less expensive version of Lisa, the
Macintosh,” Fortune reported. “Jobs himself has directed that project.” Business
Week quoted him as saying, “When it comes out, Mac is going to be the most incredible
computer in the world.” He also admitted that the Mac and the Lisa would not be compatible.
It was like launching the Lisa with the kiss of death.
The first was “Don’t compromise.” It was an injunction that would,
over time, be both helpful and harmful. Most technology teams made
trade-offs. The Mac, on the other hand, would end up being as “insanely great”
as Jobs and his acolytes could possibly make it—but it would not ship for
another sixteen months, way behind schedule. After mentioning a scheduled
completion date, he told them, “It would be better to miss than to turn out
the wrong thing.” A different type of project manager, willing to make some
trade-offs, might try to lock in dates after which no changes could be made.
Not Jobs. He displayed another maxim: “It’s not done until it ships.”
The Lisa did indeed die a slow death. Within two years it would be discontinued.
“It was too expensive, and we were trying to sell it to big
companies when our expertise was
selling to consumers,” Jobs later said. But there was a silver
lining for Jobs: Within months of Lisa’s launch, it became