1979 to 1984: Development
The Macintosh project started in the late 1970s with Jef Raskin, an Apple employee, who envisioned an easy-to-use, low-cost computer for the average consumer. In September 1979, Raskin was authorized to start hiring for the project, and he began to look for an engineer who could put together a prototype. Bill Atkinson, a member of Apple's Lisa team (which was developing a similar but higher-end computer), introduced him to Burrell Smith, a service technician who had been hired earlier that year. Over the years, Raskin assembled a large development team that designed and built the original Macintosh hardware and software; besides Raskin, Atkinson and Smith, the team included Chris Espinosa, Joanna Hoffman, George Crow, Jerry Manock, Susan Kare, Andy Hertzfeld, and Daniel Kottke.
Smith’s first Macintosh board was built to Raskin’s design specifications: it had 64 kilobytes (KB) of RAM, used the Motorola 6809E microprocessor, and was capable of supporting a 256?256 pixel black-and-white bitmap display. Bud Tribble, a Macintosh programmer, was interested in running the Lisa’s graphical programs on the Macintosh, and asked Smith whether he could incorporate the Lisa’s Motorola 68000 microprocessor into the Mac while still keeping the production cost down. By December 1980, Smith had succeeded in designing a board that not only used the 68000, but bumped its speed from 5 to 8 megahertz (MHz); this board also had the capacity to support a 384?256 pixel display. Smith’s design used fewer RAM chips than the Lisa, which made production of the board significantly more cost-efficient. The final Mac design was self-contained and had the complete QuickDraw picture language and interpreter in 64 Kb of ROM - far than most other computers; it had 128 KB of RAM, in the form of sixteen 64 kilobit (Kb) RAM chips soldered to the logicboard. Though there were no memory slots, its RAM was expandable to 512 KB by means of soldering sixteen chip sockets to accept 256 Kb RAM chips in place of the factory-installed chips. The final product's screen was a 9-inch, 512x342 pixel monochrome display, exceeding the prototypes.
The design caught the attention of Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple. Realizing that the Macintosh was more marketable than the Lisa, he began to focus his attention on the project. Raskin finally left the Macintosh project in 1981 over a personality conflict with Jobs, and the final Macintosh design is said to be closer to Jobs’ ideas than Raskin’s. After hearing of the pioneering GUI technology being developed at Xerox PARC, Jobs had negotiated a visit to see the Xerox Alto computer and Smalltalk development tools in exchange for Apple stock options. The Lisa and Macintosh user interfaces were partially influenced by technology seen at Xerox PARC and were combined with the Macintosh group's own ideas. Jobs also commissioned industrial designer Hartmut Esslinger to work on the Macintosh line, resulting in the "Snow White" design language; although it came too late for the earliest Macs, it was implemented in most other mid- to late-1980s Apple computers. However, Jobs’ leadership at the Macintosh project was short-lived; after an internal power struggle with new CEO John Sculley, Jobs angrily resigned from Apple in 1985, went on to found NeXT, another computer company, and did not return until 1997.
The Macintosh 128k was announced to the press in October 1983, followed by an 18-page brochure included with various magazines in December. The Macintosh was introduced by the now famous US$1.5 million Ridley Scott television commercial, "1984".  The commercial most notably aired during the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII on 22 January 1984 and is now considered a "watershed event" and a "masterpiece." 1984 used an unnamed heroine to represent the coming of the Macintosh (indicated by her white tank top with a Picasso-style picture of Apple’s Macintosh computer on it) as a means of saving humanity from "conformity" (Big Brother). These images were an allusion to George Orwell's noted novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, which described a dystopian future ruled by a televised "Big Brother."
For a special post-election edition of Newsweek in November 1984, Apple spent more than US$2.5 million to buy all 39 of the advertising pages in the issue. Apple also ran a “Test Drive a Macintosh” promotion, in which potential buyers with a credit card could take home a Macintosh for 24 hours and return it to a dealer afterwards. While 200,000 people participated, dealers disliked the promotion, the supply of computers was insufficient for demand, and many were returned in such a bad shape that they could no longer be sold. This marketing campaign caused CEO John Sculley to raise the price from US$1,995 to US$2,495 (adjusting for inflation, about $5,000 in 2007).
1985 to 1989: Desktop publishing era
In 1985, the combination of the Mac, Apple’s LaserWriter printer, and Mac-specific software like Boston Software’s MacPublisher and Aldus PageMaker enabled users to design, preview, and print page layouts complete with text and graphics—an activity to become known as desktop publishing. Initially, desktop publishing was unique to the Macintosh, but eventually became available for IBM PC users as well. Later, applications such as Macromedia FreeHand, QuarkXPress, Adobe Photoshop, and Adobe Illustrator strengthened the Mac’s position as a graphics computer and helped to expand the emerging desktop publishing market.
The limitations of the first Mac soon became clear: it had very little memory, even compared with other personal computers in 1984, and could not be expanded easily; and it lacked a hard disk drive or the means to attach one easily. In October 1985, Apple increased the Mac’s memory to 512 KB, but it was inconvenient and difficult to expand the memory of a 128 KB Mac. In an attempt to improve connectivity, Apple released the Macintosh Plus on January 10, 1986 for US$2,600. It offered one megabyte of RAM, expandable to four, and a then-revolutionary SCSI parallel interface, allowing up to seven peripherals—such as hard drives and scanners—to be attached to the machine. Its floppy drive was increased to an 800 KB capacity. The Mac Plus was an immediate success and remained in production until October 15, 1990; on sale for just over four years and ten months, it was the longest-lived Macintosh in Apple's history.
The Macintosh II marked the start of a new direction for the Macintosh, as now, for the first time, it had an open architecture, with several expansion slots, support for color graphics, and a modular break-out design similar to that of the IBM PC and inspired by Apple’s other line, the expandable Apple II series. It had an internal hard drive and a power supply with a fan, which was initially fairly loud. One third-party developer sold a device to regulate fan speed based on a heat sensor, but it voided the warranty. Later Macintosh computers had quieter power supplies and hard drives.
In September 1986 Apple introduced the Macintosh Programmer's Workshop, or MPW that allowed software developers to create software for Macintosh on Macintosh, rather than cross-developing from a Lisa. In August 1987 Apple unveiled HyperCard, and introduced MultiFinder, which added cooperative multitasking to the Macintosh. In the Fall Apple bundled both with every Macintosh.
Alongside the Macintosh II, the Macintosh SE was released, the first compact Mac with a 20 MB internal hard drive and one expansion slot. The SE also updated Jerry Manock and Terry Oyama's original design and shared the Macintosh II's Snow White design language, as well as the new Apple Desktop Bus (ADB) mouse and keyboard that had first appeared on the Apple IIGS some months earlier.
In 1987, Apple spun off its software business as Claris. It was given the code and rights to several applications that had been written within Apple, notably MacWrite, MacPaint, and MacProject. In the late 1980s, Claris released a number of revamped software titles; the result was the “Pro” series, including MacPaint Pro, MacDraw Pro, MacWrite Pro, and FileMaker Pro. To provide a complete office suite, Claris purchased the rights to the Informix Wingz spreadsheet on the Mac, renaming it Claris Resolve, and added the new presentation software Claris Impact. By the early 1990s, Claris applications were shipping with the majority of consumer-level Macintoshes and were extremely popular. In 1991, Claris released ClarisWorks, which soon became their second best-selling application. When Claris was reincorporated back into Apple in 1998, ClarisWorks was renamed AppleWorks beginning with version 5.0.
With the new Motorola 68030 processor came the Macintosh IIx in 1988, which had benefited from internal improvements, including an on-board MMU. It was followed in 1989 by a more compact version with fewer slots (the Macintosh IIcx) and a version of the Mac SE powered by the 16 MHz 68030 (the Macintosh SE/30, breaking the existing naming convention to avoid the name "SEx"). Later that year, the Macintosh IIci, running at 25 MHz, was the first Mac to be “32-bit clean,” allowing it to natively support more than 8 MB of RAM, unlike its predecessors, which had “32-bit dirty” ROMs (8 of the 32 bits available for addressing were used for OS-level flags). System 7 was the first Macintosh operating system to support 32-bit addressing. Apple also introduced the Macintosh Portable, a 16 MHz 68000 machine with an active matrix flat panel display that was backlit on some models. The following year the Macintosh IIfx, starting at US$9,900, was unveiled. Apart from its fast 40 MHz 68030 processor, it had significant internal architectural improvements, including faster memory and two Apple II-era CPUs dedicated to I/O processing.
1990 to 1998: Growth and decline
The year 1991 saw the much-anticipated release of System 7, a 32-bit rewrite of the Macintosh operating system that improved its handling of color graphics, memory addressing, networking, and co-operative multitasking, and introduced virtual memory. Later that year, Apple introduced the Macintosh Quadra 700 and 900, the first Macs to employ the faster Motorola 68040 processor. They were joined by improved versions of the previous year’s top sellers, the Macintosh Classic II and Macintosh LC II, which used a 16 MHz 68030 CPU. Also during this time, the Macintosh began to shed the "Snow White" design language, along with the expensive consulting fees they were paying to Frogdesign, in favor of bringing the work in-house by establishing the Apple Industrial Design Group to establish a new fresh look to go with the new operating system.
In 1992, Apple started to sell a low-end Mac, the Performa, through nontraditional dealers. At Apple dealers, a mid-range version of the Quadra series called the Macintosh Centris was offered, only to be quickly renamed Quadra when buyers became confused by the range of Classics, LCs, IIs, Quadras, Performas, and Centrises. Apple also unveiled the miniaturized PowerBook Duo range. It was intended to be docked to a base station for desktop-like functionality in the workplace, and was sold until early 1997. In May 1994, Apple released the second-generation PowerBook models, the PowerBook 500 series, which introduced the novel trackpad.
Also in 1994, Apple abandoned Motorola CPUs for the RISC PowerPC architecture developed by the AIM alliance of Apple Computer, IBM, and Motorola. The Power Macintosh line, the first to use the new chips, proved to be highly successful, with over a million PowerPC units sold in nine months.
Despite these technical and commercial successes, Microsoft and Intel began to rapidly lower Apple's market share with the Windows 95 operating system and Pentium processors respectively. These significantly enhanced the multimedia capability and performance of IBM PC compatible computers, and brought Windows still closer to the Mac GUI. In response, Apple started the Macintosh clone program, by which third-parties manufactured hardware to run Apple's System 7. This succeeded in increasing the Macintosh's market share somewhat and provided cheaper hardware for consumers, but hurt Apple financially. As a result, when Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, he ordered that the OS that had been previewed as version 7.7 be branded Mac OS 8. Since Apple had licensed only System 7 to third-parties, this move effectively ended the clone line. The decision caused significant financial losses for companies like Motorola and Power Computing Corporation, which had invested substantial resources in creating their own Mac-compatible hardware.
1998 to 2005: New beginnings
Mac OS continued to evolve up to version 9.2.2, but its dated architecture—though retrofitted a few times (for example, as part of the PowerPC port, a nanokernel was added and Mac OS 8.6 was modified to support Multiprocessing Services 2.0 in Mac OS 8.6)—made a replacement necessary. As such, Apple introduced Mac OS X, a fully overhauled Unix-based successor to Mac OS 9, using Darwin, XNU, and Mach as foundations, and based on NEXTSTEP. Mac OS X was not released to the public until September 2000, as the Mac OS X Public Beta, with an Aqua interface. At US$29.99, it allowed adventurous Mac users to sample Apple’s new operating system and provide feedback for the actual release. The initial release of Mac OS X, 10.0 (nicknamed Cheetah), was released on March 24, 2001. Older Mac OS applications could still run under early Mac OS X versions, using an environment called Classic (though Apple has since removed Classic from Mac OS X in version 10.5, "Leopard"). Subsequent releases of Mac OS X were 10.1 "Puma", (September 25, 2001), 10.2 "Jaguar", (August 24, 2002), 10.3 "Panther", (October 24, 2003), 10.4 "Tiger", (April 29, 2005) and 10.5 "Leopard" (October 26, 2007). The Intel version of Leopard received certification as a Unix implementation by The Open Group.
2006 onward: Intel era
Partially because of a failure to produce laptop-ready G5 chips, Apple discontinued the use of PowerPC microprocessors in 2006. At WWDC 2005, Steve Jobs revealed this transition and also noted that Mac OS X was in development to run both on Intel and PowerPC architecture from the very beginning. All new Macs now use x86 processors made by Intel, and some Macs were given new names to signify the switch. Intel-based Macs can run pre-existing PowerPC-based software using an emulator called Rosetta, although at noticeably slower speeds than native programs, but the Classic environment is unavailable. With the release of Intel-based Mac computers, the potential to natively run Windows-based operating systems on Apple hardware without the need for emulation software such as Virtual PC was introduced. In March 2006, a group of hackers announced that they were able to run Windows XP on an Intel-based Mac. The group has released their software as open source and has posted it for download on their website. On April 5, 2006 Apple announced the public beta availability of their own Boot Camp software which will allow owners of Intel-based Macs to install Windows XP on their machines; later versions added support for Windows Vista. Starting with Mac OS X 10.5, Boot Camp is now a standard feature.
Timeline of Macintosh modelsClick here to view the Timeline of Macintosh models
Hardware and software
Until 2005, Mac computers have shipped with a single-button mouse. In fact, the Mac operating system did not natively support more than one mouse button until Mac OS X arrived in 2001. Apple released the four-button Mighty Mouse in August 2005, and a wireless version in July 2006, and began to ship it with new desktop Macs.
The original Macintosh was the first successful computer to use a graphical user interface devoid of a command line. It used a desktop metaphor, depicting real-world objects like documents and a trashcan as icons onscreen. The System software introduced in 1984 with the first Macintosh and renamed Mac OS in 1997, continued to evolve until version 9.2.2. In 2001, Apple introduced Mac OS X, based on Darwin and NEXTSTEP; its new features included the Dock and the Aqua user interface. The most recent version is Mac OS X v10.5 "Leopard". In addition to Leopard, all new Macs are bundled with assorted Apple-produced applications, including iLife, the Safari web browser and the iTunes media player.
Mac OS X enjoys a near-absence of the types of malware and spyware that affect Microsoft Windows users. Worms as well as potential vulnerabilities were noted in February 2006, which led some industry analysts and anti-virus companies to issue warnings that Apple's Mac OS X is not immune to viruses, as is commonly misconceived. However, there has not been an outbreak of Mac malware, and Apple routinely issues security updates for its software.
Following the release of the Intel-based Mac, third-party virtualization software such as Parallels Desktop, VMware Fusion, and Crossover Mac began to emerge, allowing users to run Microsoft Windows or previously Windows-only software, on Macs at near native speed. A BIOS compatibility module for Intel-based Macs allows users to run Windows natively. Apple also released Boot Camp, which helps users to install Windows XP or Vista, along with Mac-specific Windows drivers, and dual boot between Mac OS X and Windows, on these Macs. Because Mac OS X is less common than Microsoft Windows, less third-party software is available, although popular applications such as Microsoft Office, are usually cross-platform and Mac versions run without Windows emulation.
Throughout the history of the Macintosh platform, various versions of Linux have been ported to the platform with varying degrees of acceptance, including mkLinux, Yellow Dog Linux, and Black Lab Linux.
Macintosh advertisements have usually attacked the established market leader, directly or indirectly. They tend to portray the Mac as an alternative to overly complex or unreliable PCs. Apple hyped the introduction of the original Mac with the now-famous 1984 commercial, which aired during the Super Bowl. It was supplemented by a number of printed pamphlets and other TV ads demonstrating the new interface and emphasizing the mouse. Many more brochures for new models like the Macintosh Plus and the Performa followed. In the 1990s Apple started the “What's on your PowerBook?” campaign, with print ads and television commercials featuring celebrities describing how the PowerBook helps them in their businesses and everyday lives. In 1995, Apple responded to the introduction of Windows 95 with several print ads and a television commercial demonstrating its disadvantages and lack of innovation. In 1997 the Think Different campaign introduced Apple’s new slogan, and in 2002 the Switch campaign followed. The most recent advertising strategy by Apple is the Get a Mac campaign, with North American, UK and Japanese variants.
Today, Apple focuses much of its advertising efforts around “special events”, and keynotes at conferences like the MacWorld Expo and the Apple Expo. The events typically draw a large gathering of media representatives and spectators. In the past, special events have been used to unveil its desktop and notebook computers such as the iMac and MacBook, and other consumer electronic devices like the iPod, Apple TV, and iPhone.
Market share and demographics
Since the introduction of the Macintosh, Apple has struggled to gain a significant share of the personal computer market. At first, the Macintosh 128K suffered from a dearth of available software compared to IBM's PC, resulting in disappointing sales in 1984 and 1985. It took 74 days for 50,000 units to sell.
By 1997, there were more than 20 million Mac users, compared to an installed base of around 340 million Windows PCs. Statistics from late 2003 indicate that Apple had 2.06 percent of the desktop share in the United States, which had increased to 2.88 percent by Q4 2004. As of October 2006, research firms IDC and Gartner reported that Apple's market share in the U.S. had increased to about 6 percent. Figures from December 2006, showing a market share around 6 percent (IDC) and 6.1 percent (Gartner) are based on a more than 30 percent increase in unit sale from 2005 to 2006. The installed base of Mac computers is hard to determine, with numbers ranging from 3 percent to 16 percent.
Three ways of measuring market share are: i) by browser hits, ii) by sales, and iii) by installed base. If using the browser metric, Mac market share has increased substantially in 2007. However, results for market share measured as a percentage of current sales provides different results than when market share is measured by installed base.
Whether the size of the Mac’s market share and installed base is actually relevant, and to whom, is a hotly debated issue. Industry pundits have often called attention to the Mac’s relatively small market share to predict Apple's impending doom, particularly in the early and mid 1990s when the company’s future seemed bleakest. Others argue that market share is the wrong way to judge the Mac’s success. Apple has positioned the Mac as a higher-end personal computer, and so it may be misleading to compare it to a low-budget PC. Because the overall market for personal computers has grown rapidly, the Mac’s increasing sales numbers are effectively swallowed by the industry’s numbers as a whole. Apple’s small market share, then, gives the false impression that fewer people are using Macs than did (for example) ten years ago. Others try to de-emphasize market share, citing that it's rarely brought up in other industries. Regardless of the Mac’s market share, Apple has remained profitable since Steve Jobs’ return and the company’s subsequent reorganization. Notably, in a report published in the first quarter of 2008, it was found that the Apple Macintosh computers made up a total of 66% of all computers sold that were above $1,000, and 14% of all computers sold.
Market research indicates that Apple draws its customer base from a higher-income demographic than the mainstream PC market. Higher income theoretically correlates with well-educated social behaviors, which may explain the platform’s visibility within certain youthful, avant-garde subcultures. Steve Jobs speculates that “maybe a little less” than half of Apple’s customers are Republicans, “maybe more Dell than ours.” This perception may or may not be accurate—several prominent conservatives, including Rush Limbaugh, are Mac users—but it can only be reinforced by the company's pattern of political donations, by Al Gore’s membership on its board, and surely not least by Jobs’ own personal history.
Published - December 2008
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