Losers and Winners
That Apple Computer, what a bunch of losers! Hold on, this is written with the best of intentions, so hear me out.
Back in 1976 Steve Jobs, Ron Wayne, and Steve Wozniak had a moment of brilliance and created Apple Computer. Within a year, their turnover was $174,000, and they asked a venture capitalist, Mike Markkula, to help them. The next year they made $2.7 million. $7.8 million followed in 1978. Meanwhile Ron, for whatever reason, became Apple’s first loser as he sold his shares back to Steve Jobs for $800—a decision he would probably prefer not to talk about.
Apple may have captured the computer market, but in the process it lost Steve Jobs when John Sculley, whom he had lured from being Vice President for Pepsi Cola, led a boardroom coup that ousted him. Jobs left Apple to start NeXT and developed an innovative operating system and hardware combination.
Meanwhile back at Apple, things went mad. They had three incompatible computer systems, the Macintosh, the Lisa, and the Apple II. The Mac won, and the others were dumped—some literally into landfill. Apple then captured the desktop publishing market due to PageMaker and Apple’s PostScript laser printer. At the same time, it lost the most important legal battle of its life and ceded the GUI operating system to Microsoft and others.
A decade of turmoil nearly finished the company. The old Macintosh operating system lost its lead and was overtaken, in some areas, by IBM’s OS/2 and Sun’s Unix. Apple joined with IBM and Motorola to try to create hardware and software far ahead of Microsoft and the PC, which had become a threat to them all.
CEOs came and went and one, Mike Spindler, even tried to hive Apple off to IBM, Sun, or Philips. Luckily, he lost to new CEO Gil Amelio, who arrived with a track record of getting to the heart of a problem.
He cut costs, workforce, product lines, and ties with IBM and Motorola. Instead he tried to buy BeOS, an off-the-shelf operating system from ex-Apple employee Jean-Louis Gassée. Another loser because he asked $75 million more than Apple would pay. Instead Amelio bought NeXT, which came with Steve Jobs.
Jobs had learned a lesson or two while away from Apple. He ousted Amelio, who lost in another boardroom coup. He made a deal with Bill Gates. Microsoft agreed to continue developing Internet Explorer and Office for the Mac, as well as buy $150 million of non-voting Apple stock.
While Steve Jobs was missing from Apple, it did have some successes: the first PowerBook in 1991 set the form factor for laptops and sold a billion dollars worth in its first year. The world’s first PDA, Newton, was developed by Apple in 1989 but never became a commercial success and was left to wither away over the next ten years.
However, two Newton employees formed Pixo and wrote the operating system used on the iPod. Newton’s handwriting recognition was also rolled into Mac OS X as Inkwell, which appears in System Preferences if a graphics tablet is connected.
The millennium has stemmed the losing streak from Apple, which instead has grabbed the music downloading and digital audio player markets with the iTunes Store and the iPod line. As well as setting up online sales, Apple opened retail stores around the world before moving into the cell phone market and arguably capturing the sales of smart phones with the iPhone.
The jury is still out on the iPad, and until we can get to hold and use one, we won’t know whether it is for us or not. One thing is for sure: Apple could be on the verge of creating a whole new business. The iPad could be just the device to make the world move away from printed media and into electronic publishing.
Dennis Publishing has made inroads into this with the amazing iMotor magazine, which has music, video and other attractions, as well as the text and photographs of printed media. Waitrose, Marks and Spencer, Virgin, BBC, and others have made special issues of their magazines and catalogues. Currently these need Flash, which means Apple could become a loser again if the Ceros system for online electronic publishing becomes the norm.
On the other hand, the iPad could release us from the tyranny of the telly. In the future, we will choose to watch and read electronic publications which also include TV shows and active links to subjects they cover. Watching the ’Pad won’t be a strictly linear process, as it is with TV, moving from Star Trek to Clarkson to CSI. Instead we’ll stay with Coast or one of Attenborough’s wildlife extravaganzas and be exploring a dimension of the show we want to know more about.
We’ll be able to pick and choose from film, TV, news, books, and magazines and display them all on one flat panel. Our current laptops cover this to a certain extent, but they get hot and noisy and are hampered by small screens and short battery life. The iPad could be just what we need.
Also in This Series
- What Trick, What Device, What Starting-Hole… · May 2012
- Do Androids Dream? · April 2012
- Our Macs Are Under Attack · March 2012
- The Best and Worst Christmas Presents · February 2012
- The Best Use for a Kindle · January 2012
- It’s Got No Blinking Light · January 2012
- Box-Shifting Causes Migration · December 2011
- The Best Thing About the iPhone 4S and How to Cope in Clink · December 2011
- Death of a Salesman · November 2011
- Complete Archive