Apple Inc. is an American Corporation known for designing personal electronics married with exclusive software. The company started making personal computers starting with the early success of the Apple II, and later introducing Graphical User Interfaces to the market with the Macintosh and with the Apple Newton, started producing consumer electronics. Although unsuccessful it was considered ahead of it's time, and paved the way for other successful consumer devices like the iPod and the iPhone.
Apple was founded by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak who met while working at Atari. They left to start Apple in Steve Jobs' garage and established themselves on April 1, 1976. The Apple I went on sale in July of the same year. The Apple I was sold as a motherboard which contained a CPU, RAM, and a basic chip set. It was originally priced $666.66 and soon after dropped below $500.
Apple II was introduced April 16th, 1977 for $1298 with 4 kB of RAM. There where many RAM configurations maxing out at $2638 for 48 kB of RAM. The "killer app" of the Apple II was a spreadsheet called Visicalc, and a "basic" code compiler. The Apple II was the first computer designed to look more like a home appliance than a computer. Steve Jobs explained that he didn't want the computer to
seem out of place in the home. It obviously wasn't, the Apple II line was a huge success garnering more than a 70% of the home computer market. One of Apple's most notable early competitors was IBM who focused on the business market and didn't target home computers until the early 80s.
Steve Jobs could feel the pressure from IBM and other computer manufactures. In December of 1979 Jobs got to preview Xerox's technology by offering them 1 million dollars in stock options. They showed him three things, a digital scanner, a printing method, and the mouse. With that Apple reinvented the typical UI. They essentially traded 1 million dollars in pre-IPO stock for the concept of the Graphical User Interface. Jobs spawned two GUI projects. The expensive powerful Lisa which debuted to shaky economy in 1983 for $9995. With no "killer app" it failed. But without having invested into the Lisa, they wouldn't have been able to pull off the Macintosh.
GUI concepts pioneered in Lisa flowed to the Macintosh computer. In 1984 the Macintosh launched bundled with some full featured Apple developed software, and a more aggressive price of $1995. It was a deal for a computer bundled with speakers, a monitor, a keyboard, a mouse, and a magical operating system. Even with Mac paint and Mac draw the Macintosh's true killer apps was the original Microsoft Office, and Lotus Jazz (Lotus 1-2-3 for the mac). Without the support of Microsoft the Macintosh wouldn't have been a success. The eventual down fall of the Macintosh is that is was difficult to program for. You had to use an object oriented programming code like C instead of a linear code like basic. There where more apps on the DOS platform, and was a major marketing point against the Mac.
Steve Jobs, Apples founder and visionary, lost in a power struggle with, then runner of day to day operations, John Sculley. People believe it was over the enormous amount of resources Jobs was pouring into Research and Development, 3 times that of similar companies. At first with Jobs' absence, Apple flourished. They introduced the portable mac in 1989 for a premium, but followed up with a less expensive round 2 called the Powerbook. Which established the modern form and ergonomic layout of the laptop computer. Mac addict claims that 1989-1991 as Apple's first golden years. However after that Apple began to struggle. Apple was spreading itself too thin with a portable device called the Newton and a home video game system called the Pippin. While spreading itself thin Apple didn't pay attention to the Mac business. The Macintosh line was confusing. They had the Quadra Line of computers, the Centris line, and the Performa line, also a whole range of portable computers. Some Apple computers where shipped with lesser quality components, making some configurations unstable. The Apple operating system evolved but was still difficult to program for. Windows was gaining popularity and offered cheaper hardware options.
The leadership at Apple also grew shaky with Jobs' departure. John Sculley tarnished the reputation of Apple and was replaced as CEO by Michael Spinder and then again by Gil Amelio, the layoff king. The Mac OS ceased evolving, due to lack of R&D so in 1996 Amelio did the right thing. He purchased NeXT, a company that developed a more advanced operating system, NeXTSTEP. With that acquisition came Steve Jobs, Apple's original CEO. In 1997 Steve Jobs replaced Gil Amelio as CEO. He ended all projects at Apple other than the Mac. He was forced to borrow money for Microsoft to abandon the failed clone project. Steve announced that the war between Microsoft and apple was over. At this moment Apple was not competing to gain market-share, they competed to become profitable.
Upon Steve's return to the company the first project he brought to market was the iMac in 1998. An all in one computer reminiscent of the Original Macintosh. It was one of the first computers to ship with a USB, an Ethernet port, Internet Explorer, and an internal modem. The "i" was for internet; internet mac became iMac. It was rumored that Steve originally hated the name. This ushered in new life into Apple, simplifying there line into four categories of computers. The iMac and iBooks were for consumer, While the Powerbook (later Macbook Pro) and the G4 tower (later Mac Pro) where for pros. This simplified line exists at Apple today.
In 2001, Apple launched OSX. OSX was a new operating system with better security and memory management. It had a bumpy road at first with slow launching applications, long startup times, and several bugs. However even at it's worst it was considered by some the most advanced operating system available. Casual software was sparse because programming had be done in Objective C. The Pro apps shined, especially video. When Apple released Final Cut Pro, the professional videographer was committed to the Mac. Apple in the first release of OSX included iLife, "the center of your digital life." This suite of apps include today iMovie, iPhoto, Garage Band, iTunes, iWeb (And at that time iDVD) These were apps designed to make the Mac / OSX the hub of your digital life. Connecting your cameras, video cameras, MP3 players, in simple and easy ways. iLife was the Mac's killer app.
Later in 2001 Apple released the iPod. A device that changed the music industry forever. Originally it was a hard drive-based MP3 player about the size of a deck of cards that aloud you to carry 1,000 songs in your pocket. This 5gig player for $499. The players purpose was to offer a mobile version of your iTunes library in a simplified interface using the click wheel. Over time the iPod became more affordable and with more storage. The true mass appeal of the device was with the second generation iPod nano that sold for $199. Before then everyone wanted one, after the $199 nano everyone could afford them. Apple doubled it's annual sales in less than a year. Apple is currently the leader in the MP3 player market with a 65%-80% market share depending on units or dollars.
On January 9th 2007, Apple changed the field of consumer electronics again with the release of the iPhone. Apple's "Jesus phone" was a smart phone with no buttons, no keyboard just a giant multi touch screen. It made calls, handled email, behaved like an iPod, and it's killer launch app was a full safari browser. It was the internet in your pocket. The phone was exclusive to AT&T and a year later was launched world wide. That same year Apple started the app store, an avenue for third party developers to make applications and distribute them through iTunes. This was a breakthrough moment in cellular computing. Many of these apps are casual games like Plants vs Zombies or zen bound. Consumers have downloaded over 4 billion apps, and the store generates apple over $1billion annually. (Piper Jaffray)
In April of 2010, Apple released the iPad. A tablet computer they claim to be magical and revolutionary. It had early success, selling 300,000 in the first day.
Apple's story follows very much the life of it's founder Steve Jobs, and his insistence on innovation, secrecy and invention. Upon his first departure from the company Apple struggled to innovate, falling stagnant, almost bankrupt. Steve's return brought life back into Apple creating a more profitable company, filled with exciting products, and a devoted following.