Apple Computer is used mainly in reference to the company Apple Computer, Inc. The company is now informally known as Apple, by its owners and by the general public alike. Apple Computer is a company dedicated to the manufacture and development of personal computers. This is its main focus of attention. Its interests include software (from stand-alone applications to operating systems) and peripheral devices. It also holds shares in variety of different ventures, though Apple is indeed mainly know for its consumer machines which in recent years include the famous iMac.

Apple was borne mainly through the hands of one man. Having previously dabbled in electronics and system design, Steve Wozniak, a Hewlett-Packard employee at the time, had a few months earlier completed work on his own desktop machine. At the advice of his friend and advisor Steve Jobs, he decided to sell the machine; this is how on the 1st of April, 1976 Apple Computer was born. The success was limited and the friends went "back to the drawing board". With Jobs' sharp eye for business, Wozniak was free to dedicate himself to his creation. The next year, in a small computer trade show the Apple I debuted. The response was impressive this time. Due to a few unique features such as portability; this was the first machine to come in a single plastic case, and to have color graphics. Sales were good. At the beginning of '78 the Apple II Disk was introduced, it had the first cheap and easy-to-use floppy drive to be seen on the consumer market.

1980 saw Apple with over 1000 employees, the beginnings of an international market and the Apple III. With this new-found success investor interest in the company soared. New investors and shareholders took seats on the director's board. Having the experience of age and wisdom they turned the company into a professional outfit. Under wraps was also a development of a new operating system called LISA, inspired by a visit to Xerox PARC. Jobs was given the leadership of the project but was soon deemed unsuitable for the role. To prove himself worthy he dedicated himself to his own project – a $500 personal computer called Macintosh.

Apple has always been a rollercoaster of failure and success, and in 1981 the first descent began. The new area of consumer machines had been blown open by Apple and now this was in play against them. The biggest threat to Apple at the time was IBM who had recently released their first PC; unable to compete with new products Apple suffered. Forty employees were laid off. To further this tale of woe, Steve Wozniak was injured in a plane crash and took an leave of absence to recover. He came back very briefly before leaving for good. Jobs quickly assumed the role of chairman of the company.

Looking to bring the company back on its feet, Jobs took it to his head to canvas new money and leadership, his pick? John Sculley, CEO of Pepsi-Cola. As Jobs said to Sculley: - "If you stay at Pepsi, five years from now all you'll have accomplished is selling a lot more sugar water to kids. If you come to Apple you can change the world."* By April of 1983 Sculley took over as head honcho.

Jobs and Sculley did not take well together, and immediately began to disagree. Jobs threw himself back into his long running project Macintosh. He urged developers to write programs for it, and tyrannised everyone around him.

The 1984 Superbowl saw a 60sec advert for the Macintosh (directed by Ridley Scott); the advert depicted Apple destroying the Orwellian IBM dominance. The machine sold moderately well, but in the rush to compete features such as a hard drive and more RAM capability were shelved. This did not go down well with the users, and by Christmas sales had slumped.

Things were not going to go much better for Jobs after a long argument that eventually lead to Jobs' resignation, Apple was left in the care of Sculley. Over the next few years Sculley somehow managed to pull the company up again, even though at the end of the second quarter of 1985 Apple posted its first loss and laid off 1400 employees. They also had become involved in a bitter legal argument with Microsoft. Apple Computer claimed that Windows 1.0 had used elements of the Apple GUI without permission. After months of confrontation Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft, signed a document declaring he would not use any Macintosh elements in Windows 1.0. Nothing was said about future versions. Apple had just lost the exclusive rights to its own product.

But as mentioned earlier Apple's history is a rollercoaster. In 1987 showed the world what it was capable of. With the introduction of the LaserWriter, one of the first affordable desktop PostScript printers and PageMaker, one of the pioneers of DTP software it had proved had offered the ideal solution for inexpensive and professional publishing. More importantly it also introduced the Mac II, built solely to be expandable and upgradeable it was a hit, in the last quarter it was shipping over 50,000 units a month.

In 1990, Microsoft came back to haunt Apple, realising its flagship Windows 3.0 sold like hot cakes, the market was overloaded with PC-Clones and Microsoft was on nearly every one of them. Apple wanted to take the same line, it decided to licence Mac OS and that way expand its reach, but since this would create even more competition they decided to forgo the idea. But by this time, work had begun on Apple's line of portable machines, the PowerBook. Success was immediate and impressive.

They had ventured briefly into the PDA market with a product called Newton, but it was poorly designed and did not sell well at all. Internally things were not going as good Sculley had began to lose interest in the company and in the end resigned to let way for Michael Spindler, already Apple’s COO.

Under Spindler various things were accomplished. IBM and Motorola were contracted and signed to co develop a new processor for the machines, this processor would be called the PowerMac and would see the future of Apple. This chip allowed Apple to compete and beat the PC processors as it reached speeds unheard of. They also introduced the Performa range, at a lower cost. Spindler also took the step of finally licensing Mac OS. Some say that the deal was too strict and that Apple didn’t really want to licence it. Whatever the case, only a hand full of licences were sold and was quickly shoved to the back burner.

By June of 1995 Apple had over a million backorders and no parts to fulfil the orders. Worsened also by Microsoft's new operating system Windows 95, which mimicked the Mac OS GUI to a T.

The biggest fall of Apple's history came Christmas of 1995. Having misjudged the market Apple pushed the Performa and ignored the appeal of the PowerMac, they only facilitated the Performa and failed to make a penny of profit.

In January of 1996, Spindler was asked to resign. He was replaced by Gil Amelio, former chief of National Semiconductor. Amelio took over with strong ideas and a strong foot. Seeing the company crashing he was quick to re-structure the whole operation. He divided the company into seven separate sections and announced each would be accountable for their own loss or profit. Newton was separated into a wholly different subsidiary, Newton, Inc.

The first Quarter of 1996 saw Apple posting a terrifying loss of $740m, but Amelio knew what he was doing. Quarter two saw that loss down to $33m and in the third quarter they made a profit of $30m. The fourth quarter did see a loss again but Apple had regained an enormous amount of ground. 1996 also brought back an old relative. Apple Computer announced it was acquiring NeXT and that Jobs was coming home. This decision was an idea to acquire the OS NeXTStep, which was to become the foundation of Apples new generation system, Rhapsody.

1997 again brought changes to the board when after posting a loss in the second quarter of the year Amelio resigned. He left with the approval of all; - "He has done all he could for Apple, and even though he has brought about many improvements, he can do no more." The biggest shock of all was that no successor had been announced, and none was to be announced; Fred Anderson (the CFO) was in charge of day to day operations and Steve Jobs was given an expanded role in the meantime.

As soon as this happened Steve's presence and role even though not official was obvious. There was a lot of work to be done, a lot of decisions to be made and Jobs was the only one capable of making them. With Apple at an all time low, with stock figures lower than they had been in the last five years something had to be done.

Jobs quickly made changes. After writing off Newton totally, Jobs appeared at MacWorld Boston in August of 1997. This was to be the first of his famous Keynotes. Now being referred to as the "interim CEO," Jobs talked about their upcoming aggressive marketing campaign, Rhapsody and the new machines. He announced an almost completely new board of directors, among which was Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle. After leaving the audience speechless he dropped his bombshell.

In exchange for $150m of Apple stock, Microsoft and Apple would have a 5-year patent cross-license agreement and, more importantly, a final settlement in the ongoing GUI argument. Microsoft agreed to pay an unreleased sum of additional funds to quiet the allegations that it had stolen Apple's intellectual property in designing its Windows OS. Microsoft also announced that a new version of Office 97, its popular office package, would be available for the Mac by year's end.

These announcements gave Apple new life, but Jobs was not finished. There was one more big obstacle to tackle: Clones. Jobs felt that Clone Vendors such as Power Computing were cutting into Apple's high-end market, where they traditionally made the most profit. Clones had failed to effectively expand the Mac OS market; instead, it was taking customers away from Apple. Jobs remedied this apparent failure of the Clone experiment by all but pulling its plug. In early Fall of 1997, Apple announced its intention to buy out Power Computing's Mac OS license, and much of its engineering staff. Power Computing went out of business several months later, with Apple taking over its product support.

Apple also bought out its Mac OS licences from Motorola and IBM. Umax was allowed to stay in the game, but with the tacit understanding that it would fill the low-end market, with machines selling for under $1000. Umax sold its remaining inventory of Macs, and is now selling Wintel boxes.

On November 10, 1997, Apple announced that they would now sell computers direct, both over the web and the phone, as Power Computing had done so well in the past. Jobs also announced two new Apple machines: the PowerMac G3, and the PowerBook G3.

The Apple Store was a runaway success, and within a week was the third-largest e-Commerce site on the web. At MacWorld San Francisco in January, Jobs announced that Apple had, for the first time in more than a year, had a profitable First Quarter — to the tune of $44 million. This far eclipsed analysts' projections. In April 1998, Jobs announced another profitable quarter ($57 million), which came as a big surprise to nearly everyone.

Jobs kept momentum moving, and in early May announced a new PowerBook G3, an Educational Apple Store, and an entirely new Mac design--the iMac. The iMac would be Apple's answer to the low-end consumer question, with more than enough computing power for most people, at an affordable price. Later that month, in his keynote at the WWDC, Jobs announced a dramatic shift in Apple's OS direction. Mac OS X would merge Mac OS 8 and Rhapsody — Apple's upcoming version of NeXTStep — into one robust OS, with all the features of a modern OS and backward compatibility with most Mac OS 8 applications.

In July 1998, Jobs announced that Apple had profited for the 3rd consecutive quarter — to the tune of $101 million. This helped to push Apple's stock to several 52-week highs in just a few days.

The iMac was the best-selling computer in the nation for most of the fall, and it drove Apple sales well beyond most predictions. In the fall, Jobs announced another profitable quarter, making a full year of profitability. In January 1999, Jobs announced a fifth consecutive profitable quarter, with year-over-year growth, and a sleek new PowerMac G3.

In July 1999, Steve Jobs filled the final quadrant in the "Apple Product Matrix" — The consumer portable — when he introduced the iBook. Based on the same principles that had made iMac such a hot sell a year earlier, the iBook brought style to the low-end portable market. Several months later, Jobs announced the PowerMac G4, a significant new professional desktop machine. Apple's stock had risen all summer, and by mid-September was trading at an all-time high.

In a dramatic Keynote at MacWorld Expo SF in January 2000, Jobs unveiled Apple's new Internet strategy: a suite of mac-only internet-based applications called "iTools" and an exclusive partnership with Earthlink as Apple's recommended ISP. Jobs also announced that he would be dropping the "interim" from his title, becoming the permanent CEO of Apple. Apple's sales continued to rise, as did the stock price, which had climbed to 130 by early March.

In July 2000, Apple announced a slew of new machines, including the PowerMac G4 Cube, which added a fifth category to Apple's four-corner product strategy. The Cube was Apple's answer to those who wanted an iMac without a monitor, as well as challenge to the computing industry to continue to minimise the size of computers while increasing their visual appeal. The second half of 2000 was rocky for Apple. Slower sales (both for Apple and the industry as a whole), combined with a misunderstanding of the consumer market resulted in the first unprofitable quarter in three years.

One factor in this decline was the G4 Cube, which sold poorly due primarily to its high price compared to Apple's other products. Another factor was Apple's decision to include DVD-ROM drives in their consumer and professional machines instead of CD-RW drives. As a result, Apple missed sales opportunities to customers who wanted to burn their own CDs. Apple began to rectify these problems in late 2000, when it cut prices on the entire PowerMac line.

Apple took the next step in January of 2001, when it announced a new line of PowerMacs, with either CD-RW drives or a new "SuperDrive" which could read and write both CDs and DVDs. Apple also announced two new application: iDVD, a DVD authoring program, and iTunes, which allowed users to encode and listen to MP3 songs, and then burn them to CDs.

All this was part of Apple's new corporate strategy, developed in the face of a massive slow down in the Technology industry: Apple would take advantage of the explosion of personal electronic devices : CDplayers, MP3 players, digital cameras, DVD players, etc., by building Mac-only applications that added value to those devices. Just as iMovie had added tremendous value to Digital Cameras, iDVD would add value to Digital Cameras and to DVD-players, and iTunes would add value to CD and MP3 players.

In May 2001, Jobs announced that Apple would be opening a number of retail stores across America, selling not only Apple computers, but various third-party "digital lifestyle" products, such as mp3 players, digital still and video cameras, and PDAs. It was Apple's hope that making the Mac the "Digital Hub" of the new "Digital Lifestyle" would revitalise Apple's sales and guarantee the long-term security of the company.


* - Quote thanks to 2958442. :)

Sources: apple.com and apple2history.org

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