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Why Apple is on top today: the top 10 technology decisions

As Apple overtook Microsoft in market cap and as Steve Jobs reminisced about some recent history, I thought I’d reflect on some of the decisions that brought Apple to the pinnacle of technology companies.  The criteria I used to select these is how improbable and hence courageous they were when taken and how much impact they have had on the industry. Since the impact of these decisions could not be felt for a long time, the courage required to act early is all the more remarkable.

At the time they were made, none of these decisions did anything to move the stock price or cause great rejoicing. In fact, in many cases the decisions were ridiculed by those who should know better. Yet each one became a massive pillar of the foundation of Apple as it is today.  As you read through, think of the decisions that Apple competitors made or did not make in the same time frame.

Top 10 Apple technology decisions of the 2000 decade in reverse order:

    10. HTML 5 (canvas). It was initially introduced by Apple for use inside their own Mac OS X WebKit component, powering applications like Dashboard widgets and the Safari browser. Still in its infancy, the canvas element is an Apple technology that promises to finally offer a credible Flash equivalent.  Remember that Flash is now over 10 years old and was incubated at a time when the Web was barely 1.0.  HTML canvas finally brings vector graphics to the modern era.
    9. H.264. The decision to support a standard video codec at a time when the industry was mostly arguing over whether Blu-ray or HD-DVD would win signaled a foresight that physical media was not long for this world.  The consequences are still being weighed as YouTube and other media sources are shifting their inventory to this format.
    8. iTunes. iTunes started as a personal music database, grew into a music and media store-front, a payment processing engine, device synchronization and updating center, and finally an application store.  It was forked into both a PC and a mobile version.  Without iTunes the iPod would have been just another MP3 player.
    7. WiFi. Implemented in Airport before the spec was finished, WiFi gave the laptop wings.  Think back to when you still had to plug a wire into a computer to have it communicate. PC’s did not catch up in being wireless for years.  WiFi was even a rare feature on mobile phones when the iPhone shipped in 2007 with some operators (Verizon) banning it from their phones even in 2009.
    6. FireWire. Along with iTunes brought iPod to life.  Launched at a time when external drives required screwdrivers and a circuit board to install, FireWire made opening your computer case to expand it as common as opening the hood of your car to fix it.
    5. iLife. Did to user-generated media what word processors did to words and spreadsheets did to numbers. A singularly great reason to get a Mac.
    4. Portability. OSX migrated across three different CPU architectures in less than 10 years. Apple revealed that they built it from day one to be portable to different CPUs.  That took amazing foresight in the late 90s.
    3. WebKit. Speed and flexibility.  The biggest reason why we can surf on a phone today.
    2. Multi-Touch UI. Seven years in development and still sublime.  Starting down this road in 2003 must have seemed science fiction.  But, unlike other companies, Apple took this science experiment and went to market.  Steve Jobs said how he wanted a screen keyboard and how scrolling opened his eyes to making a phone. That took vision.
    1. OSX/Cocoa. The company’s backbone.  Everything above hangs off OSX. Remarkably scaleable, portable, robust and reliable.  With roots going back decades, it’s the canonical OS. Somebody should build a monument to it.
  • Andrew

    I thought Ubuntu was the Canonical OS?

    • http://www.asymco.com asymco

      Unbutu’s first release was in 2004. OS X was released in 2001 but its roots being BSD are earlier than Unbutu’s Linux roots.

      • Cattus

        should be: "lol" ;)

      • presuntorj

        No, pay attention to what he said… Ubuntu is the Canonical OS cause its made by Canonical, the company….

  • Phil

    Fanboy much? All of these were great decisions and show why Apple is deservedly top of the pile at the moment but the level of hyperbole and barely-concealed sycophancy here is almost embarrassing.

    • http://www.asymco.com asymco

      This is a list of the better decisions. I could have written a list of the worst decisions, but I didn't.

  • Mario Fusco

    So did Apple bring wifi on smartphone??? Oh, please.
    I had an HTC smartphone with wifi 2 years before first iPhone!

    • http://www.asymco.com asymco

      I had WiFi on my Nokia phone 2 years before you had it on your HTC. I said it was rare in 2007 and that the iPhone brought it to the mainstream, not that Apple brought it to the smartphone.

      • Jerry

        Yes, Apple brings all things directly from those who pioneered them. Apple has invented nothing. As Jobs himself said. "We SHAMELESSLY Steal great ideas" and so it went.
        Jobs is not a genius, he's a user and abuser. Apple hunts for great ideas not yet patented, scoops up the idea, adds a few tweaks and then they have the audacity to patent what they just took from others.
        Apple is a patent troll. They patent everything they can steal from others that is not yet patented (normally it's a small company and Apple can get it's patent machine going much faster) and many things that are patented and they add a few twists and patent it as Apple's. That's why the lawsuit against HTC is a joke. Apple had nothing before HTC other than patents. The technology already existed at HTC and elsewhere.
        Hey, if you can cunning and shrewd in a guile-filled manner a genius, then you are right. But based on that criteria, Hitler was a genius.
        Apple is building up a major holding of bad karma and it will defeat them.
        And really, they'd be nothing without the Windows infrastructure they were unable to match in the 80s and 90s. No iTunes for Windows? No ipod….as you said, it's just another mp3 player that has a market no greater than the Mac market at the maximum.
        Ironically Apple keeps everyone they want out of their "app store" but regularly using Windows and other platforms to spread it's own wares, since it doesn't have the means to do it without using others, which brings us full circle and again describes Apple's MO. Using people.
        Recall the openDarwin team? Jobs used them to build out GCD and blocks for C and when he had what he wanted, the phone was no longer open to the openDarwin team. They were stuck w/o the means to complete what Jobs touted as was their goal, to build an open source version but that was a lie and the openDarwin team disbanded in disgust over being used by Jobs and Company.
        Steve has a long record of drug abuse, using friends for his own gains (he ripped off Woz 2250.00 right from the get go by lying about how much he got selling a Woz invention.
        And he's a known criminal, selling illegal long distance stealing devices with Woz again as teh inventor. That is a federal crime yet Jobs somehow avoided prosecution as he always does. Some day, it's going to come crashing down on him.

      • Darwin

        Jerry you have issues. Not only was everything you said wrong but you sound deranged. Seek therapy.

      • Pete

        Now, give us your views of Mother Theresa.

    • presuntorj

      you guys should actually read the text before you complain… apple did not bring it to Phones, they have brought WiFi to COMPUTERS !!!! looooooairong before everybody else ever did… with a WiFi Access Point apple called AirPort … and then he says that even today it could be difficult to get it on certain phones, but because of the carriers decision…

    • http://Applehasrarely,ifever,beenfirstonANYthing. Zeke Shadfurman

      But that doesn't hinder the value on creating a category device. I am NOT an Apple fanboy. I don't particularly like Apple or their products. However, as the author said… "WiFi was even a rare feature on mobile phones when the iPhone shipped in 2007" …however smartphones themselves weren't all that popular either. I don't think Apple popularized smartphones (though I don't doubt they had an effect), Apple merely observed the trend and released the iPhone when smartphones were really beginning to take off. However, there are aspects of smartphones that are popular primarily because they are available on the iPhone. A-GPS probably would be standard regardless. Compass, accelerometers and multi-touch may never have seen their favor in smartphones, had Apple not made them central devices that were used by the core of the iPhone OS. They were not just "features" or "addons" but primary inputs. They helped create a standard for smartphones that has opened a functional door to augmented reality among many other paradigms which we've been fantasizing about for decades. It doesn't matter that Apple wasn't first to market with a graphical UI, an MP3 player, smartphone or tablet. What matters is they've been able to create simple versions that many non-tech users can rave about.
      Think about this: How many really awesome products is a tech person going to find problems with? Yea, it might be really awesome, but they're too objective. And the only person who is going to see the trees through the forest of their bad design ranting are other techies, it doesn't make much of a market. Then you take an Apple product, it's sleek; clean; sexy; with big stupid buttons; and assumes stupid; and you just gotta push this button to do this. It doesn't matter that it costs more, because there is not thinking about it. And then the people, who don't care about all the things it DOES'T do well (because they don't even know) start raving.
      I have a hard time using Apple products. I spend half the time looking for options I know should be there. (oh, they are there usually, just hidden behind miles of settings so stupid doesn't break "it just works") I appreciate this value; I'm gonna choose freedom. I don't need "it just works"; socialism "just works". I want power.

      • http://www.asymco.com asymco

        Do you think serving the needs of the power user would have helped or hindered Apple in achieving the top spot in technology market cap?

  • Sahil

    WiFi rare feature on mobiles? What are u kidding me?
    All phones in the price range of the iPhone had wifi before the iPhone hit the market..

    as for the rest of your article, its fair enuf

    • http://www.asymco.com asymco

      RIM was certainly very popular at the time of the iPhone launch and, correct me if I'm wrong, there were not many with WiFi in 2007. The Storm did not have WiFi when it launched well after the iPhone, and that was a flagship product.

  • Bad Oedipus

    Firewhat?! Oh that other port next to the USB connectors that never gets used on my laptop. Is that what that's called?

    Other than iTunes/iLife (iDon'tCare) all of the rest of these technologies were pioneered by others and coopted by M$ oops I mean Apple. Consequently all of these technologies can also be implemented by others as well, sometimes better sometimes not as well but always for a lot le$$.

    • http://www.asymco.com asymco

      If you read the article, you'd see that I referred to FireWire significance at the time of launch. The USB standard at the time was 1.1 which allowed 12 Mbps vs. 400 for FW. Did you actually try to sync 5 GB of music on your USB laptop in 2001?

  • http://www.dominicpettifer.co.uk Dominic Pettifer

    Hate to be a pedant, but some technical niggles I must point out:

    10. "HTML canvas finally brings vector graphics to the modern era."

    No it doesn't, for vector graphics you use SVG, Canvas is for direct programmatic pixel manipulation on an area of a web-page, think drawing apps, photo editing programs on the web. Although I do agree that Canvas is a fine invention.

    9." H.264. The decision to support a standard video codec at a time when the industry was mostly arguing over whether Blu-ray or HD-DVD…..consequences are still being weighed as YouTube and other media sources are shifting their inventory to this format."

    Actually both BluRay and HD-DVD both used the H.264 video format. Also what you say about YouTube isn't correct either since Google (who own YouTube) recently acquired and open-sourced the VP8 video codec that looks set to take on H.264 on the web, and already has support from a number of major browser vendors including Microsoft. I think the point you're trying to make here is a "Physical Media" vs. "Digital Media" one. There will always be room for physical media as long as the digital stuff still has DRM on it.

    • http://www.asymco.com asymco

      Thanks for pointing these things out. SVG was actually Adobe's answer to Flash in the 90s before they threw in the towel. It's more than a bit ironic that SVG is being used to beat Adobe.

  • Steve Jobless

    I think more credit should be given to the marketing team. There's the ones that tricked everyone into buying Macs and iPods. Also the fact that the technology is more restrictive and the presentation is flashier.

    • http://www.asymco.com asymco

      If you believe that, the marketing team should be the most valuable team in the technology industry. I wonder why someone at Microsoft did not offer these extraordinary individuals a few million dollars to come work in Redmond. Seems that Microsoft could have made billions from millions.

      • http://www.danvy.tv Alex Danvy

        We're not talking about money but culture. IBM in its time spent a lot of money to sell OS Warp, it was a pretty good product but they failed to make it a standard. Microsoft has large pocket but has difficulties with its mobile strategy even if they was years ahead. Technology and money is not all. Marketing (understanding people needs) might help too.

      • Agree

        Phrase "you can't shine a piece of shit" doesn't apply to Apple, they can sell just about anything, by simply putting 'i' in front of things :) Got a give them credit though, while being on the verge of bankruptcy in the 90's they made an amazing comeback. What did it: Innovation?-perhaps. Marketing, careful UI design and FULL CONTROL OF HARDWARE? – Definitely!

  • Steve

    I disagree with the author's conclusion. These are not any more courageous than a lot fo other decisions made by a lot of other companies.

    Also, for many of these I only see how they made a big splash in the sphere of Apple influence and in the consumer market. As an IT Director for the same period of time being discussed most of these had no impact on the world of business and as I look into the future they really will not have an impact.

    Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on the side you take) Windows will still rule the SMB corporate environment for years to come.

    This does underline the fact that Apple knows what a consumer wants and delivers. It also underlines that the purchasing power of the consumer. People are still buying Apple toys despite the fact that many corporations are holding off on spending money on IT infrastructure because of a sour economy.

    I know because I am sitting on a proposed budget of $50k worth of MS software upgrade for my environment that may or may not be approved in this year's budget based on how our company performs which is based on how the economy performs.

    My prediction – when the economy gets better you are going to see the market cap change a bit. MS will not regain their former position, they have made too many mistakes, but Apple will never take the lions share like MS had in it's heyday.

    • presuntorj

      Good point, but have in mind SMB has NEVER been Apple's target market… at most, a happy mishap if indeed the enterprise ends up using Apple as provider…

      • presuntorj

        Probably wrong, but their last attempt to target SMB was either Apple3 or Lisa (not sure)

  • K3R

    I must give it to the author of this article. First, you brought a lot of good points up front. And as you said, there are good and bad choices, but you decided to point out the good ones. Second, what's with all the haters? I honestly was ready to applaud in the office when I noticed you replied to most of these trolls.

    Though most of the replies were really good, some of them are just plain sour that they aren't working for Apple and/or were behind the production of the products which increasingly are being used widely across the USA and Canada (or so it seems).

    I am no IT professional, or Marketing expert, but I must say I've used both Windows and Mac, and I appreciate both. However, if I had to sit down and use only one, it would have to be my Mac. Each has it's Pros and Cons, and I think people should stop being PC Fanboys/Mac Fanboys and just appreciate the fact that both are really good and you use them for reasons of your own.

    *Phew* that was probably long and over extended.

    Love the article, hope to see many more of equal or greater quality.

    • http://www.asymco.com asymco

      Good point. There are very, very few people who have used a Mac and never used a PC and there is a vast, vast majority of people who have used a PC and have never used a Mac. Mac users therefore are likely to have made a conscious decision to use what they use and PC users, well, haven't.

      But I'm not here to defend the Mac. The article was inspired by the events of the day: the passing of market caps in the night and the historical references Jobs made at D8. He said that flash is fading and that Apple likes to get on technologies (like 3.5" floppies) as they are ascending. Many times these are unpopular decisions.

      • Chris

        lol asymco. PC = Personal Computer.

        You mean Mac vs Windows, not Mac vs PC. It's ok, common newbie mistake, usually from someone who doesn't know what they're talking about.

        "OSX migrated across three different CPU architectures in less than 10 years. Apple revealed that they built it from day one to be portable to different CPUs. That took amazing foresight in the late 90s"

        Yea.. When uninformed say "PC", they usually mean a Windows computer. Now tell me how many different architectures Windows runs on. How many companies make PC's that Windows will run on.
        As others have said, multi-touch UI, called Sense UI on HTC phones, was out before the iPod.

        "Unbutu’s first release was in 2004. OS X was released in 2001 but its roots being BSD are earlier than Unbutu’s Linux roots."

        That's a comment, but come on dude. Linux was based off of Unix, the Linux kernel was deveveloped as a free open source alternative to Unix, which was a proprietary kernel at the time. And still is, FreeBSD, Open Solaris, etc, they're technically Unix, but Solaris, BSD, etc, are all still OS's you pay for.

        Yes, OSX was built based on Darwin, which was based on BSD 4.4 (? Fairly certain, need to brush up on my tech), but Ubuntu uses the Linux Kernel, which is a variant of Unix (yea, yea, developed independantly but using the same ideas, not a courtroom use of variant, but it works).

        I'm not an Apple basher, if I could afford them I'd have several, I do like my Windows computers for the ability to play video games which is still lacking on the Apple, despite similar PC architectures nowadays. I also like some Linux builds and have a few Unix variants which I would love to use.

        Each computer has it's own strengths and weaknesses, however, Apple isn't the innovater you are claiming it to be.

        "It is remarkable that Jobs and Apple are so often conflated. He personifies the company but that may also be because Apple is so much more personal."

        That's why Apple is succesful. Not because their products are good (if I have an error on *nix or Windows, I fix it. If I have an error on a Mac.. Well last experience didn't end well.), but because their marketting is the best out there. MSFT has marketed itself to the business market for years, they neglected basic users because they thought (and rightly so) that they were the dominant OS architecture and no-one would switch. Then Apple does this amazing thing where they make Apple = Ferrari. Now if you have a laptop running Windows you're "common", whereas if you have a Macbook and an iPod you're "hip" and "cool".

        Then to top it off, it's just as you said. Apple shows itself to be the "personal" company instead of a commercial business. So people go, "oh, Apple lieks me. :D 'buys iX'". MSFT made great software, but they never managed that. And despite Apple failing people repeatedly, a good reputation like that is hard to break. Especially when the marketting section of Apple is in full swing.

        That's what Apple did, Canvas is good but unneeded, Firewire was and still is a proprietary product. Useless unless you're using an iPod with a Mac. Most of the rest was done by others, Apple just markets the hell out of it's brand and it's users love them for it.

      • http://www.asymco.com asymco

        I've been using a PC (IBM PC-XT) since 1985, Unix (and admin on a VAX 11 running BSD) since 1987, received my Computer Science degree in 1989, my Master's in Computer Engineering in 1992 and my MBA in 1996. Still proud to be a newbie.

      • http://www.asymco.com asymco

        This brings me back. Ah, the memories.

        My first business card had a bang path email address
        I used the internet before the world wide web
        I used gopher and usenet every day, I sent questions to the internet oracle
        I used Hypercard to build a business application
        I used Windows 1.0 and Borland Pascal
        I went to a rally led by Richard Stallman to demonstrate for software freedom in front of Lotus headquarters in Kendall Sq.
        I read the whole first edition of the Hacker's Dictionary, on-line.

        Those were the days.

      • http://www.asymco.com asymco

        More nostalgia about things I've done:
        Using EBCDIC keyboard on an IBM mainframe terminal
        Trying to learn APL, and failing
        Using a 300 baud acoustic modem
        Coding on a Pr1me computer at Harvard
        Using Microsoft Basic
        Using a DECWriter line printer terminal for Unix admin
        Mounting a Magtape
        Writing code in LISP
        Writing FORTRAN on a VAX VMS computer
        Writing Cobol on a TRS 80
        Using a Connection Machine
        Using an IBM PS/2
        Using AIX and Ultrix

        Oh, I could go on.

      • http://Applehasrarely,ifever,beenfirstonANYthing. Zeke Shadfurman

        You made some good points, but your intro with an ad hominem detracts from the thoughtfulness of the rest of your comment. It happens, I do it all the time, and sometimes I wish I had someone to point it out.

      • frac

        Oh come off it Chris… there's no need to be rude whilst pointing out you disagree on certain points – this isn't Youtube. And bashing MS is not the bottom line here, it's more about understanding Apple's amazing success and the corresponding failure of other companies/business models to either match or respond in a rapidly changing tech world.
        you say 'Yea.. When uninformed say "PC", they usually mean a Windows computer. Now tell me how many different architectures Windows runs on. How many companies make PC's that Windows will run on.'
        This is a strange one I agree, since MS uses the term PC as in " I'm a PC(pc?)…" in all their current Windows 7 ads, seemingly having recognised that the term is synonymous with Windows os as a result of Apple's "I'm a Mac… and I'm a PC" ad campaign. Now about those different architectures, Horace's point was that Apple 'designed OS10 to run on different architectures …'from the outset' rather than just reacting to the most popular architecture of the moment and porting Windows to it. The fact that Windows is predominantly x86 with a smidgeon of server Itanium and not compatible currently with ARM chips is of huge significance in the mobile sector. That OSX or a subset in the case of iOS, is easily ported wherever Apple wishes, is a function of their foresight and a credible reason for Apple's current success. The corollary,is equally true as a measure of MS' failure to break out of their current 'architectural' limits.
        Re multi-touch. Why is it necessary to pose a strawman argument to make your point. Horace never said that Apple invented touch, just that they spent 7 years developing their own implementation to a level where usability was significantly enhanced and extended beyond the basic capabilities marketed by other companies.
        'I'm not an Apple basher, if I could afford them I'd have several, I do like my Windows computers for the ability to play video games which is still lacking on the Apple, despite similar PC architectures nowadays. I also like some Linux builds and have a few Unix variants which I would love to use.'
        '…ability… still lacking on Apple…'? this is just silly; please do not confuse games platforms with capability nor the fact you obviously like to tinker '…which I would love to use' as evidence somehow that Macs are somehow less of a computer than Windows machines.
        Then your arguments just fall apart. The Apple-is-all-about-marketing meme is an insult to the scientific community who use Macs daily for heavy lifting in my workplace and all the other segments of industry, government and education, who are increasingly turning to Apple's products in the face of the Windows stranglehold.
        Denial is not proof of anything, especially when you posit no evidence to the contrary to back up the fanboyish assertions that follow.
        What's with the '…Canvas is good but unneeded'? Says who? Flash developers?
        Lastly, '…(if I have an error on *nix or Windows, I fix it. If I have an error on a Mac.. Well last experience didn't end well.)…' you just shot yourself in the foot. OSX is 'fully' certified 'nix and if you do get an error message on a Mac, an experienced Unix user would not turn a hair at such a happening, which leads me to doubt your experience and knowledge with both.

    • Torkjell Enge

      Apples commercial comes from the fact that they came out with a couple of good products nobody had seen before, in a complete package. Eventually they will lose market shares faster than lies can escape Steve Jobs' mouth…

      • http://www.asymco.com asymco

        Name an Apple product that lost market share in the last 10 years. I'll make it multiple choice for you: Apple only has 4 product lines that contribute significant revenues:
        1. Mac
        2. iPod
        3. iPhone
        4. iPad

      • Rafael

        Interesting how you look at the world through Jobs-colored eyes. They have made many more products that contributed nothing to the bottom line. Any multiple choice for products that lost market share should include those, don't you think? Apple's entire printing division (remember their laser printers, etc.) doesn't even exist anymore. And that's just one example. You mention their foray into WiFi with the Airport but not the fact that had to go there kicking and screaming — anyone remembers Appletalk? They had the first office-ready LAN but also lost market share.

        Apple is a company, nothing more and nothing else. As such it makes good and bad deicisions. Most technical companies have followers, but Apple seem to carry a larger share of what others would call fanatics. The fact that Apple is ignoring the Mac should be troublesome to their following, yet it isn't.

        I have worked and founded companies which reached the top and saw bottom. Apple is riding high right now. One has to hope they don't squander their lead, as they did with windowed environments, allowing the rise of Microsoft and their products.

      • http://www.asymco.com asymco

        My article was about decisions in the past decade. "Top 10 Apple technology decisions of the 2000 decade." I was trying to think back to what decisions were made that were initially scorned but turned out to be wise during a time of growth. Sure, if you go back to the 90's you'd probably find not a single wise decision. Then you could go back to the 80s and suddenly they're all brilliant again.

        The point of the article is not to say Apple is great or saintly, but to point out how they navigated a set of forks in the road and how that led to great results for their shareholders.

        I'm also not making any judgement on their ability to innovate, invent, pioneer or copy. Bragging who's first to do something is futile. Not sure why that matters to anybody.

      • Torkjell Enge

        I think i will go for number 3 – The iPhone… :)

      • William Carr

        "Eventually they will lose market shares faster than lies can escape Steve Jobs’ mouth…"

        Lies? Interesting. Any proof that he's lied, or is this just your typical Apple-hating FUD?

      • http://Applehasrarely,ifever,beenfirstonANYthing. Zeke Shadfurman

        Well, before Apple switched to x86 Jobs denied talks with Intel. Jobs flat-out denied work on a tablet, attacking and defaming such devices (one could argue that the iPad is different because it has a phone sized processor instead of a desktop one, not entirely legit though.) Jobs relentless attack on the "unstable flash." Yea, flash has vulnerabilities, so does safari and even the iPhone OS. They drop like flies being shot with lasers http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/02/12/mosquito… at pwn2own; that isn't his motivation for attacking flash. Flash isn't any less open source than Apple, Flash supports "supports" some open source standards, like Apple, and have mostly proprietary technologies, like Apple. Nearly half of Jobs' attack against flash were lies and half truths. Lets see… webkit was not made by Apple, only renamed (possibly with minor touchup.) MacOS is not more stable or secure (most PC instability comes from hardware design). I wouldn't say he lies and much as he spins. Every good CEO spins, but Jobs pulls off some pretty cool multi-dimensional spin stunts that leave fanatics so disoriented they just nod and applaud. For such talent; I applaud Jobs. Fanatics need a good hard kick in the pants.

      • http://www.asymco.com asymco

        I especially liked his implication at D8 that he does not see the iPhone as a platform battle vs. Windows.

      • http://www.asymco.com asymco

        Intentional deception, aka lying, is not an accusation to be taken lightly. As an officer of a public company Jobs is under a lot of scrutiny as everything he says can and will affect the value of the company. Deliberate falsehoods which invariably are damaging will be cause for shareholder lawsuits. If you are suggesting lying is going on and have the evidence, buy some shares and sue the man for some serious cash.

  • Jake

    Though I personally do not like Apple in general, I do believe the author does have some valid points.
    The fact is that Apple has had some quite ingenious and innovative technologies.
    If Microsoft hadn't had news of the Courier leak and canceled it when Apple decided to make a larger iPhone Touch called the iPad then Apple would not have been on top today. Apple simply is too proprietary still and, though they are becoming less and less due to the integration of Intel processors, there are still many limitations on OSX and other Apple products that most other products do not have.

    If Apple were to lower their prices on their junk computers, and by that I mean the ones that aren't that great but cost a lot not to say they are all junk, then I may stand at Apple's side.

    As a Gamer and Developer I find it is infinitely easier to program and play games for/on a PC than for/on a Mac.

    • William Carr

      "If Microsoft hadn’t had news of the Courier leak and canceled it when Apple decided to make a larger iPhone Touch called the iPad then Apple would not have been on top today."

      No, while the iPad is nice, the stock trend goes back a ways.

      Despite all the success with the iPad, it's the other products that put Apple on top.

      "If Apple were to lower their prices on their junk computers, and by that I mean the ones that aren’t that great but cost a lot not to say they are all junk, then I may stand at Apple’s side."

      No, I don't think so.

      First, because Apple gets good reviews on their PC hardware. They aren't junk. They just aren't cheap, and some people find that unforgivable.

      Second, you're obviously an Apple Hater. None of you are capable of thinking clearly on this subject.

      Apple could cut their own throats slashing pricing, and you'd still dind something to whine about.

      Like saying "not to say they are all junk" when that's what you just did.

    • Sweeps

      "…If Microsoft hadn’t had news of the Courier leak and canceled it when Apple decided to make a larger iPhone Touch called the iPad then Apple would not have been on top today."

      During the D8 interview, Steve Jobs revealed that the iPhone (and iPod touch) were secondary to Apple's tablet (later to be named iPad) development.

      Also, I recently saw the D5 interview with Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. It's quite interesting now that we have an idea of what Steve Jobs knew then, and how much things have changed in three years.

      Asymco, thanks for your time and postings!

      Sweeps

  • Andrew

    As an investor in Apple stock, I have been quite pleased with performance so far. I would love to see it continue. While this month yields great news that Apple has reached a pinnacle, it also has many rumblings that are worrisome. In personal experience, I have been an iPhone fan. However, Android is nothing to sneer at. My wife just bought an HDC HD2 which blows the iphone 3Gs away. It runs Windows Mobile 6.5 for crying out loud! It has a fantastic web surfing experience and 1080p output through HDMI.

    My point in saying this, is that everyone now recognizes the importance of the mobile space. Everyone will fight for a spot and many will succeed I think. I have a MacBook, but I use Windows 7 on it. OSX can't do what I need it to do. I have an iPhone but I envy a phone with an inferior operating system. I have an iPad, but wish it wasn't so locked down, and therefore look with interest at Dell, HP and others to make something better.

    In August to September will be a good time to sell some Apple stock and cash in on the nice long investment, and stock peak I think. The market will become increasingly diluted and some of the decisions being made in Cupertino are making me nervous. A little early to build monuments perhaps, although I sincerely hope Apple will reveal a few more excellent implementations of good ideas.

  • mtcoder

    None of these have anything to really do with anything outside of apple. It is like saying things apple did for apple products that only apple people care about. Firewire never took off, and wasn't universal also at the time no one needed that speed through a firewire / usb connection. The h.264 standard is funny cause apple and ms built the technology together, and it's set to go away before it even starts. An OS that spans multiple CPU architectures. LOL LOL what about Windows XP thing has went from 32 bit, 32bit multicore, 64 bit, and about 10 different chip architectures. OS X finally moved off Apples chip onto intel cause apple couldn't keep up with athlon and intel chip designers.
    Microsoft has had multi-touch for years before Apple did. Apple just made it cute and small in the last few years.

    Also really none of your list has got Apple where they are today, which is releasing a consumer product that milks users for every dime they have. The actual numbers of iphones and Ipads are fairly low in the grand scheme of things. The itunes store / app store is Apple's bread and butter. However the app store and Apple keeps shooting developers in the foot. Here in a few months when Google and MS return to market with bigger and better products Apple will have to reinnovate, and they seem a bit to high on their horse to prepare for the future.

    In about 5 months time Microsoft will be #1 and Google #2 with Apple sitting back in a comfy #3. Microsoft has been spending tons and tons of time building the tools it's developers will need not for web 2.0 or this generation of applications, but for the future of development. Once IT gets caught up to speed on all the new technology MS is cranking out at blinding speeds, there will be a huge resource siting in MS's pocket to use, aka the independent developers that will make or break your products.

    • http://www.asymco.com asymco

      This is a list of technology decisions (forks-in-the-road if you will) that affected the fortunes of Apple (as in the title: Why Apple is on top). Your assertion that Apple "milks users for every dime they have" boils down to saying that Apple's success is due essentially to fraud, or at least deception. Fortunately there is data to confirm or deny your hypothesis: customer satisfaction. A defrauded customer should not be happy. Do you have any survey data that shows anything but Apple as the most satisfying technology brand?

    • CocoaLab

      "Also really none of your list has got Apple where they are today, which is releasing a consumer product that milks users for every dime they have. The actual numbers of iphones and Ipads are fairly low in the grand scheme of things. The itunes store / app store is Apple’s bread and butter. However the app store and Apple keeps shooting developers in the foot."

      Assumptions, assumptions, they will make an ass out of u and me. The App Store/iTunes Store merely breaks even for Apple.

      Apple is a hardware company that realises that the key to great hardware is well implemented software. They make profit on the package; which works as advertised, and delights their customers. Developers and content providers make money out of the on-sell. Apple have paid out $50 billion to developers so far this year.

      And this is just the beginning of the wave: Apple will build and hold dominance in these new platforms for years to come.

      I knocked together a tiny little iOS game in my spare time over the last three months. That was excellent fun. I released it on the App Store 1 week ago… I am now a very happy developer with around 50 sales per day. Not bad for a niche product with no bugdget and no marketing.

      So if you're truly a dev, come on in, the water's fine ;) Don't you want to be where the customers who actually pay for apps are? Making money is not a sin you know ;)

      • CocoaLab

        Just a correction, $1.5 billion paid out to developers so far. Not sure where I got the $50 billion figure from, but I was mistaken. It's still an impresive figure for a young platform.

  • Hank

    "the canvas element is an Apple technology". Yeah sure. We had never heard of canvas in the 90-ties.

    Sorry, but it is just (very) old technology in a new brandname.

    And: "Remember that Flash is now over 10 years old"
    Well, remember that OSX is over 8 years old, and UNIX was there before even I was born. Silly argumentation.

    • http://www.asymco.com asymco
      • Ben

        Outch .. Wikipedia as a source …. :-(

      • boo

        Well, it can be used as a source if the particular claims in it are referenced. In that case, it becomes a nicely packaged table of references that is convenient AND accurate. Check that out and come back and report if the references in the Wiki article don't pass muster.

        Numbnut

    • http://www.dominicpettifer.co.uk Dominic Pettifer

      Hank: Canvas as an HTML web technology was invented by Apple, though thankfully they opened the technology up and made it an Open standard for HTML5.

  • Scott M

    Get a room! This article reads like John Madden drooling over Brett Favre! Apple doesn't revolutionize — Apple simply recognizes those who have good ideas, appropriates the technology and markets it well. And boy, do they charge you for it! Apple is designer electronics, plain and simple — the Calvin Klein of computers. And lemmings love fun toys from brand names. That's why they're flying high.

    Me, I have no need for an iPod. I'll stick with my Sansa Fuze. Works great, sounds great, has expandable memory and supports subscription-based services — all for under $100. And my DROID with its physical keyboard and Google maps…meets all my needs.

    • http://www.asymco.com asymco

      I'm glad you're happy about your technology decisions. My article is about Apple's technology decisions and how they made their shareholders happy.

      • Scott M

        Sorry, I thought your main point was how innovative and "courageous" Apple was: "The criteria I used to select these is how improbable and hence courageous they were when taken and how much impact they have had on the industry."

        Not how happy they made their shareholders: "At the time they were made, none of these decisions did anything to move the stock price"

  • Hahaha

    Hey i'm sure that you are not up to date in a lot of space..
    You have to grow and think out of the box.

    Note: In the past several years this is the first comment i'm writing about any article that i have read online. so think about it, haw bad it is!!

    • http://www.asymco.com asymco

      Congratulations on your first comment in a few years. I'm sure after some practice you'll be good at it.

  • M

    Apple (Mainly Jobs) alway (from the very start – Woz' too – and even during the period when Jobs was not there) viewed software and hardware as an integrated entity. Yes, it is restrictive to the pros but it is more productive to the consumer. The WinTel and Open Source camps on the other hand are viewing separation between hardware and software as a marketing advantage that can be used to maximize profit and control. Apple is more of a consumer hardware company but it is interesting that when Jobs was out he created one of the the best and most user oriented and user empowering OS, the Next OS – which serves him well now. also — Apple was at the birth of ARM which hints about the level of historical prospectives there. Their vision is integration and they are closer to the future than any one else because the evolutionary path of silicon's (the natural tendencies of silicon or if you will silicon's prevailing path which by the way has nothing to do with the "prevailing path of lobsters" ) is integration. If Jobs can, he will one day deliver a device enclosed in silicon. Others like to do it too but Apple has it as a vision and is not dettered by marketing. To be able to be in that situation you must have a proven record in creating markets for specific standards and devices. They deserves the credit they are getting. Now, about world domination… that phenomena is may be a thing of the past as the Wintel alliance seems to be over. Also – to be fair — another thing to remember is that Apple faces a greater challenge that any other computing company because it is delivering integrated devices to end users. No other company does it on this level and scale. Most know only how to sell some limited functionality hardware or software which relies on compatibility with other's IP to run. Apple delivers devices that do everything with relatively little (some applications) provided by others. By the way, personally I must stay on the PC side and have never used Apple which I believe should make me more objective…

  • http://NA What???

    You think these are the reasons for Apple's commercial success????

    Think again!

    • http://www.asymco.com asymco

      They contributed to the success. There are business decisions as well. I will write about the top 10 business decisions in a separate article.

  • What???

    You think these are the reasons for Apple's commercial success????
    Think again!

  • http://www.danvy.tv Alex Danvy

    Don't you think Apple might have build part of their success by not being "open" from a technical point of view ? They choose to captivate their customers by selling them a good overall user experience, totally under control. As long as Apple keeps the impression that the deal is a win-win, they will success. Nobody saw the Matrix movie ? ;-)

    • http://www.asymco.com asymco

      You say open I say modular. You say closed I say integrated. This way I don't judge. Modular works when the user experience is good enough and companies complete on price and customization. Integrated works when the user experience is not good enough and companies compete in making the experience good enough. Get the wrong set-up in the wrong time frame and it's over.

  • http://www.microsoft.com William Gater

    What If???
    What if the tens os thousands of linux users came together to create a single UI for Linux? Well, Linux would be the bomb. However, Linux is still not suitablew for the desktop because all the UI are not polished enough. KDE has a very good chance of success. Why? Because a company named "Borland" at the time, released the very first professional visual developemnt IDE for it. Too bad the Linux comunity did not support it well. Remember when visual basic was introduced for Windows? Recall that most apps for Windows 95 were written in VB. Go figure. Linux lost the race and is still trying to catch up in the Desktop market. Ad far as the article, I like it. I use both OSX and Windows. I prefer OSX. BTW. Mac is a PC, so a Mac/PC argument is mute. It the OS that matters and I cant wait for Haiku 1.0 to be released. As a former BeOS fan, I can say the the Haiku project is very promising. It's funny that I can take a Dual 266MHz Intel Pentiun II machine with a single IDE33 HD and Mix 16 Raw Wave files (Yes, that is sixteen, coppied from a CD) with no skipping. Can you do that on the PC you use today in Windows or OSX or Lunux? http://www.haiku-os.org/ Donate Today, Please.

  • Nick

    Apple are in cause they are the cool crowd, meaning its cool to have one of their products. This isn't dependant on how good their product is or not.
    MS are out cause they are the nerd crowd.

    Those images will be hard to change, casual/cool crowd is way bigger than the nerd crowd.

    Nintendo is also hammering the console competition because of this.

    • http://www.asymco.com asymco

      So if coolness is what makes companies successful to the point where they are the largest in the world, should business schools focus on training managers to be cool? It would seem that if you could unlock the formula for cool, you would not need to worry about engineering, product development or marketing or anything "hard".

      If not, is coolness something that can't be taught and is therefore just a matter of winning the coolness lottery?

  • DazzaJ

    What abouts apples decision to completely control the end user and limit useability of their products. IE you may have bought an apple product that gives you access into the Apple cult, but you will do what JOBS says or else.
    What about apples decision to use archaic DRM on most of their products and again force their followers into paying again and again for the same content.
    What about Apples decision to terminate programs and media at will because THEY feel it is not appropriate ! Again like many cults do !
    What about Apples idea to CONTROL all the media and its distribution as the meglamaniac JOBS constantly rants about.
    Apple makes Microsoft look like angels.
    The worse part is the mindless followers, and the destructive direction that JOBS is leading them.
    Have a close look at any apple products and you won't see anything revolutionary, value, or productive; you WILL find expensive, half useable,, gimicky toys, with limited life, all controlled by Apple!

    • http://www.asymco.com asymco

      Your list sounds like the beginning of a "top 10 business reasons Apple is on top" not a technology discussion, however, let's assume you are right.

      Your ultimate point is that the mindless followers (aka customers) are being deceived. The ranks of these deceived users is growing. By this summer there will be 100 million iPhone OS users, 200 million iPod users and nearly 50 million Mac users. Deception becomes harder and harder to pull on larger and larger populations. Therefore Apple's power to deceive seems to be growing, a remarkable achievement as it's scrutinized more closely than ever.

  • Rafael

    I'm sorry but OS X has no more dependency on BSD than Linux does. OS X came from NeXTSTEP's operating system, itself stemming from CMU's Mach. Mach was a microkernel-based OS designed to succeed BSD's kernel. Both OS X and FreeBSD are direct descendants of Mach, but neither is of the original BSD. Linux, in turn developed from MINIX, at least in spirit if not in actual code, due to licensing restrictions of MINIX. Both are "spiritual" descendants of the original UNIX, at least in their fundamental principles.

    As for Apple, while some of their decisions are in hindsight viewed as brilliant, in many cases were simply brought by economic goals. I'm a user of many Apple products, I live in Silicon Valley, but I refuse to drink their Kool-Aid or live in Steve Job's reality.

    • http://www.asymco.com asymco

      Thanks for pointing out the lineage of FreeBSD. I knew Mach was in use but I did not realize BSD != Mach. Thanks for sharing.

      I'm also a user of many Apple products. I am a native of Romania, a citizen of the US and a resident of Finland. I once came within 2 meters of Steve Jobs at a trade show (he's shorter than you might think) but I can't say much about his reality since we did not speak. I know someone who spent time negotiating with him and I'm told he's a tough negotiator and that he bends facts to suit his position, but then again, who doesn't.

      It is remarkable that Jobs and Apple are so often conflated. He personifies the company but that may also be because Apple is so much more personal.

  • Ren

    Since the discussion has totally deviated from the article in question and is bordering on apple bashing, I'd like to point out that people who like PC's will always hate Apple and people who has used apple products will most likely not care about PC users gripes and misguided comments. By misguided comments I refer to you are apple I am PC argument, since both systems rely on the same chips, and it seems childish to cite this as an argument.

    Furthermore, if you want to say that apple rips off people then what does Microsoft do? How did they start? Who stole the idea of the mouse from Xerox? Who stole the idea for windows? I do believe it was again Xerox who came up with the idea of a GUI, before Microsoft stole it and manipulated apple into giving up their ideas and selling their market share to Microsoft. Manipulation is Microsoft's way as much as Apple's and believe it or not, most companies's way as well.

    Innovation has stopped years ago, just like the development of battery technology has. Open source is the innovator, so they'll need to be more aware of how to protect their IP. Furthermore, I've been developing for Linux, Windows, and Mac platforms and can happily say that I would rather use a Mac over a Windows PC, due to having everything at my disposal out of the box (or installing from a provided CD) instead of having to buy proprietary software, and components and then scour the net for the rest of the tools I require.

    Also, what happened to all those useful Dos commands? Why can't control be returned to the user like it is available in Mac OSX? If I want to wipe out the entire root directory, then I can !! I can't even copy a file over my file system in Vista without being asked for confirmation. So who's the ultimate controller then?

    Overall, from a presentation (of software) and stability point of View OSX is in a league of its own along with KDE. After building Windows PC's, I got fed up with the constant hassles provided by the OS, the fragmentation, the registry problems, loosing data and having to upgrade constantly, and decided I had enough. So now, I run a Mac and dual boot with Ubuntu. It's fantastic, I still run Windows in a VM (for development work) but overall the stability and sheer usability and ease of use of a Mac will never be surpassed by clunky and haphazardly thrown together OS like Windows. If they (MS) would've thought more about the design and user requested features, and take more time to hone their software, they may get to the point where people can happily say "I like the software because it works well". Nevertheless, it is true that MS has its hands full with developing for multiple architectures and new devices, but that still shouldn't deter them from building a stable and enjoyable OS. But that's just what I think.

    Also, apple has a cult following because it works, microsoft has a cult following because of games. So who is worse? Neither or both? Just because you like something doesn't mean you can be ignorant of other things! Or have we forgot about Commodore 64's and Amigas? Also, if you think about it, buying a 27" iMac is more cost effective then building a top of the range gaming PC with dual SLI video cards! And that only includes the box, and lucky if it includes a case!

  • Nicholas Quaine

    What about the fact that Apple subcontracts device assembly to companies like FoxConn which exploits over 800,000 employees – of which 400,000 in a factory in Shen Zhen who have an 80+ hour work week for a measly 132 US dollars a month? See http://www.aujourdhuilachine.com/informations-chi

    • http://www.asymco.com asymco

      Good point. I expect Apple will use its vast cash reserves to invest in factories which will be more automated and those exploited employees will soon be let go to enjoy unemployed leisure.

      • Nicholas Quaine

        So you are saying that being employed in atrocious conditions is better that not being employed at all? I thought Americans had come a long way since the time of slavery. I even thought they had progressed a little beyond the more modern and subtle times of so-called wage-slavery (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wage_slavery) – but I guess I was wrong.

      • boo

        Those workers are actually arriving in droves to go work at factories. People NOT from third world countries simply shouldn't be allowed to comment.

        You guys have no idea, I grew up in one and I can tell you that for every 1 person tired of the tremendours growth in salary his/her family has seen working at factories, there are 10 more waiting to take the job. All you people shopping for the 'best deal' are the reason. I do too, just that I know exactly what I am doing and don't blame Walmart or Dell or Apple or Motorola or _insert_brand_name_her_ for it. If you want to pay for labor that lives the life that you live, do some simple math and see how much that hand crafted towel you wipe your face with will cost.

  • Hmm

    Well… There are some valid points and some points that absurd because they weren’t really implemented well (FireWire didn’t have to many devices because of Royalty fees if I remember correctly) also webkit being open source but they had some say on how the project was being developed. I guess I’ll give you my opinions on what you wrote. And I’ll try not flame even though I hate apple with a passion, well because you have some OK points. So I’m going to be nice.

    10) I’ll concur with you on this one, this will be great for JavaScript games because it will give the developer a universal way to program an element rather than using some proprietary interface like flash, Javafx or Silver lite. The dev doesn’t need to implement several different version of the same game in these technologies but rather a simple html tag and some javascript. To the user it will allow them to play the game without having to download from a site which will boost the sites approval rating. But remember that WebKit is an open source project that is being developted by its own devs not by apple, they only support web kit as do google. Here the site http://webkit.org/

    9) h.264 has potential if you can shell out a lot of money for royalties to develop any thing with it, this is for the developers side. The user won’t really be affected by this because they don’t need to have an sdk only the binaries which are usually of charge. This means that if you want to use this in your web app then open your check book it will cost you… I don’t really know how apple got involved in this (probably patents). I just pray that this won’t be part of the standard unless they make it alot more open.

    8) iTunes… I so want to flame this… This is one of the resounds why I hate apple… Grrr the urges, but I’ll be nice. Ok here it is. This is perfect for uses but sucks for developers. To users its simple, reliable and pretty. Its simple because it has an intuitive interface, its reliable because they maintain it well, and its pretty because they have really good designers, but for developers its a nightmare. For users don’t come to you, users go to apple. So apple is in fact a middle man, also another thing that gets on my nerves is that you have to pay them money so they can host on iTunes, and they aren’t giving any alternatives to how to sale an app, also you have to negotiate prices with them to sell your app as well. The bottom line is that it great for users because its ease but sucks for developers.

    7) WiFi??? Um… I don’t want to flame about this but WiFi has been around for a while, apple had nothing to do with this, I know that they did some stuff with it on there iphone like getting conected to the interweb which is cool for an apple person. How this got popular was with notebooks and other portable devices. It really got popular in 2005 which I believe is 2 years before iPhone. I’m only guessing it did a hit on the phone market but not on WiFi devices as a whole.

    6) FireWire??? Um… This really didn’t have an impacted… It also didn’t have a lot of devices eather, the only main device that used firewire where cameras and it… Every thing else used usb.

    5) iLife, I’m not going to dismiss this because I haven’t heard of it so I’ll take your opion on it.

    4) Portability, ha. Ya right, we’re talking about apple here my friend. Ok let me come down from all laughing I just did. Here goes, apple’s OSX os isn’t portable. OSX is one of the most unportable os in existence. And it took them 10 years to port thats like forever man… Also if you don’t know there are diffent type of processors that Intel which has there own archetectures. Well there’s x86, x64, IA-64, PowerPC, ARM to name a few. I’m thinking that OSX is problowly using x86, x64, and PowerPC. These archetectures are used for home use and buiness. Now here window, x86, x64, IA-64, PowerPC, wow its one step up. In server addition its posible to IA-64 processors on a datacenter server. Now linux… Well there way to many to list because linux can run on almost any thing and its compiled to pretty much any device including apples propietary hard ware heh heh. I’m giving OSX 3rd, Windows 2nd and Linux 1st for being the the king of portability. I’ll just give you a strate answer here OSX isn’t really portable at all this item shouldn’t be in the list at all. Sorry if it sounded like I was flaming but for this I had to let you have it. Also to let you know, you can’t install OSX on any hardware unless it gets apples appoval. BTW, it might have took OSX about 10 for just 3 different processor types, but it took linux 10 years to support almost every processor type ever made which is a lot. Thats say something.

    3) WebKit: Like I said before this is a really good project and but remember its supported by apple. Not nesarlly owned by apple but they defently have a say in the matter. But still it one of there really nice projects.

    2) Multi-Touch UI, hmm well they defently did a number on the market, there not the inventers of this but they did good marketing for this.

    1) OSK/Cocoa, btw cocoa is there frame work for building gui apps. Now yes every thing you do with an apple stack you need OSX, OSX is just a reliable but less functional as FreeBSD, its vender locked, it can only use hardware apple specifies, you have to mail in your computer to get it fixed or take it to a resaler to get it fix which they’ll mail it out to apple for you but you still have to pay mailing fee when it takes a nose dive. It ain’t portable, software dev get screwed by apple but still enjoy it which matter I suppose. Lets me put it this way its not the best or worse os out there.

    Well sorry for being so long, describing every thing took awhile. Sorry if it sounded like I’m flaming, I’m po’ed at them for many resond because I’m Dev not a user. For a user its an ok platform but its still not the best. I’m thinking the resound why they are #1 right now is good marketing, and a lot of failers on M$ part. Also note that linux is kind of the weird child here so because they can really track it as well as OSX or WIN being that most dist are sold. Oh well this is my opion… Piece

  • danthemason

    A carpenter needs no knowledge of metallurgy to drive a nail. Average users need no programing/ de-bugging/troubleshooting skills to be productive on a Mac. The PC requires these skills or a good friend on call who suffers silently.

  • Leif Beaton

    After reading this, I have to ask – are you on drugs? And where can I get some of the drugs you're using? I'm struggling to figure out if this is a result of ignorance on your part, or if you're simply lying. Either way, you have as much business reporting on technology as I have piloting the lunar lander.

    • http://www.asymco.com asymco

      You can certainly practice. It's not that hard.

      http://eaglelander3d.com/

      • Lee Penick

        Love your come-backs. Hope I never get on your bad side!

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  • Pete_Rock

    Interesting article, one of these days I'll actually read ALL of the comments. Of course one doesn't need to agree to everything you're mentioning, BUT:
    "Since the impact of these decisions could not be felt for a long time, the courage required to act early is all the more remarkable."
    That nails it!
    It is not just that Apple managed to do this and build their business when they were half-dead not that long ago, but also the lapses by all the other competitors! After all, you can only advance like that if others in originally better spots didn't capitalize on their advantageous situations. It will be very interesting to see how all this plays out.
    I definitely love using my iPhone and Mac, especially compared to the Microsoft products I have to use at work. Even if someone else STEALS from Apple ( Hi Jerry :-) , it will be for the greater good, because what good does it do if the technologies are out there but aren't put to good use? Capacitive touches weren't exactly en vogue in the smart phone market before the iPhone, now were they? Watt didn't invent the steam engine either..
    Personally, I don't care much about that in lack of details, but it works great as far as I am concerned. So, thanks Steve for what's available now, we'll see how this looks in 5 years.

  • Vertti

    "Apple’s entire printing division"

    There has never been one. Those printers that Apple had were rebranded from Canon.

    "You mention their foray into WiFi with the Airport but not the fact that had to go there kicking and screaming"

    Apple is one of the world largest manufacturers of wireless networks. Allmost all of their computers have wifi. Mac Pro is the only computer that you can get without it. Airport product sells very well dollar wise.

  • TD

    #11: Opening the bricks & mortar retail stores. Whan that began I couldn't beleive they could be profitable, given costs, especially high rents. But they apparently are.

    The pods provided a low price item to get masses of people in the door… and it enables the whole support ecosystem of – you can talk to a real person with any problems. Or take a class. Brilliant. Whatever happened with Microsoft's plan to open a first store, in SF?

  • gctwnl

    (4) and (1) were NeXT's main contributions, not Apple's (Apple bought them when they bought NeXT). The portability of NeXTSTEP was deep. Around 1994 it ran on m68k (NeXT hardware), x86 (PC), SUn SPARC and HP PA-RISC and in the labs it ran on m88k and probably some more. What is especially impressive is that some of these are big-endian and some are little-endian architectures. At that time Microsoft tried to have a "portable OS/2" which ended up being called Windows NT and to get that running for a short while on HP PA-RISC, they made HP ad a bit to the architecture to switch it from big endian (it's natural mode) to little endian (x86-style). In the end, the portability efforts of Microsoft completely failed and Windows Mobile is only in name Windows. The only OS that has matched the portability of NeXTSTEP has been Linux. Linux became portable around 1995, an impressive feat too, but that Linux was still a very barebones OS, whereas NeXTSTEP was a lot richer at that time.

    If you want to praise someone for (1) and (4), praise Avie Tevanian, the original author of the CMU Mach kernel who headed software @ NeXT and later Apple.

  • Bazz

    NO! # 4 and 1 are wrong!!
    Jobs called his computer company NEXT for a reason in the 80's!!
    Unix — from a horses mouth was the bees knees even in the 60's by the inventors — cause it made GAMES easy!! The only difference is eye candy today!!

    Late comment due to finding site today!!

  • Bazz

    The most important, and missing in your article, decision was to have S. Jobs return and BUY NextOS.
    All the others are dependent on that!
    What Apple had even under Sculley was a fan base that was "APPLE" centric and not CAUSE centric!
    JOBS was the engine room of Apple from DAY 1. The inventions then as now were demanded by Jobs. The bottlenecks (eg FLASH failures) were pinpointed and circumvented by all your decision points in your article. As was the case in the first reign.
    What Sculley failed to realize as well as the board and the world was that Jobs had to be free to wonder and not follow the Harvard Business School model of CEO.
    The Flash hang problem was sent to Adobe which replied the the cause was Apple's! This buck passing lead to H.264 that solved the problem at the expense of Adobe.
    It reminds me of the golden age of USA management — WWII Problem = Solution.
    Schottky was the eponymous start of Silicon Valley Management by analysis and technological improvement. His character may have been noxious but his methods solved problems!
    Jobs is his heir!