For today’s Kudos & Calamities column, I wanted to take a different approach. On April 1st, Apple Computers, the company we have all come to love and hate (or perhaps know and love?), turned thirty years old. At first thought, my reaction was cynical – a company born on a day of fools jokes and lies. But seriously now – Apple, despite being a very minor presence in terms of market shares compared to its chief competitor (*ahem Microsoft ahem*), the Cupertino-based computer company has had an undeniable impact on where our technology is today.
Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak assembled the Apple 1 in Steve Jobs’ basement thirty years ago, and they sold it for $666.66 USD. Apple 1 is generally credited as being the first fully-assembled computer system. Granted, that alone was a substantial release. Soon afterwards, Apple released Apple II, naturally. The capabilities and power of Apple II played a major role in what personal computing developed is today. The Steve and Steve business that started in a California home garage took off. And what a turbulent ride it would be.
The Apple II also resulted in an important decision by then booming Apple Computer’s Steve Jobs. At the time, many of Apple’s workers were widely considered the pioneers of computing. Steve Jobs’, the leader of the pack, was given the opportunity to license the Apple technology/OS and garner revenue in that way. Jobs and the board of directors refused.
Apple’s decision backfired and IBM and Microsoft became serious contenders (and would later supplant Apple as leaders in computing technology). Similarly, today, Apple keeps its revolutionary iPod player on a short leash. With the iPod player, you are restricted to use its iTunes software for, among other things, synchronizing. Apple can actively control iTunes – it’s an online service. So here’s an interesting counterfactual – what if Apple actively promoted licensing its technology to others? What if Apple released a piece of hardware for what it is and “let it loose”, so to speak? Many analysts say that Apple would have had a greater presence in the computer market if they opened up. Microsoft is largely where they are today because they were licensed their technology and operating system to manufacturers. Apple, however, is unique for “controlling” everything they build and release. I think Apple did the right thing. But my whole argument is for another time.
Chugging along in the computer trail, Apple released the Macintosh – the first incarnation of what is now a ubiquitous presence. The Macintosh featured an advanced graphics user interface (GUI) system which would become very popular. What is notable about the Apple Macintosh is the one 1984 commercial that announced its release. Aired during Super Bowl XVIII, the commercial is based off of George Orwell’s 1984, which proclaims that the 1984 release of Macintosh would not be like Orwell’s Utopian “1984″ (often suggested as IBM and Apple’s competitors).
In 1985, the “Steves” left the face of Apple. Following a series of internal disputes, Steve Jobs was sacked in favor of John Sculley. Steve Wozniak left because he didn’t like the corporate life. Soon afterwards, Jobs founded NeXT Computer. Through a series of improbable events, Apple purchased NeXT computer from Steve Jobs. Jobs replaced the incumbent CEO Gil Amelio under the capacity of “Interim” CEO. Through Jobs’ well-known charismatic leadership, Apple’s board of directors hoped to turn the financially “Red” Apple into a “Green” Apple.
Jobs’ combined innovation and trend-setting design to propel Apple out of the red and into the green. The release of the iMac was a great cornerstone for Apple today. Using translucent casing materials, Jobs made computing into a fashion statement – a fashion statement that has developed into a must-have object. Today, there is no product made by Apple, or at least branded “Apple”, that has not gone through the observant eye of Apple’s renown design team, making it an instant fashionable “must have” for a wide range of people. And that is where we are. Apple’s current products, iPods, iBooks, new iMacs, have a clear manifestation of Jobs’ and Apple’s motto: “Think Different”.
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