The rise of Apple indeed lies with their attitude of “Thinking Differently”. While the company may not have always been heralded as a success, their strength over the years has come from great vision and not always doing the same things as the competition. They have been bold and occasionally put a few noses out of joint, but that’s the price paid for thinking outside the box.
Though many of us are fans of the Apple products, not all fans are well versed in the history of the company. Fewer still have found time to read any of the plethora of books on Apple and Steve Jobs, despite their popularity. However, if you have a little time right now, we may be able to get you up to speed with the defining moments in the company’s history: How did they become so great? Why did they very nearly collapse? What turned things around for them? It’s time to explore this a little further.
The First Rise Of Apple
Apple was founded by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ron Wayne in 1976. Despite building prototypes of the Apple I and Apple II, they began with little interest from manufacturers and investors. In 1977, Mark Markkula invested in the company and Apple Computer Inc. officially incorporated. The Apple II was released for public sale soon afterwards.
Steve Jobs, after seeing the Xerox Alto capabilities, decided that a Graphical User Interface (GUI) was the way of the future and became determined to see all of the best features of the Alto incorporated into Apple’s next machine, the Lisa. The Lisa was eventually released well behind schedule and was priced so high that only well off businesses could really afford it.
In the meantime, the Apple III and Apple IIe were released, the former being a high end machine with a price tag to match, while the latter became a popular household computer for the next 10 years. Apple also became a public company in 1980 and share prices instantly skyrocketed, meaning many of the Apple staff members suddenly became millionaires. By 1983 they had entered the Fortune 500 and were officially one of the fastest growing companies in history.
When the Apple 1984 advert was shown in theatres, and at the Superbowl it was an instant hit. It has since won a number of awards and is still revered as one of the best adverts ever made. This was the world’s big introduction to Apple.
The early 1980s saw steady competition rising from IBM selling millions of PCs. Bill Gates announced that GUIs would be the future of PCs, but many years passed before Windows was released. The competition increased, with Microsoft releasing popular software such as Word and BASIC.
The original Macintosh was released in 1984, known as “the computer for the rest of us”, while the Apple IIc simultaneously received awards for excellence. At the same time, the Lisa 2 was released, later renamed to the Mac XL and eventually discontinued.
Steve Jobs became involved in a lot of internal politics, was stripped of his duties and eventually resigned in 1985. He claimed he would start a new company, so Apple filed a lawsuit against him to stop him using sensitive information in competition with Apple, which was eventually settled out of court. Steve Jobs went on to begin NeXT Inc. and their first computer on the market was twice as powerful as anything Apple had produced, while also being $1000 cheaper.
Meanwhile, an agreement between Apple and Microsoft was reached in 1985 to ensure that Microsoft would continue to produce software for the Mac. Microsoft eventually released Windows 1.01, which was a huge disappointment.
NeXT went on to great heights, developing NeXTstep OS and producing many high-end computers at competitive prices. In 1993 Steve Jobs decided to ultimately change the direction of NeXT in order to focus on OS development, selling the hardware side of the business to Canon. NeXTstep OS stayed ahead of the competition, ensuring that it could run on all the newest hardware, such as the Intel x86 and Pentium processors.
The Fall Of Apple
Microsoft Windows 3.1 was released in the 1993, which was a great success. It was slowly replaced by Windows 95 and became a real competitor for Mac OS.
Motorola and IBM meanwhile began to develop PowerPCs, which were quickly taken on by software developers like Adobe and Aldus. Apple quickly developed the PowerPC Upgrade card and released it to consumers. By 1994 the first Apple PowerMacs were released.
By 1996, Apple had begun to license MacOS to Motorola and IBM, which was a move Steve Jobs had suggested just before leaving the company. PowerPC processors moved into the third generation and things were looking very promising for all involved. Apple decided to buy NeXT in order to improve MacOS and stay ahead of the competition from Microsoft.
The Recovery Rise Of Apple
In 1997 Steve Jobs delivered an inspirational speech on behalf of Apple, detailing the future of Mac OS and the Mac, among other popular Apple products. Mac OS 8 was soon released and considered a huge success. Jobs was reinstated as CEO of Apple, where he remained until shortly before his death.
Most importantly, Microsoft agreed to continue developing Microsoft Office software for Mac OS, which was possibly the pivotal point for Apple. Microsoft even went so far as to develop a business unit specifically for Apple software, which greatly improved the end product available to Mac OS users.
Later in the year, the PowerMac G3 was released and the first Apple Store was opened. By 1998 the Apple iMac and PowerBook G3 were released and were considered extremely popular. Apple’s profits were huge and the public was convinced Apple was again a force to be reckoned with. The iMac also helped to solidify Apple’s new place in the market as one which believed in aesthetics and design as well as functionality. Soon, iBooks and PowerBook G4s were on the market as well as the wireless innovation of Airport.
Mac OS X was released in 2001 and showcased a gigantic step forward for Apple’s Mac OS. As well as using NeXTstep developments, Mac OS X integrated FreeBSD. The addition of Unix appealed to the IT sector, while the improved GUI was appreciated by consumers and businesses alike. Apple also began to open Apple retail stores in the US to help combat poor sales in third-party stores.
Another Apple innovation was released to the market in 2001, namely the Apple iPod. Its 5GB hard drive was marketed as being able to hold 1000 songs, which was an incredible feat for an MP3 player at the time. The iPod came just after the release of iTunes, the digital music management software.
During 2002, the iMacs underwent a design overhaul, then in 2003 the PowerBook G5s were due to be released. By 2004 these had been combined to form the iMac G5, which was also incredibly thin.
To complement the iPod range, Apple opened the iTunes Music Store in 2003, providing an easy, legal way for users in the US to purchase music online. Apple also released a version of iTunes designed to run on Windows. The iTunes Music Store began to open up to the rest of the world in 2005 and by 2006 it had changed the name to the iTunes Store as they began selling video content.
Apple computers got another welcome change in 2005, when Jobs announced that they would feature Intel Chips, which also meant the machines would be capable of running Windows. New iMacs and MacBook Pro designs were released with the promise that all Apple computer hardware would be Intel-based in the future.
By 2007, Apple Computer Inc. renamed itself to Apple Inc. as they now had many products and future plans that did not merely involve computers. It’s a change that has served them well.
The iPhone with iOS was another great Apple hardware and software revolution, released to the market in 2007. The iPhone combined the basic mobile phone with iPod’s music and video capabilities, plus the tools of a personal organiser and brought the concept of an app-driven internet capable smartphone to the world. A year later the iPhone 3G was released, allowing users to access the internet via a phone data plan. New iPhones have been released each year since then.
By 2010 Apple had developed the iPad, the iOS tablet which combined all the best features of the iPhone, minus the calling capability, with the size of a small laptop. Just like the iPhone, new models have been released each year, with the iPad Mini arriving on the market quite recently.
The iPod range has developed in many ways over the years, including devices like the iPod Touch that play video and hold up to 160GB data and devices like the iPod Shuffle that are tiny and easy to clip onto clothing. In between these extremes are many models, such as the iPod mini, which are also incredibly popular.
Apple’s Current Position
These days, Apple has a huge line-up of high-end personal computers, iPods, iPhones and iPads. They also have a thriving business through the iTunes Store, selling music, video, and applications for both iOS and MacOS.
When the CEO Steve Jobs died in 2011, many people believed Apple would fall again now that it had lost its visionary leader. So far, this has proven false and Apple has continued to see success.
The History Of Apple in 10 Minutes
If you have a little more time, watch this great YouTube video which summarises the history of Apple from 1976 to 2010 in just 10 minutes. It covers the basics and is really easy to follow.
What do you think were the most pivotal moments in the rise of Apple throughout history?
Image Credit: Apple III by Alexander Schaelss