Things really couldn’t be better for Apple right now. Its phone and music businesses are soaring, Mac market share is growing at a voracious rate, and Leopard is another critical and commercial success in the midst of Vista’s flop. Oh, and the stock is so high that a share from 199
67 that cost $8 then is now worth more than $43,000 A lot of money (misremembered the number of AAPL splits. The stock did drop down to $8 in 1997, though).
But things were not always so rosy. Travel back to the spring of 1997, a land of rap-rock and bridges to the 21st century. A time before Lewinski. Apple was a shambles. Gil Amelio ruled as CEO. Steve Jobs was half-in, half-out of the fold. Apple owned NeXT, but the company was three years from a shipping version of Mac OS X. The iMac hadn’t even been announced, for crying out loud.
Ever-vigilant, Wired put out 101 theories for how Apple could be saved in the June 1997 issue. Looking back, some of them are eerily prescient (15. Dump or outsource the Newton and other sidelights, 34. Port the OS to Intel) and some are hilariously off the mark (1. Get out of the hardware game, 35. Clone the Powerbook).
As a nostalgia-fest, I’ve decided to highlight the ten best and ten worst of the list. That all follows after the jump, as is a link to the full story.
7. Don’t disappear from the retail chains. Rent space in a computer store, flood it with Apple products (especially software), staff it with Apple salespeople, and display everything like you’re a living, breathing company and not a remote, dusty concept.
18. Stop being buttoned-down corporate and appeal to the fanatic feeling that still exists for the Mac. Power Computing’s “I’ll give up my Mac when they pry it from my stiff, dying fingers” campaign hits the right note. In the tech world, it’s still a crusade. Support the Mac community, and the Mac community will support you.
25. Portables, portables, portables. Pick the best-of-breed Wintel in each of the portable categories and then better it. Wintel has a fantastic range.
26. If you sell it, make it! Stop releasing new products if you can’t fulfill the orders. Angering the few loyal customers you still have isno way to do business.
37. Take advantage of NeXT’s easy and powerful OpenStep programming tools to entice a new generation of Mac software developers.
50. Give Steve Jobs as much authority as he wants in new product development. Let Gil Amelio stick to operations. There’s no excitement at the top, and Apple’s customers want to feel like they’ve joined a computer revolution. Even if Jobs fails, he’ll do it with guns a-blazin’, and we’ll be spared this slow water torture that Amelio has subjected us to.
62. Build a computer that doesn’t crash.
70. Simplify your PC product line. Reduce the number of Apple motherboards and the number of distinct Apple system models.
87. Price the CPUs to sell. Offer novice users the ability to enter the Mac market at a competitive price point and move up the power curve as their level of sophistication increases. The initial price keeps new buyers away.
98. Testimonials. Create commercials featuring real-life people in situations where buying a Mac (or switching to a Mac) saved the day.
2. License the Apple name/technology to appliance manufacturers and build GUIs for every possible device – from washing machines to telephones to WebTV. Have them all use the same communications protocol. Result: you monopolize the market for smart devices/homes.
20. Tap the move toward push media by creating a network computer with state of-the-art technologies, e.g., videogame support for Nintendo 64, top notch graphics such as QuickDraw 3D, and the best possible bandwidth.
21. Sell yourself to IBM or Motorola, the PowerPC makers. You can become the computer division that Motorola wants or the alternative within IBM. This would give the company volume for its PowerPC devices and leverage for other PowerPC offerings.
22. Create a new kids’ computer, an upgradable Wintel-compatible machine, in bright rugged colors that can take stickers and duct tape, and that a young user can call his/her own. This machine has two killer apps: autograding of homework for the teachers; passing notes via wireless for the kids. Price: US$350 before upgrades.
24. Pay cartoonist Scott Adams $10 million to have Dilbert fall in love with a Performa repairwoman.
59. Invest heavily in Newton technology, which is one area where Microsoft can’t touch you. Build voice recognition and better gesture recognition into Newton, making a new environment for desktop, laptop, and palmtop Macs. Newton can also be the basis of a new generation of embedded systems, from cash registers to kiosks.
60. Abandon the Mach operating system you just acquired and run Windows NT kernel instead. This would let Mac run existing PC programs. (Microsoft actually has Windows NT working on Mac hardware. It also has emulation of Mac programs with NT running on both Power PC and x86.)
82. Give the first Apple made exclusively for Windows a cheeky name (like The Big Apple) and an irresistible industrial design like the 20th-anniversary Macintosh. Introduce it with a mammoth ad campaign that shows the makers of other Windows PCs running for cover, as if they’ve been fearing Apple’s monstrous entry into their market for decades.
85. Quit making each Mac in a platform-specific case, with platform-specific parts. Make one case for desktop systems and another for laptops. The case, chassis, and all that stuff needs to be as upgradable as the system software used to be.
99. Reincorporate as a nonprofit research foundation. Instead of buying computers, customers would buy memberships, just as they do in the National Geographic Society. They’d receive an Apple computer as part of their membership perks. Dues would be tax-deductible. Your (eventual) profits would also be tax-exempt, and the foundation could continue its noble battle to keep Microsoft on its toes.
Read the rest of the excellent list here.
Via Sam of UM. Thanks for the tip, Andrew!