APPLE COMPUTER, INC.: PEOPLE AND DESIGN CREATE APPLE’S FUTURE
Apple Computer paradoxically exists as both one of America’s greatest successes and one of its greatest failures to achieve potential. It ignited the personal computer industry in the 1970’s (1), bringing such behemoths as IBM and Digital Equipment almost to their knees. At the same time, Apple is an example of opportunities lost. It represents a fascinating microcosm of American business as it continues to utilize its strengths while reinventing itself.
Corporate History (2)
The history of Apple Computer is a history of passion among its founders, employees, and loyal users. A pair of Stevens, who from an early age had an interest in electronics, started it. Steven Wozniak and Steven Jobs initially utilized their skills at Hewlett Packard and Atari, respectively. Wozniak constructed his first personal computer, the Apple I, and along with Jobs, created Apple Computer on April 1, 1976. However, it wasn’t until 1977 and the introduction of the Apple II, with its plastic case and color graphics, that Apple really took off. The addition of a floppy drive in early 1978 added to the popularity of the new computer. By 1980, the release of the Apple III found the company with several thousand employees and Steven Jobs at the helm. Early on, Apple Computer exhibited an extreme emphasis on new and innovative styling in its computer offerings. Jobs took a personal interest in the development of new products, including the Lisa and the legendary MacIntosh, with its graphical interface and 3.5 inch floppy disk. The passion that Apple is so famous for was clearly evident in the design of the MacIntosh (Mac). Project teams worked around the clock to develop the machine and its graphical user interface (GUI) operating system (Mac OS). Based loosely on a design developed by the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, the use of graphical icons to create simplified user commands was immensely popular. When IBM entered the personal computer market, Jobs recognized the threat posed and realized that it was time for Apple to “grow up” and be run in a more business-like fashion. In early 1983, he persuaded John Sculley, then president of Pepsi-Cola, to join Apple as president. The two men clashed almost from the start, with Sculley eventually ousting Jobs from the company. The launch of the Mac, with its increased speed from a Motorola chip and its expandability, reinvigorated Apple’s sales once again. In tandem with the LaserWriter, the first affordable PostScript laser printer for the Mac, and Pagemaker, one of the first Desktop Publishing programs, the Mac was an ideal solution for inexpensive publishing. However, by the 1990s the proliferation of IBM PCs and clones was saturating the personal computer market. In addition, Microsoft launched Windows 3.0, a greatly improved version of the Wintel operating system for use on IBM PCs and clones. While in 1991, Apple had contemplated licensing its Mac operating system to other computer manufacturers and making it run on Intel-based machines, the idea was nixed by then chief operating officer (COO) Michael Spindler.
Innovative Design to the Rescue
Apple continued to rely on innovative design to remain competitive. In the 1990s, Apple introduced a very popular notebook computer line, along with the unsuccessful Newton personal digital assistant. Sculley, having lost interest in the day-to-day operations of Apple, was eventually forced out and replaced with Michael Spindler. Spindler oversaw a number of innovations, including the PowerMac family, the first Macs to be based on the PowerPC chip, an extremely fast processor that was co-developed with IBM and Motorola. The PowerPC processor allowed Macs to compete with, and in many cases surpass, the speed of Intel’s newer processors. In addition, Apple finally licensed its operating system to a number of Mac-cloners, but never in...