Friday, June 13, 2014

A Short (Very, Very Short) History of Apple

Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs develop the original apple — just a circuit board. It was 1976, the start of the personal computer revolution. That success was followed the next year by the Apple II that established the company and was integral to the early success of personal computers.

By 1980, Apple was being run by the new CEO that Jobs was instrumental in hiring from Pepsi — John Sculley. After the poor acceptance of the Apple III, Jobs brought the technology from Xerox PARC to Cupertino and spawned the LISA. However, in corporate in-fighting, he was forced off that project and started his own team that led to the first Apple Mac in 1984.

Although it was successful, Jobs was forced out of the company the next year, largely due to a power struggle with Sculley, and went off and started a computer workstation company: NeXT, and bought a Hollywood computer animation company: Pixar.

In 1996, Steve Jobs was brought back to Apple, which was struggling with too many products and too many versions of the Mac. Apple had experimented with digital cameras and a touch tablet called Newton that was way ahead of its time.

Jobs quickly took charge, eliminated products such as the Newton, reduced the number of the models being sold, stopped selling the MacOS to clone manufacturers, and developed the colorful and transparent plastic cased iMac.

The rest is history: the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad. Each new product revolutionized the industry and started whole new product categories which are now highly competitive. To this day things are kept simple at Apple. Just a couple of models of desktop, laptop, tablets, etc., and new products typically announced once a year or even longer. From one button on the original mac mouse to one button on the iPhone and iPad, Jobs believed in keeping it simple. That led to such ease of use that Apple products typically required no user guide. (Besides, we know from working in product support, that no one reads the manual, so why bother shipping one.)

All this came to my mind as I read of the latest tablets announced by Samsung. Rather than the narrow, focused product catalog that Apple has maintained since Steve rejoined, Samsung goes for the shotgun approach. With a dozen different versions of tablet in their current lineup and new smartphones released ever month or two, it is a different way of marketing. Samsung says they let the market decide. Jobs always thought the market didn’t know what it wanted and so Apple would lead the market, rather than follow it. As Apple drops market share in phones and tablets to this Korean company, I still prefer the crystal clarity of Apple’s vision and await the next product category that Apple will establish.

What will it be? The iWatch? Home automation? Health devices? I can’t guess. We’ll just have to wait for the next chapter in the

H…h…history O…o…of A…a…apple.

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