The news this week that the very ill Steve Jobs has left Apple I’m sure caught everyone off guard. However he has been ill for quite some time and had handed over the day-today running of the company long ago. His main contributions were in product ideas and announcements.
I’ve grown up with Apple. I used an Apple II+ and Apple IIe in high school and have used their original Macintosh computers in University. I remember how they marketed the Macintoshes as a kind of transportable computer with ads of students carrying them around. I really doubt anyone actually did.
But the Mac had flaws, its was expensive, there was no way to expand any part of it. If you didn’t like the monitor tough, you wanted more memory hmmmm, colour? go away. A radical departure from the Apple II line which was expandable. Its main flaw was a shortage of business applications and when competing with IBM and Microsoft that was a killer. Steve Wozniak (remember him) left Apple over the killing of the Apple II/III line.
Shortly after that Jobs left, but he shortly reappeared as the founder of NeXT which developed a cube which ran a graphical UNIX OS. Apple was now floundering, with little direction and computers which looked like IBM PC’s and still a lack of applications. Apple was bleeding money it had wasted on Newton and the never-ending development of a new OS. Steve Jobs saw his opportunity and convinced Apple to buy NeXT, for its OS, and he was back at the helm of his baby.
Jobs came back with a new Mac, then spotted the potable MP3 market and selling music online and the rest is history. While Apple’s computers are still very much a niche market – I don’t really think they sell very many – Apple is more of a desirable gadget company now. I wonder how Woz thinks about that?
Will Apple still be able to innovate, well surely it wasn’t all just down to one man. I certainly hope not.