August 15, 1998
After three months of anticipation, the original iMac G3 goes on sale. The “Bondi Blue” iMac became well-known for its colorful case, which bucked the industry norm beige. However, it is also known for being the first commercially successful computer to eliminate the use of legacy ports and the floppy drive. Widely criticized at the time for not including the older technologies, by only featuring USB ports for peripheral connectivity, the iMac helped popularize the emerging standard, even on Windows PCs. And when was the last time anyone saw a beige PC?
I recall helping my uncle purchase one of the first iMacs at a CompUSA store on that first day. There were only 15 available and we were there early enough to grab one before they quickly sold out. Yes, I was totally jealous, but at least I got to help set it up 🙂
August 6, 1997
At the Macworld Expo in Boston, Steve Jobs announces that Apple and Microsoft have signed a five-year alliance. Bill Gates famously makes his seemingly ominous “big brother” appearance on the large presentation screen during the announcement. As part of the deal, Microsoft committed to continuing development of Microsoft Office for Mac over the next five years, Apple would make Internet Explorer the default web browser on the Mac, Apple and Microsoft would collaborate on Java compatibility, and Microsoft invested $150 million in Apple stock. However, the most important part of the arrangement is that both companies would cross-license all existing patents along with any new patents over the next five years, Apple would drop their long-running series of patent-infringement lawsuits against Microsoft, and Microsoft paid an undisclosed amount of money to Apple.
The common assumption in the tech community is that Microsoft’s $150 million investment in Apple saved the company. However, the reality is that with Apple holding $1.2 billion in cash at the time, $150 million was a relatively small sum of money. Some now believe the undisclosed amount of money that Microsoft paid Apple was in fact a secret settlement to the patent-infringment claims. Estimated at anywhere between $500 million to $2 billion, this was the real meat of the “cross-licensing” arrangement. It was likely this much larger undisclosed amount, along with the show of confidence that Apple would be around at least another five years, that gave Apple and Steve Jobs the breathing room needed to reinvent Apple into the most valuable company in the world.
August 3, 1993
Apple introduces the Newton MessagePad, one of the world’s first Personal Digital Assistants (PDA). The term PDA was first used by Apple CEO John Scully in 1992. While a commercial failure, the Newton platform set the bar for future PDA designs. But perhaps the most important advancement the Newton offered to the technology industry was the development of the ARM processor architecture. Apple invested heavily in the fledgling architecture to power the Newton devices. The ARM architecture has been the foundation of most of the world’s mobile devices since that time, including all versions of the Apple iPhone and iPad. Incidentally, in 1998 Apple sold their ownership interest in ARM, generating $800 million. This gave Apple some much needed cash to carry them through their darkest days.
August 1, 1986
Apple discontinues production of the Macintosh XL, effectively ending the life of the Apple Lisa computer platform. In January of 1985, the Macintosh line of computers was gaining momentum but the Lisa line of computers was not selling well. In order to salvage what they could from the Lisa and offer a more powerful Macintosh computer, Apple created the Macintosh XL model by modifying a Lisa 2/10 computer to run the Macintosh operating system. Apple discontinued the Lisa in April of 1985, but continued production of the hybrid Lisa/Mac Macintosh XL until this date.
July 30, 1979
Apple begins work on the Lisa, which would become the world’s first commercial computer with a graphical user interface. Originally intended to sell for $2,000 and ship in 1981, the Lisa is delayed until 1983 and sells for $10,000. Utilizing technology that is ahead of its time, the high cost, relative lack of software, and some hardware reliability issues ultimately sink the success of the Lisa. However, much of the technology introduced by the Lisa influenced the development of the Macintosh as well as other future computer and operating system designs.
July 21, 1999
Apple introduces the iBook laptop, the first mainstream computer designed and sold with built-in wireless networking.
July 19, 2000
Apple introduces the G4 “Cube” Power Macintosh. At the time of introduction, it was one of the smallest desktop computers ever produced. While not considered a commercial success, it did find a small, dedicated following and it was a foreshadowing of future Apple designs.
July 9, 1997
Apple Computer announces the resignation of Gil Amelio as CEO. Having been ousted by the board of directors, Amelio’s departure paved the way for Steve Jobs to re-take the helm of Apple. Ironically, it was Amelio who brought Jobs back into the fold of Apple by purchasing Jobs’ company NeXT to use as the basis for the next Mac operating system.
June 29, 2007
Nearly 6 months after it was introduced, Apple’s highly-anticipated iPhone goes on sale. Generally downplayed by Old Word Technology pundits after its introduction, the iPhone was greeted by long lines of buyers around the country on that first day. Quickly becoming an overnight phenomenon, one million iPhones were sold in only 74 days. Since those early days, the ensuing iPhone models have continued to set sales records and have completely changed not only the smartphone and technology industries, but the world as well.