Joanna Hoffman, the veteran of the Macintosh team who was among those willing to challenge Jobs, did so. “Reality distortion has motivational value, and I think that’s fine,” she said as Jobs stood at a whiteboard. “However,
when it comes to setting a date in a way that affects the design of the product, then we get into real deep shit.” Jobs didn’t agree: “I think we have to drive a stake in the ground somewhere, and I think if we miss this window, then our
credibility starts to erode.” What he did not say, even though it was suspected by all, was that if their targets slipped they might run out of money. Jobs had pledged $7 million of his own funds, but at their current burn rate that would run out in eighteen months if they didn’t start getting some revenue from shipped products.
In order to translate the NeXT logo into the look of real products, Jobs needed an industrial designer he trusted. He talked
to a few possibilities, but none of them impressed him as much as the wild Bavarian he had imported to
Apple: Hartmut Esslinger, whose frogdesign had set up shop in Silicon Valley and who, thanks to Jobs, had a lucrative contract with Apple. Getting
IBM to permit Paul Rand to do work for NeXT was a small miracle willed into
existence by Jobs’s belief that reality can be distorted. But that was a snap
compared to the likelihood that he could convince Apple to permit Esslinger to work for NeXT.
This did not keep Jobs from trying. At the beginning of November 1985, just five weeks after Apple filed suit against him,
Jobs wrote to Eisenstat and asked for a dispensation. “I spoke with Hartmut Esslinger this weekend and he
suggested I write you a note expressing why I wish to work with him and frogdesign on the new products for
NeXT,” he said. Astonishingly, Jobs’s argument was that he did not know what Apple had in the works, but Esslinger did.
“NeXT has no knowledge as to the current or future directions of Apple’s
product designs, nor do other design firms we might deal with, so it is possible to inadvertently design similar looking
products. It is in both Apple’s and NeXT’s best interest to rely on Hartmut’s professionalism to make sure this does
not occur.” Eisenstat recalled being flabbergasted by Jobs’s audacity,
and he replied curtly. “I have previously expressed my concern on behalf of Apple that you are engaged in a business course
which involves your utilization of Apple’s confidential business information,” he wrote. “Your letter does not alleviate my concern in any way. In fact it heightens my
concern because it states that you have ‘no knowledge as to the current or future directions of Apple’s product designs,’ a
statement which is not true.” What made the request all the more astonishing to Eisenstat was that it was Jobs who, just a year earlier,
had forced frogdesign to
abandon its work on