One of Jobs's management philosophies was that it is crucial,
every now and then, to roll the dice and "bet the company" on some new idea or technology.
At the NeXT launch, he boasted of an example that, as it turned out, would not be a wise gamble:
having a high-capacity (but slow) optical read/write disk and no floppy disk as a backup.
"Two years ago we made a decision," he said.
"We saw some new technology and we made a decision to risk our company."
Then he turned to a feature that would prove more prescient.
"What we've done is made the first real digital books," he said,
noting the inclusion of the Oxford edition of Shakespeare and other tomes.
"There has not been an advancement in the state of the art of printed book technology since Gutenberg."
At times he could be amusingly aware of his own foibles,
and he used the electronic book demonstration to poke fun at himself.
"A word that's sometimes used to describe me is 'mercurial,'" he said, then paused.
The audience laughed knowingly, especially those in the front rows,
which were filled with NeXT employees and former members of the Macintosh team.
Then he pulled up the word in the computer's dictionary and read the first definition:
"Of or relating to, or born under the planet Mercury."
Scrolling down, he said, "I think the third one is the one they mean: 'Characterized by unpredictable changeableness of mood.'"
There was a bit more laughter. "If we scroll down the thesaurus, though, we see that the antonym is 'saturnine.'
Well what's that? By simply double-clicking on it,
we immediately look that up in the dictionary, and here it is: 'Cold and steady in moods.
Slow to act or change. Of a gloomy or surly disposition.'"
A little smile came across his face as he waited for the ripple of laughter.
"Well," he concluded, "I don't think 'mercurial' is so bad after all."