25 years of Macintosh - the Apple
Computer report card
What Steve hath wrought (from A to F)
Part One In two short months, Apple's Macintosh will turn 25 years old. My, how tempus doth fugit.
To mark the awesome inevitability of January 24, 2009 following January 24, 1984 after exactly one quarter-century, tech pundits will bloviate, Apple-bashers will execrate, and Jobsian fanboyz will venerate the munificence that flows unabated from The Great Steve. The din will be deafening.
To avoid the crowds, we at The Reg decided to go first.
Follow along as we run the rule over Apple Inc. (née Apple Computer, Inc.). We'll examine how the company has transformed itself in recent years, how its products stack up against the rest, and what lurks beneath its outward display of iconic style, forward-looking rectitude, and edgy innovation.
We'll also give Apple its report card, slicing and dicing the 25-five-year operation into bite-sized letter grades. Just so you can easily tell your friends. Our goal is a noble one: To arm you, dear reader, against the slings and arrows of outrageous commentary that will assault you from all corners come January.
Don't say we didn't warn you.
The Rise and Fall and Rise of Steve
Apple's last quarter century is best divided into a trio of Jobsian epochs: Steve I, No Steve, and Steve II. We're most concerned with the ongoing Steve II era and its ever-expanding worldwide cult, but first, a look back at the company's earlier incarnations.
Steve I - or Steves I, if you consider co-founder Steve Wozniak - saw the breakthrough of the Apple II (thanks, VisiCalc!), the embarrassment of the Apple III, the overreach of the Lisa, and the beginning of the Mac era. And towards the end there was Steve Jobs famously (and possibly apocryphally) asking PepsiCo's John Scully "Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?"
Scully said he'd forgo the sweetness, joined Apple as President and CEO, soon forced Jobs out, then nearly ran Apple into the ground by subdividing its offerings into multiple competing product lines and confusing wishful thinking with vision.
Jobs and Woz
Although the No Steve era began on Scully's watch, it dragged on through the reigns of Michael Spindler (1993-1996) and Gil Amelio (1996-1997). It was characterized by bumbling attempts to revive Scully's failing Newton MessagePad, further muddying the product-line waters with Macintosh Performas, Centrises, Quadras, and more. Then there was the operating-system licensing program that allowed clone-making competitors such as Power Computing to skim the cream off the top of the high-end/high-margin market by repeatedly offering faster machines at lower prices than the mothership was capable of.
During this period, Apple went from being respected for its innovation to derided for its rudderlessness. Financial losses mounted, market share tanked, and developers moved from Apple to Windows 3.0 in 1990 and to Windows 95 in, well, 1995. The Apple Death Watch, always a popular parlor game, kicked up a notch or three.
"Apple isn't doing as well as their marketing would have you believe"
Well, far from me defending a company, any company, let alone Apple. All I have ever bought from them is my first gen 4GB iPod nano (I like it), which I plan to retire when (if) I get a Touch. But I dislike Apples dictatorial style and all that.
That said, the article did not present marketing. Or at least not just. As far as I could see, the article presented some charts with not too shabby numbers on them. I wish I had a company doing that badly. Or are you implying those numbers are fake (marketing)? Call the SEC or whatever, then?
@AC "That old trope again.."
Well, but they do not listen with their senses+reasoning, they listen with their emotions... There's serious research about this, "the taste of brand", you know. And they have no clue what you are talking about anyway. Your reasoning is thus wasted on those you're trying to reach, really.
"Software for windows platforms tend to be developed with easy ram upgrades considered more favourable than efficient code. Maybe with Macs there's more of an attitude to make it work on the kit that came out of the box"
I don't think it's a case of Apple trying harder to make software work on old hardware. They are primarily a hardware company. If anything making people upgrade more often would be good for their business.
Like OS X, Linux runs on old hardware. I think that's because it's well programmed.
Microsoft has always written bloated software. For example, compare the number of system calls made to serve up one static html on IIS:
and the same thing done by Apache:
Also consider that many applications run faster under Wine than they do in Windows, and that Samba has historically given better performance serving files than native Windows.
Åpple uses Carbon and Cocoa to build OS X . How many platforms and languages does Microsoft use? The more complicated you make things the more likely there are to be failures, and the more "workarounds" that have to be added to address faults.
One other big factor, I think, is Microsoft's staff retention. MS keeps their staff employed even when they are rubbish programmers or have barely any work to do. I've heard first hand from developers sent to coding conferences who log in at the conference, go shopping all day, then log out at the end.
This is an enlightening read:
Apple properly sliced & diced!
I have used Macs professionally since, well, 1984, and I have survived years of both Apple/Mac zealotry and repeated premature announcements of Apple's imminent demise. Very few biz-tech writers have correctly dissected Apple Computer's inner chronology (and reasons for its recent market success) as well as does this author. The article even has lovely Excel charts! :-)
Surely your post must qualify for flame of the week. It's really well constructed and based on astute observation and reasoned argument.
FYI. Top Gear isn't on 'till Sunday. I'm going to watch QI now - it's all about being mendacious.
Yep, smug, mendacious know-nothing kneejerk crApple fanboi. People like you make it hard to tell when the Jobs Mob release anything good or anyone else anything bad, as your witless, smug polarised and simplistic view of the world simply precludes informed debate. Now go iron your cardigan, I think Top Gear's on soon.