(Apple Inc., Cupertino, CA, www.apple.com) A manufacturer of computers and consumer electronics, Apple is the industry's most fabled story. Founded in a garage by Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs and guided by Mike Markkula, Apple blazed the trails for the personal computer industry. Apple was formed on April Fool's Day in 1976. After introducing the Apple I at the Palo Alto Homebrew Computer Club, 10 retail stores were selling them by the end of the year.
In 1977, the Apple II was introduced, a fully-assembled computer with 4K RAM for $1,298. Its open architecture encouraged third-party vendors to build plug-in hardware enhancements. This, plus sound and color graphics, caused Apple IIs to become the most widely used computer in the home and classroom. They were also used in business primarily for the innovative VisiCalc software that was launched on it.
In 1983, Apple introduced the Lisa, the forerunner of the Macintosh. Lisa was aimed at the corporate market, but was soon dropped in favor of the Mac. As a graphics-based machine, the Mac was successful as a low-cost desktop publishing system. Although praised for its ease of use, its slow speed, small monochrome screen and closed architecture didn't excite corporate buyers. But, things were to change.
In 1987, the Mac II offered higher speed, larger screens in color and traditional cabinetry that accepted third-party add-in cards. Numerous models were offered and widely accepted. In 1991, Apple surprised the industry by announcing an alliance with IBM to form several companies that would develop hardware and software together. All these eventually folded back into Apple and IBM, but the major product of the alliance was the PowerPC chip (see Apple-IBM alliance
). In 1994, Apple came out with its first PowerPC-based Power Macs, which proved very popular. Its PowerBook laptops were an instant success, and all subsequent models departed from the original Motorola 68K architecture to the PowerPC.
Apple has stood alone in a sea of IBM and IBM-compatible PCs for more than a decade and a half. It has watched its graphical interface copied more with each incarnation of Windows and watched its market share drop simultaneously. In late 1994, Apple began to license its OS to system vendors in order to create a Macintosh clone industry, which pundits had been suggesting for years. However, a couple of years later, that was discontinued.
In 1997, Apple acquired NeXT Computer, which brought Steve Jobs back to the company he founded and gave it a raft of object-oriented development tools, parts of which filtered down into the Mac OS X operating system.
In 1998, Apple introduced the iMac, a low-priced Internet-ready Mac that was the first personal computer without a floppy disk. Self-contained in one unit like the original Mac, Apple sold 800,000 iMacs in a year, making it the fastest-selling computer in its history. Apple's subsequent models, including the G4 Cube and Titanium portable, were in a class by themselves. Apple continues to offer attractive alternatives to the Windows-based PC.
In 2001, Apple launched the iPod, one of the most successful consumer electonics products in history. Setting the bar for portable music players, every competing product is measured against the iPod's ease of use and capabilities. In 2007, Apple announced the iPhone, a combination iPod, phone and Internet appliance that is available in the U.S. exclusively from AT&T (formerly Cingular) for two years.
The Two Steves
Wozniak and Jobs (left to right) pioneered the microcomputer revolution. Wozniak's engineering and Job's charisma truly built a legend. Here they hold the motherboard from the Apple I, Apple's first computer. (Image courtesy of Apple Inc.)
The Apple I
Rather humble beginnings, yet the Apple I led to the very successful Apple II series, which thrived for many years. (Image courtesy of Apple Inc.)
A Quarter Century Later
With a CPU chip 500 times as fast as the Apple I, the PowerBook G4 Cube bears little resemblance to Apple's first offering. (Image courtesy of Apple Inc.)