Apple Computer software engineer Steve Capps got married but didn't have time for a honeymoon, let alone the Dom Perignon that he and his bride had saved for a special occasion.
Capps was a key player in the development of Apple's "personal data assistant," called Newton. Newton, described as one of the most controversial new product launches in recent history, is a pen-based hand-held communications device. It records notes, creates lists, keeps track of names and numbers and sends faxes.Capps' devotion to the project is typical of the team that brought Newton from the concept stage to marketable product in less than two years. Their story is chronicled in "Defying Gravity: The Making of Newton" by photojournalist Doug Menuez and Newsweek/
NBC correspondent Markos Kounalakis.
"The book is about the human side of the story. What I was trying to get was `What is the psyche of someone who would work 100 hours a week on something like this under hideous circumstances?' " Menuez said.
Menuez spent nearly two years inside Apple Computer documenting Newton's development. It was the first time Apple had granted a journalist unrestricted access and complete editorial control. The book is not terribly flattering to Apple.
It delicately describes the suicide of a 27-year-old computer programmer who could not cope with the pressures of the Newton project and his personal life.
And it documents some anxious moments for Apple's top brass. Seconds before introducing a Newton prototype at the Chicago Consumer Electronics show, Apple president John Sculley muttered to to marketing manager Michael Tchao, "Let's hope it works."
In nearly two years of living "inside" Apple, Menuez discovered the corporation was an "$8 billion entrenched bureaucracy," he said.
"Newton was a threat to the internal power structure."
Mainstream Apple employees were suspect of the project because it was developed in secret in a warehouse a couple of miles from Apple's main campus in Cupertino, Calif. To Apple employees, the debut of a new product had historically meant the demise of the previous generation of consumer electronics. The Apple computer was replaced by Apple II and Apple II gave way to the Mac-in-tosh.
"A small, internal start-up project begins, then raises the pirate flag against Apple as a company and finally emerges dom-inant," wrote Kounalakis.
The youth of the Newton product team likely added to the Apple employees' suspicion.
Menuez, who worked alongside the team as it pulled all-nighters writing millions of characters in complex computer code, described team members as a rebel band of 25-year-olds. "It's like someone who got the keys to dad's car and is driving downtown fast and out of control," Menuez said.
He is hardly a stranger to corporate America. His work has been featured on the cover of Fortune and in the pages of Time, Life, Newsweek and US News and World Report. "Previously when I thought I had access, I really didn't. You see what they want you to see," Menuez said. "Still, I feel like I only got 10 percent of the story. It was going on on five continents."
In addition to Menuez's look at Newton's development from the human perspective, "Defying Gravity" also tells the story of Apple Computer operations outside the Newton laboratory.
Sculley is shepherding the company through uncertain times. Profit margins have eroded as Apple has struggled to increase its market share.
Sculley has trodden in unfamiliar territory as he has built alliances with Japanese, European and American companies and licensed Newton technology.
Menuez also discovered that behind the corporate facade lies a massive public relations machine that carefully filters information disseminated by the company as well as running interference and conducting damage control.
"The PR people were just masters at working with the media. They were almost better journalists than we were in terms of their research and preparation," Menuez said.
Incidentally, Capps never opened that bottle of champagne. He gave it to Menuez to celebrate the publishing of his book.
"Defying Gravity," published by Beyond Words Publishing Inc., sells for $29.95.