Remembering Project Marklar

Nick Wingfield mentioned something which took me back a long way:

It’s well worth reading the whole thread, as much of it typifies Steve Jobs, but describing the reporting of Nick dePlume and Matthew Rothenberg at eWeek on Project Marklar as “rumours” is wrong. In 2002, they absolutely nailed the details of the nascent Intel project. I know the work that went into that story, because I talked them about it at the time.

I was tangentially involved in it. At the time, I was news editor on MacUser UK, and a year before they broke the story, Nick called me to see if I’d heard anything about Transitive, the UK-based company whose PowerPC to Intel code translation software Apple was using.

Nick and Matthew worked on that story for a good 18 months before publishing anything. It was solid, dogged reporting. Calling it “rumours” is what Apple did at the time – basically, anything Apple didn’t want you to report, they called “rumours”.

Worth remembering: Jobs was so pissed off about the Marklar story (and many others) that he made closing dePlume’s site a priority – and eventually sued it out of existence. And way too many journalists covering the Mac gave Apple a free pass about this, effectively shrugging their shoulders.

Coda: one of our reporters, the wonderful and much missed Paul Nesbitt, asked Jobs the same question in about 2004. He got barred from Apple press conferences for it. Jobs had many fine qualities, but tolerance for a free press was not one of them.

Extra coda: there were quite a few writers about the Mac at the time who insisted that “it’s a rumour until Apple announces it”. This is a great tell that a writer isn’t a reporter and doesn’t understand that by that standard, Watergate was all rumours till Nixon resigned.