Before / Apple / After: How Apple Has Led The Tech Industry Every Step Of The Way [Gallery]



Do we even need to get into this? The iPhone has changed the landscape of mobile more than any other product. Before the iPhone, smartphones were basically just PDAs with phones built in, as best exemplified by Microsoft’s Pocket PC Smartphones of the earlier part of the decade. They were made of plastic, they used styluses, they didn’t do anything well, it was hard to install software on them and they were largely inaccessible to everyone but professionals. When the iPhone was released in 2007, it did everything differently. Multitouch! Apps! A capable web browser! With the exception of a few clueless holdouts like RIM, almost every smartphone released since 2007 is basically an iPhone clone. The iPhone really did just change everything.

The way the original iPod transformed music can’t be overstated, but given Apple’s recent legal fray with Samsung over IP violations, we thought it would be fun to specifically highlight what Samsung was doing before the iPod Touch and what they’re doing now.

Samsung was one of the first players in the PMP space with their Yepp line of MP3 players. In fact, the Yepp series even precedes the original iPod, and the hardware of the 64MB Yepp YP-40 was actually released in the United States as the original Creative Nomad.

You can still buy Yepp players today, but every successive generation since Apple released the original iPod, they’ve become more iPod like, and the Yepp line has its own versions of the Shuffle and Nano. But look no further for utter shamelessness than Samsung’s response to the iPod Touch, the Galaxy Player, which looks identical to the Touch right down to the design of its icons.

Apple was late entering the tablet game. Microsoft had a special version of its Windows operating system suited for tablet PCs since 2001, but before the iPad, tablets were a very different beast. For one thing, they were really nothing but convertible laptops with LCDs that could be flipped around and drawn on using a stylus. As such, tablets were mostly aimed at niche artist professionals. And since they were really just transforming laptops, they were bulky, heavy, didn’t have great touch integration and boasted terrible battery life.

The iPad changed everything. By realigning the tablet form factor towards media consumption — reading, watching videos, playing games and checking the web — Apple created the first tablet with mass market appeal. At the same time, tablets stopped being hybrid machines and instead became their own true product category, sitting firmly in between a smartphone and a laptop in users’ gadget arsenals.

You only need to see the string of tablets that have followed in the iPad’s wake to see the effect of Apple’s tablet. Instead of Windows, they run mobile operating systems like webOS or Android. Instead of x86 cores, they boast ARM architecture. And nowhere is there a keyboard, an optical drive or a stylus to be seen.

Apple’s so-called “hobby” device, the Apple TV, hasn’t really made the same sort of impact that many of their other category evolutions have. Still, it influenced the direction of the industry. Before the Apple TV came out,  most people’s set-top boxes were digital video recorders like TiVO. These allowed people to record and subscribe to shows that were playing on the air,  but you were at the mercy of what networks were broadcasting.

When Apple released their set-top box in 2007, the expectation changed from “recording what had already been broadcast” to “downloading movies and shows on-demand.”

The original Apple TV basically worked as a giant iPod that was hooked up to your TV and could sync content purchased through iTunes, but with the Apple TV 2, Cupertino once again shifted  their set-top box’s priorities from downloading to streaming. In doing so, Apple followed the lead of companies like Roku who had fully embraced a strategy of allowing consumers to turn their televisions into connected smart TVs by picking up a diminutive and affordable set-top box, but even so, Apple had a new wrinkle up their sleeve: the Apple TV would now also function as a portal through which mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad can wirelessly connect to a user’s television. How long do you suppose it’ll be until we see the competition trying to mirror that killer feature?

  • Speech_Geek

    This is why I buy Apple products.

  • ccwoods

    It’s one thing to say Apple changed everything, we know it intuitively, but it’s another thing to lay it all out there. That took some work. Very cool.

  • Mike Rathjen

    I’m with you on everything except the last one. DVRs perform a substantially different function than AppleTV and Roku.

    I would love it if Apple TV got a tuner and a hard drive in order to add DVR functionality, but it won’t happen.

  • pangeomedia

    Excluding the iMac, all-in-one PCs haven’t exactly taken the world by storm, now have they? 

    You could have used an example of the original PowerBook 100 models to highlight what notebooks would become. There’s not much difference between a PB 100 circa 1992 and MacBook Pro model today. Most notebooks on the market owe their heritage to those Sony-built models of the early 1990s.

  • Ed_Kel

    Good article

  • Humberto Rivera

    Great article. Though I would have mentioned the Palm pdas and smartphones. I think they did a better job than most PocketPcs.

  • jbelkin

    You really should note the important distinction of pre apple PowerBooks. Laptops had the keyboards at the edge so your palms rested on the table awkwardly. Apple figuredout that if you moved the keyboard in, you had a ready madepalm rest – that was huge …

  • supertino

    Here is one that I did:

  • Honyant

    Might I suggest that the Popular Electronics magazine that sold the DIY Altair 8800 kit was probably 1975 and not 1985.

  • Connor Mulcahey

    you should do smart phones, tablets (PCs), and portable music players too
    they have revolutionized more than just the computer industry

  • Hampus

    Check the rest of the pages, all those you mentioned are on page three…
    Yea, splitting it in to pages is stupid but it gives the more ad-views you know…

  • Hampus

    Yea, I thought of that too, manufactures do make a few All-in-ones but they really aren’t that common.

    Also, saying that the all-in-one model is good because the manufacturer has control over the hardware and stuff therefore just works is stupid. Guess what, unless you change the hardware yourself (which few “normal” users do) any normal desktop computer will come with the exact hardware that the manufacturer put in there too.
    Besides, as long as you’re not putting in 10 year old components just about every piece of hardware you can put in a “modern” PC will “just work” with windows 7 as it’ll detect it and get drivers from windows updated rather quickly, just saying…

  • ByteOfView

    I love these comparisons… although multipage galleries are just awful. At least give readers a choice to view as a single page.

    That Commodore 64 looks an awful lot like a Commodore 128.

  • Ictus75

    While companies like Sony, Motorola, Microsoft, etc. were once visionary, they seemed to all have lost a lot of that vision. Apple has had the added advantage of not only being visionary, but being able to shift the paradigm behind such things as smart phones, MP3 players, tablets, etc. Who really needed a tablet before the iPad came out? Critics were quick to jump on it saying, “No one will buy these.” Now everyone wants one.

  • wilburg

    I assume the author made a typo in the statement which says, “Apple didn’t design the first consumer PC: that was the Altair 8800, a computer that was sold as a DIY kit in the back of  Popular Electronics magazine in 1985”.  The year was actually 1975 when Altair made the 8800 available to the fledgling computer hobby community.

  • Taylorpowell4


  • Dave

    That’s because it’s a Commodore 64C–the redesigned-to-look-like-a-C128 (and Commodore’s Amiga line) C64.  In the photo are a a C-64C, 1541 II disk drive, and what looks like a 1080 monitor.

  • Adrian Werner

    It’s weird. None of the examples show anything innovative. Others did it before Apple did, but in most cases only after Apple did it others started to copy it.

  • Sam

    And the pre-Apple laptops had the keyboards at the front. When Apple’s PowerBooks put the keyboard at the back, creating a palm rest at the front, PC people hated it and said it looked awful. But now look at where all laptop keyboards are located…

  • ByteOfView

    I completely missed that model (I bought a C128 to replace my C64 from Europe). I did own a Commodore 1080 monitor (had one from my Amiga 500)… paired up nice with my Toshiba BetaMax machine and the colour was amazing :D

    The good ol’ days!

  • Frodolives88

    Great article. One of my favorites for sure on cultofmac. 

  • Vincent Bowry

    You do have a choice. Use Reader in Safari; it usually loads all the pages in a multipage article in one go and cuts the ads.