I know, more Apple. I’m a Mac guy, and I’m not ashamed.
This week marks the 11th anniversary of the Apple Renaissance. What is that? It’s a long story that you can Google if you’re really interested, but here’s the JimmyNotes.
In 1976, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak started Apple Computer, promoting the Apple I kit computer, which you got a circuit board that you added everything to, including the case (Apple I Wiki). Jobs worked on the Lisa Project, creating a super-high-end computer (costing $21,000 in modern dollars, over $10,000 at the time) that pioneered one of the first graphical user interfaces (GUI) and one of the first computer mouses (mice?) Apple chugged along in relative obscurity until the Macintosh (Mac) came out.
In 1983, Jobs hired former Pepsi-Cola CEO John Sculley to be the Apple CEO.
In 1984, the Macintosh debuted with a Super Bowl ad that ran only once. The “1984” ad has been replayed millions of times since then, but only once as a paid ad. The Macintosh made Apple a bona fide success.
In 1985, Sculley forced Steve Jobs out of his own company after a power struggle and views of Jobs as a “temperamental manager.”
Soon after, Jobs started high-end computer company NeXT, which produced some advanced hardware, including some of the first small-format “cube” computers, flat panel monitors, and high-end color graphics. The computers cost around $10,000.
NeXT chugged along for a while, with serious competition from Apple’s Macintosh and Microsoft’s then-brand-new Windows. NeXT computer was the first to incorporate the launch panel (now the Dock in Mac OS X), integrated Fax and PDF, and live-view graphical user interface. Before NeXT, there were “window” view interfaces, but when you switched or moved windows, the windows would grey out and not provide a graphical image of what was in the window.
Meanwhile, at Apple, Sculley was out, and Gil Amelio was in. Gil wanted to kick-start slagging Mac sales. Mac sales at this time were not only low, but impossibly complicated. There were over 100 model numbers of Macintosh computers. Instead of a CD-ROM as an option, it was a different model. Instead of extra memory as an option, it was a different model. Buying a Mac was complicated, so people didn’t do it.
Gil wanted to update the operating system, and do it fast. In order to do that, Apple had to buy an existing technology, not spend the time and money to develop one. NeXT computer was hemorrhaging money, so Apple made an offer. Apple bought NeXT Computer for $429 million, mostly to get the operating system.
By 1997, Apple was a public company, and the board of directors ousted CEO Gil Amelio. Apple went weeks without a CEO, putting the company in a state of turmoil. Finally, the board convinced Steve Jobs to be the temporary CEO until they could find one. Keep in mind, this is the same board of Apple who voted to fire Jobs to begin with, then bought the company (NeXT) he started so they could get their hands on his software.
Jobs took the position, and in his typical sarcastic style, put a plaque on his door that said “Steve Jobs, iCEO” The iCEO stood for Interim CEO. He held this position for almost 2 years before he took the position permanently.
One of Jobs’ first decisions was to simplify the line. He killed the Newton, CyberDog, OpenDoc, and several other research projects. He incorporated the NeXT operating system into the Macintosh, which eventually became Mac OS (9, then X…) and developed the next Macintosh, which was the first iMac. Macintoshes have always had an all-in-one design, but this one was consumer-friendly, colorful, and had the iconic (and grammatically incorrect) “Think Different” marketing campaign. (Side note: Jerry Seinfeld did a “Think Different” commercial, he is now the spokesman for Windows Vista)
You’ll notice the “iMac” designation looks a lot like the “iCEO” plaque on Jobs’ door. This is no accident. Jobs took the joke to new heights by adding the “i” to every consumer product in the Apple line. iMac, iBook, iPod, iWork, iLife, iTunes. They wanted iTV as well, but it was already registered and copyrighted. iPhone is the newest, and they had to sue Linksys to get the rights to the name. They love that “i”.
The lower case “i” preceding pretty much every consumer product Apple has created since then can all be traced back to Steve Jobs’ refusal to be Apple’s CEO this week in 1997.