As the Rebel Apple needs an Evil Empire to publicly confront. Famously this is Microsoft, plus Intel for the Wintel PC and processor partnership. Now it’s the almighty Google – even though Apple is the dominant player in the biggest growth markets these days. But in the beginning the big baddie was IBM. In contrast to colourful, healthy Apple even its name was boring with a shadow of brutality: International Business Machines. It dubbed itself Big Blue in an attempt to lighten its image.
IBM represented the monotonous big business oligarch to Apple’s free thinking wood fairy. The Emperor vs Luke Skywalker. In 1981 Apple took out a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal welcoming IBM to the world of personal computers. It stated “Welcome, IBM. Seriously.” I think there’s an early sign of Steve Jobs’ raking sarcasm there.
In its ‘1984’ ad to launch the Macintosh Apple was represented as the young athlete throwing a hammer into the Big Brother screen droning at the grey, enslaved masses. If you listen to Steve Jobs during his 1983 company keynote address it’s pretty obvious who Big Brother was meant to represent: “It is now 1984. It appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers initially welcoming IBM with open arms now fear an IBM dominated and controlled future. They are increasingly turning back to Apple as the only force that can ensure their future freedom. IBM wants it all and is aiming its guns on its last obstacle to industry control: Apple. Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The entire information age? Was George Orwell right?”
Just seven years later Apple was partnering with IBM on the PowerPC processor platform – one it would stick with until it turned instead to its then enemy Intel. With Apple’s perpetual war ("It does not matter whether the war is actually happening, and, since no decisive victory is possible, it does not matter whether the war is going badly. All that is needed is that a state of war should exist") of regular switching between enemies, rewriting of history, and keynote two-minute hates maybe George Orwell‘s vision really was right after all.
Following the success of the iMac Apple rationalised its computer range into a four-box strategy where the consumer range were the iMac for desktop and iBook for laptop, and the pro range were Power Mac for desktop and PowerBook for laptop.
The iBook needed to match the stunning looks of the translucent iMac G3. And Apple outdid itself with the clamshell design of the original iBook. With its lady handle it looked more like a handbag than a portable computer, putting it about as far away from the boring, corporate laptop design as it could go. It was the object of a fair amount of derision – labelled by some as “Barbie’s toilet seat”. It even had a handle for easy carrying.
Like the iMac the iBook was released in various vibrant colours, and like the iMac it supported the latest technologies. It was the first mainstream computer to include integrated wireless networking – with Apple’s branded AirPort Wi-Fi. It also dumped rarely used PC Card slots.
And, again like the iMac, it lost its distinctive looks and personality once Mac sales were on the up again.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs loves publicity – good publicity. He doesn’t agree that all publicity is good publicity, though. He likes secrets because he likes to reveal things – on his terms, in his place of choosing, and always in blue jeans and black turtleneck. He hates it when someone else reveals Apple’s secrets. He absolutely hates it. The only thing he hates more than people blowing Apple’s secrets is when people reveal things about him. And he did his nut roast when Jeffrey Young and William Simon wrote a book all about him, called iCon (geddit?).
As retribution for publishing this unauthorized biography, Jobs banned all publications (including such bestsellers as Macs For Dummies, Mac OS X Secrets) from publisher John Wiley & Sons from Apple retail stores.
Five years previously Jobs had attempted to force Random House CEO Peter Olson to pulp Alan Deutschman's unauthorised Jobs biog The Second Coming of Steve Jobs. He failed but did manage to kill extracts of the book in Vanity Fair, where Deutschman was a contributing editor.
One of the big advantages of Windows over the Mac OS was the abundance of software.
In order to counter this perceived lack of software Apple chose to load its Macs with freely bundled programs that were miles better than anything available on rival platforms – not only taking away the initial argument but pushing the fact that Windows didn’t have the best programs, just tons more apps of far-inferior quality.
In 1999 it bundled a video-editing program with its new line of DV (digital video) iMacs. The name of the program was iMovie, and it would later spawn many more free and some not-so-free apps from Apple. Six months later the company allowed any Mac user to download iMovie.
It’s difficult to comprehend that iMovie was actually in use before the shininess of Mac OS X, but it started life working in Mac OS 8. Along with the iMac DV it pioneered high-speed FireWire connections that soon became the video connection standard.
iMovie was followed up by iDVD in 2001 so all those new video projects could be shared on disc. iPhoto was the next app that Apple gave away as a free download for Mac users, in 2002.
In 2003 Apple bundled iMovie, iPhoto, iDVD and iTunes together in a $49 iLife suite of consumer software. Music-making program GarageBand was added in iLife ’04, and iWeb bolted on in iLife ’06.
iLife is bundled free with all new Macs but is a purchase for upgrades. It was a brilliant software strategy from Apple, but not a new one for the company.
First there was AppleWorks, a suite of business apps for the Apple II, released in 1984.
At the same time Apple released the Macintosh and realised that it needed applications to really push the new platform. After all, a computer with just the operating system as software is next to useless. So Apple created MacWrite and MacPaint, and bundled them on new Macs from 1984 to 1986 – much to the annoyance of third-party software developers who moaned that Apple’s software was so good that they didn’t stand a chance.
Other Apple Mac programs of the time included the less-well-known MacDraw and MacProject were eventually bundled with the two big boys into 1991’s ClarisWorks – which was even ported to Windows in 1993, when Apple spin-off Claris realised there was much more cash to be made flogging to the millions of Windows users than there was pandering to the Mac crowd.
There’s no chance that Apple will release a Windows version of iLife, although iTunes has of course make the jump with spectacular success.
The computer that brought back Apple from the brink, the iMac is regarded as Steve Jobs’ first move to get Apple back on track from the gates of ruin on his return to the company. There is some controversy about whether his predecessor Gil Amelio had been planning the translucent Jetsons all-in-one home computer long before the return of Jobs, but there’s little doubt that only Steve could have made it the phenomenal success it proved to be.
The original 1999 iMac shape is hard to describe, although many have tried: bubble, egg, gum drop… In the end everything else that looked a bit like it just became known as iMac shaped.
It wasn’t just a revolution in looks (Jobs later quipped that "the back of our computer looks better than the front of anyone else's") it ditched some PC standards – most controversially the floppy disk drive for email and the CD. It was the first Mac to include USB, which gradually made the Mac compatible with more PC peripherals.
Apple changed the original iMac’s colour with each new version, until it changed the shape dramatically with 2002’s iMac G4 – which looked like an anglepoise lamp. Later iMacs just hid everything behind the LCD screen, making them slimmer and more home friendly but losing some of the personality that made their name and saved Apple’s skin.
The iMac and iBook were deliberately garish and revolutionary in order for Apple to get its products noticed in front of the dominant beige army of Windows clones. Once Apple was sufficiently clear of death’s door the products became more mainstream again.
Companies don’t change their names often, and when they do it’s usually a rotten decision – remember the Royal Mail changing its name to Consignia, and then back again. Other companies, such as tobacco firms and other polluters, change to divert attention away from their evil. Apple, on the other hand, changed its name in 2007 from Apple Computer to Apple Inc to announce to the world that it wasn’t just a boring computer manufacturer any more. No, it also makes iPod Socks and expensive iPad cases.
Industrial Light & Magic
Started by Star Wars director George Lucas Industrial Light and Magic had an offshoot computer graphics division, which was sold to former Apple boss Steve Jobs for $5m in 1986. He invested a further $5m of his own money, renamed it Pixar, and the rest is cinema history. Boom.
An infinite loop is a coding term for an event that usually leads to the crash of a computer. It’s an odd name then for the street on which resides Apple’s main corporate campus in Cupertino, California. Apple plans to move most of its operations to a new spaceship-like campus building just down the road from 1 Infinite Loop. The massive new building really is a loop! Or a doughnut. Loop sounds better.
Like IBM chip maker Intel was for a long time the object of Apple’s scorn and derision of Apple and its mercurial chief Steve Jobs. During keynotes Steve would show funny videos of Intel’s Pentium chips on the shell of a snail (ha ha ha) or Intel technicians in space (“bunny”) suits being burned by the speed of PowerPC (ho ho ho). Ha ha ha until the PowerPC wasn’t that fast any more and Apple jumped chip to Intel. Ho ho ho until Intel’s processors slow down and Apple buys all its chips from ARM.
Apple’s iTunes music player (based on Casady & Greene’s SoundJam MP) looked like a little curiosity when it was launched in 2001. Then along came the iPod a few months later… It rapidly revolutionised the whole music industry (pissing off Bon Jovi in the process) and threatens to do the same to the movie industry and software distribution. The market-leading iPhone and iPad can’t do much without it. When iTunes whistles the world hums along.
Think the iTunes logo has stayed the same since the service launched? Think again.
Possibly to disguise the fact that he once designed a toilet (not this iMac toilet) Apple’s skinhead aesthete Jonathan Ive prefers to be known as Jony. Born in Essex Ive attended the same school (Chingford Foundation School) as fellow style icon David Beckham. He is now Apple’s Senior Vice President of Industrial Design, and is feted for his designs for the PowerBook G4, iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad. In 2006 he was awarded the title Commander of the British Empire – possibly bestowed in the Privy Chamber.
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