The Apple Newton. Failure, or precursor of the iPhone?
Anyone who’s followed Apple for a long time knows the company has not always been the kind of world-beating success it is today. An entire book could be written about Apple’s failures over the years — and there are the doomsday predictions to prove it.
But Apple has succeeded in taking those seemingly disastrous mistakes and learning valuable lessons from them. The graphical user interface of the Apple Lisa? Apple learned that sometimes you need to stick with good ideas for a while before they catch on. The takeaway from Apple’s QuickTake Camera? Rushing to beat everyone else to market isn’t always the best idea.
A new infographic runs down 21 of the biggest Apple flops in history — and what Cupertino learned from them. If you’re a long-time Apple fan it’s a great trip down memory lane. If you’re a newcomer, it’s a fascinating introduction to how Apple has learned from even its most grievous errors and become the undisputed giant it is in 2015.
It’s time for Jony Ive to get the credit he deserves. Photo: Portfolio/Penguin
People are calling The New Yorker profile of Jony Ive the most important thing written about Apple in quite a while, and I’d have to concur.
Not only is it full of fascinating details, it puts Ive at the center of Apple, where he belongs. As the piece’s author, Ian Parker, writes: “More than ever, Ive is the company.”
This is something that’s been true for a couple decades, but still isn’t apparent to most people — even veteran Apple watchers. Such is the company’s secrecy, and the tendency of the public to equate everything Apple does with Steve Jobs, that the true story has yet to be told. Ive has not gotten the credit he deserves.
I remember when I got my first computer, ever, at the age of 24. It was a Macintosh Performa 638CD, and it came with this sweet little 14.4 baud modem that was my entree to the whole of the internet, which really wasn’t that popular back then.
I remember finding this cool little icon on the Mac with a little hand-drawn person on it, called eWorld. Hmm, I wondered. What the heck was eWorld?
Clicking through, I found an adorable little electronic village, all in that hand-drawn, gentle style. Oh, this must be like Compuserve, or Prodigy, right?
Well, yes and no. The softer, gentler world of eWorld was only for Macs, and it was my favorite place to go. Never mind that it was kind of empty; it was beautiful and I loved it.
If you know your Apple history, you’ll probably know that NeXTSTEP, the grandfather of modern OS X, had a clever feature called the Shelf, a placeholder where you could temporarily drop files while dragging them from one location to another. Sadly, Mac OS X has never replicated this in Finder.
So today there’s a brand new app for OS X that seeks to fix this. It’s called DragonDrop, and you can buy it for five bucks.
Developer Mark Christian released it independently today after weeks of trying to get it into the Mac App Store. Apple weren’t interested, and rejected it every time.
If possession of any one app could ever be considered an instant ticket to membership in the Cult of Mac, this is it. Mactracker has been around since early 2001, and we’ve talked about it before on our site (Giles Turnbull thought it was so fantastic he included it in his list of 50 Mac Essnetials); but last week a newly-updated version hit the Mac App Store — which is enough to earn it a spot as today’s Daily Freebie.
The app lists painstakingly complete data on every Mac product ever made in an elegant, searchable, easy-to-use interface. The new update even brings with it the ability to track your Macs’ serial numbers, service work performed, etc.
The app is free, but we think a little donation at the app’s website (which is where those who’re allergic to the App Store can also download the app directly) is money well spent.
Fast Co.Design has a very interesting Apple history artifact posted up today: the birth of the Mac, as told by Jef Raskin, the late founder of the Mac project. Jef’s son Aza wrote the piece and provides scans of the original document if you’re into authenticity instead of legibility.
It’s worth noting before you dive in, which I highly recommend, that Raskin’s vision for the Mac was very different from what Apple actually produced once Steve Jobs took over the development team. Raskin wanted the most unified hardware and software imaginable. One screen, one keyboard, one processor, one memory configuration, no expansion slots, one box. Oh, and he wanted a printer built into the box.
He also wanted to get rid of all modality in a computer. So, for example, if you started typing, the word processor would open and capture what you were typing (rather than having Clippy note that you’re writing a letter). A lot of that stayed in, but Jobs made it much more powerful and, ultimately, diverse and fragmented a platform than Raskin ever envisioned (see the Canon Cat for that).
As Aza Raskin notes, his father’s philosophy is much closer to what’s going one with the iPhone and the iPad. After all, you can have any iPad you want, so long as it comes in brushed aluminum.
This item of controlling appearance is quite significant: for example it is impossible to write a program on the Apple II or III that will draw a high-resolution circle since the aspect ratio and linearity of the customer’s TV or monitor is unknown. You can probably promise a closed curve, but not much more. You cannot promise readable characters, either. Therefore, a predictable, documentable system must be entirely under Apple’s control. LISA is Apple’s first system to allow us to design in context, without depending on chance for the all-important visual aspects of the computer’s output.
Well said. And one of the few places Jef and Steve really saw eye-to-eye, in the long run.
John Sculley, Apple's ex-CEO, talks for the first time about Steve Jobs. Illustration by Matthew Phelan.
In 1983, Steve Jobs wooed Pepsi executive John Sculley to Apple with one of the most famous lines in business: “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?”
Jobs and Sculley ran Apple together as co-CEOs, blending cutting edge technology (the first Mac) with cutting edge advertising (the famous 1984 ad) and world-class design. But it soon soured, and Sculley is best known today for forcing Jobs’ resignation after a boardroom battle for control of the company.
Now, for the first time, Sculley talks publicly about Steve Jobs and the secrets of his success. It’s the first interview Sculley has given on the subject of Steve Jobs since he was forced out of the company in 1993.
“There are many product development and marketing lessons I learned working with Steve in the early days,” says Sculley. “It’s impressive how he still sticks to his same first principles years later.”
He adds, “I don’t see any change in Steve’s first principles — except he’s gotten better and better at it.”
It’s commonly believed that Apple wouldn’t have nearly gone out of business if it had only licensed the Mac operting system to other computer makers, like Microsoft did. But John Sculley explains why that was impossible: