Apple is currently the world’s largest tech company, but it hasn’t always been plain sailing. Established on 1 April, 1976, Apple has moved from CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs’ garage, to offices in 317 locations around the world, plus 323 Apple Stores. The past 10 years has seen Apple redefine consumer electronics and become a household name. With Apple at the height of its success, we look back over the past 35 years to see what made it the company it is today.
2002-11: The iTunes-iOS juggernaut
Mac sales surge thanks to the “iPod halo” and the launch of the iPhone in 2007
The iPod used Apple’s iTunes music software to sync music with a user’s Mac. Purchased as SoundJam from Casady & Greene, iTunes acquired iTunes Store support in April 2003. This proved a success. Apple is now the world’s biggest music retailer and has sold well in excess of 10 million songs. Jobs knew it would work. “It will go down in history as a turning point for the music industry,” he told Fortune. “This is landmark stuff. I can’t overestimate it.”
Since the Blue Box days, Apple’s Steve Jobs understood the nature of the network. In a 1985 Playboy interview he remarked: “The most compelling reason for most people to buy a computer for the home will be to link it into a nationwide communications network.” The internet was that network. It informed his iMac introduction, iBook and iTunes Store launch. In that same interview he also said: “The developments will be in making the products more and more portable,” he said. “Maybe the merging of the telephone and personal computer.”
Apple’s internet service, iTools, now MobileMe, helped bolster Jobs’ other great idea: consumer-friendly creative software for photography, video and music creation. Introduced as free software with each new Mac purchase, iLife meant the Mac offered something no other platform could match. Meanwhile, the success of the iPod and iTunes drove interest in Apple sky-high. In 2004, Needham & Co analyst Charles Wolf warned that Mac sales would “surge” through the “iPod halo”.
“Looking ahead Intel has the strongest processor roadmap by far,” said Jobs, announcing the Intel transition
Now a consumer electronics company, Apple continued to develop the Mac, introduced the now discontinued Xserve and moved to the G5 processor and the new unified Mac designs we still enjoy. Then came the Intel switch.
Meanwhile, the rumours were intensifying. Two key strands emerged from within the analyst community: the first that Apple was developing a phone; the second that it was working on a tablet computer. While both took years to emerge (ignoring Apple’s early work with Motorola on an ill-fated ‘iTunes phone’), Apple eventually delivered on both counts, launching the iPhone in 2007 and the iPad in 2010.
“Every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything. It’s very fortunate if you can work on just one of these in your career,” said Jobs. “Apple’s been very fortunate in that it’s introduced a few of these.” The iPhone delivered on Jobs’ Playboy interview predictions. US technology writer David Pogue called the device “the most sophisticated, outlook-challenging piece of electronics to come along in years”. The iPod halo meant millions of users worldwide wanted an iPhone, putting Apple almost immediately into the top five global smartphone-makers.
The iPhone is powered by a stripped-down version of Mac OS X, called iOS. Four years on and iOS is heading for version 5, boasts a huge developer army and a highly successful App Store, which has sold over 10 billion apps. Based on the next evolution of the mouse and keyboard, the touch-controlled iPhone also paved the way for the launch of the iPod touch and the industry-transforming iPad.