is for education  Apple used to be the major player in the educational IT market. Even at its lowest point in 1997, 60 per cent of all US school computer sales went to Apple. Half of Apple’s US sales in the 1980s were through education. In the early 1990s a third of the company’s revenue was from education.

But some claim it was Apple’s focus and reliance on education that was its downfall. In 1996 Wired wrote that “education progressively stifled Apple’s core business competency by entrenching an unholy alliance of customers, vendors, and staffers, who promoted and rewarded technological sloth and cultist delusion”. 

Apple ignored the huge enterprise market, and hoped that kids taught on Apple PCs would buy and use the same when they left school. Instead the kids went straight from school into a world that was to be dominated by cheaper MS-DOS and Windows systems.

Even the removal of the humble, out-dated floppy drive played its part. While consumers quickly forgot the floppy, school IT managers could not. Apple’s move to USB-only printing was another nail in the blackboard, as schools had rooms full of old serial-port printers. Apple Education was, by 2002, in a “death spiral,” Dell moved in for the kill, and Apple got caned.

Winning the battle for educational IT spend helped Apple lose the business and home computer war.

A decade on there are signs that Apple is rebuilding its education market share. In 2007 Apple surpassed Dell as the number one supplier of portables to US higher education. The number of Macs on US campuses rose 18 per cent between 2009 and 2010. The iPad is Apple’s latest weapon in the battle for education. At last it has a product that at least matches the competition on price while blowing it away in terms of function and quality.

eMac  The ‘i’ in iMac stands for “internet”. Just dropping this simple letter in front of the word Mac appeared to utterly alter the fortunes of not just the Mac but Apple itself. In 1998 the Mac was poised for the scrapheap but the iMac almost instantly became the world’s most popular personal computer.

The idea therefore of jamming a lower-case vowel against the word Mac, Book, Pod, Pad or Phone was certainly a rum one. You can multiply your product line by 26-plus just by dreaming up appropriate words for each letter of the alphabet – ‘a’ for Audio, ‘b’ for Business, ‘c’ for Creative, ‘d’ for Designer, etc.

The ‘e’ in eMac stood for Education and was first seen in the cute eMate laptop. While Apple was Head Boy in the education IT sector a range of spin-off products made a lot of sense.

The original idea was for the eMac to be available only to the education market, but it was quickly released to the general public a month after its launch in April 2002 – although it went education-only again in 2005 in order to push non-scholars towards the pricier iMac.

It would have been fun if the ‘e’ handle had got some traction. Perhaps we’d have had an ePhone or ePad, and maybe even eLife school software. But it wasn’t to be. Apple CEO Steve Jobs prefers minimal product lines not voluminous lists of confusingly similar devices.

eMate  The eMate was a neat little classroom laptop that predated the netbook by about a decade. Essentially it was just a Newton PDA in a translucent crazy clamshell laptop case – so in some ways presaged the iPhone’s metamorphosis into the iPad. Steve’s swift assassination of the Newton in 1998 meant an end to the eMate, too. But the handbag-like design was ported to the more able iBook the next year. The eMate did, however, make a brief cameo in the movie Batman & Robin as BatGirl’s fancy computer.

Evangelists  Apple used to hire people to go out and sing the praises of its products to hardware and software developers, businesses, the general public and anyone who’d listen. These Apple apostles were known as Evangelists. The most famous Apple evangelist was Guy Kawasaki – who has never been seen not smiling.

eWorld  The original ‘e’ word was eWorld, named by the brilliantly-titled-himself Cleo Huggins, Apple’s head of human interface. eWorld was the company’s 1994-96 easy-to-use online service modelled on a concept of “buildings” offering information services – email, for example, was the post office; shopping happened over at the Marketplace. There was a web browser, too, but it worked only through eWorld and only on Macs. Apple gave eWorld minimal marketing, over-priced it as usual, ignored Windows, and eventually realised that AOL -– which it had once part owned – was doing a better job, so gave up trying.

Excel  Boring, corporate spreadsheets seem tied to the boring, corporate PC market but in fact Microsoft launched Excel first on the Mac, in 1985. It didn’t make it to Windows until late 1987. 

Expo  Produced by the same people who bring you this exciting magazine the world’s biggest Mac exhibitions were the twice-yearly Macworld Expo events in San Francisco, Boston, and later New York, where Apple unveiled its latest products during the opening keynote speeches, and hardware and software companies manned stands throwing T-shirts at the passing Mac throng. 

In its heyday, the Macworld Expo was like a Roman orgy of Mac, with lavish corporate parties, free gifts, and excited crowds of fanboys queuing for nights to get into the prestigious Steve Jobs keynote so that they could shout “No way!” when he showed them a new mouse or whatever. Ah, those really were the days.

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