Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Small beginnings and big bytes - an Apple story

Ok so it was my sons 1st birthday recently, and he got one of these from his grandma
But you see while I don't profess to be a big Apple fan. Fact of the matter is they are a big part of my life of who I am and how I have got to where I am.

I most likely would not have leaped into IT/IS or even business computing - except for the fact that when I was 5 - my father got me this.
This good ol' Apple II lasted me all the way though my Schooling years. It did nothing really practical, it had no printer, no word processor. It had a joystick, increase ram and a 4 colour display - so it was mainly used for games.
But it taught me some very basic things. How to type fast, how to think fast and most importantly how to be patient when it comes to loading. At the time if you wanted a personal computer and had money you got a Apple II, if you were cheap or had some fancy ERP tool you got IBM's 8086. It was a strange market. But basically the II changed the way people thought about computing. It created personal computing.
Then when at Middle school I got to use this:
The Mac classic. The perfect device with the worst execution. It had a lot going for it except good marketing. It was an all in one unit. It was light enough to carry. It HAD resolution. It was the first FANLESS computers - something unheard of in the electronics industry.
This computer should have captured the whole market. But it failed horribly and was eaten alive in the red market that had become the personal computer. Acer, IBM, Compaq, Tandy, HP, was no longer a 2 horse game. And some of the competitors were cut throat pirates.
Apple was being cut and started to bleed. From recall this was when Jobs started to get young and reckless - the other owners of apple noticed  and cut him from the fray. Thankfully they still had a fan base.
Come to College I found myself using one of these...
The LC was not a bad machine, it just wasn't a good one. It was doing what everyone else was doing hardware wise, software wise it was completely propriety. This was the 90's and now Microsoft ruled the roost - not by selling computers, but by selling the operating system. The market had changed and people paid pennies less for the hardware, but more for all the software. The giants of the valley were now companies like Microsoft, Adobe, Macromedia........ as they had the I.P. and most of the hardware was now being made out of China.
Jobs was rehired, and refocused. A massive cash injection came into Apple via Microsoft. And I then had to deal with this before I went to University.
The imac was everything the Mac Classic should have been, it was an all in one unit that had the marketing weight of a heavy weight boxer on crack. It forced the competition to rethink its game. To think about things like case design and ergonomics. To think about colours (beige cases and monitors were all the rage - not!).
However at this point the computers only had a cult following. They were expensive and next to useless to most people.

It was never that I disliked Apple...........I always appreciated them from an engineers perspective. It was that I could see their failures from a business perspective. But I was fortunate to own the computer that made Apple a great computer company. A world leader. Now my son can experience that with their iPAD.

Now you can understand why Apple's model had to change - there market was never computers. That was simply the first market they tried. They needed to think past that and find out what people were not doing. In the 1970's people were not making personal computers. In the 1990's people were not making MP3 players with lots of storage. In the 2000's people were not making useable, reliable tablets.

Turns out the Woz (the others guy who started Apple with Jobs in the 70's) knew this all along. Check out his Q&A below.