Whilst the favored names for an array of turn of the Millennium tech companies, including BlackBerry, Orange and Apricot, were fruit derived, the impact of “Apple” on our – my – daily lives, over the last twenty years has been almost incalculable
In 1985 the maverick Steve Jobs left Apple, the iconic business that he had co-founded in 1977, following a Boardroom coup over the apparent “failure of the Mackintosh” to dominate the PC market. He sold all but one of his 6.5m Apple shares for $70m. He returned as CEO in 1997 and continued in that role until a couple of months prior to his death in 2011.
In 1986 Jobs acquired for $5m from LucasFilm the iconic Pixar animation business that has produced some of the finest – and most lucrative – animated films. It was subsequently acquired by Disney in 2006 at a valuation of $7.4 bn. As part of that deal Jobs acquired 7% of Disney – becoming its largest single shareholder.
During his hiatus he had also developed the NeXTSTEP operating system that would go on to become the Mac OS X operating system. Devotees of the NeXTSTEP included Tim Berners-Lee the founder of the iconic World Wide Web – that celebrated its 30th anniversary in March 2019.
One of Jobs decisions in his new role was to develop the iconic iMac G3. Shipped on 15th August 1998 the iMac G3 – known as the Mackintosh that saved Apple – was wrapped in a streamlined, almost egg-shaped, translucent and candy colored plastic body.
At its launch, Jobs himself announced that the aim of the iMac was to harness the “Excitement of the Internet And the Simplicity of Mackintosh.” It clearly demonstrated the company’s sharp focus was on the design and aesthetics of their product range with Jobs remarking that it looked – compared to the then competitors off-white boxes – like it had come from another planet “a good planet with better designers.”.
Ken Segall who worked for Apple’s LA based advertising agency, persuaded Jobs to call the new device “the iMac” – with the “i” standing invariably for internet, individual, instruct, inform and inspire – a symbol that has been seen in many of Apples products since, up to and including iTunes.
The body of the iMac was jointly designed by British born, Jony Ive, a veteran of Apples iconic designs, who continues to be their Chief Design Officer, and Danny Coster. The iMac G3 was initially only available in Bondi Blue and at a sales price of $1299. Later in 1998 and into 1999 further revisions and updates took place, with the price being reduced to $1199. Bondi Blue was replaced by five colours Strawberry, Blueberry, Lime, Grape, and Tangerine. Later revisions broadened the color palette even further.
It was the first computer to offer USB ports as standard enabling connection to its new and rather beautiful keyboard and circular mouse. In addition to built in headphone jacks and stereo speakers there was a powerful Ethernet connection. A notable omission was the slot for 3.5 inch floppy discs. Apple argued that the future was in recordable CDs, the Internet and office-based networks thus floppy discs were redundant. As a result, under the then State of the Art 15” screen, the CD-ROM tray was installed, as standard.
The iMac G3 was a massive hit achieving sales of over a million units in the twelve months from launch. Destined to evolve through seven distinct forms, the iMac G3 was ultimately discontinued in March 2003 and succeeded by the iMac G4 that was launched in January 2002.
On 21st June 1999 Jobs unveiled the iBook, a consumer facing laptop, during his keynote speech at the Macworld Conference and Expo in New York. Job’s explained that Apple had listened to their educator and consumer clients having asked them what they wanted. He reported that the overwhelming interest from these sectors, a proven fan base for the iMac, had been in a portable machine. “They wanted an iMac to go” he trumpeted. This became the strap line at the core of Apple’s marketing for the new iBook.
It was the first Mackintosh to support Wireless LAN to enable connectivity between computers and networks. As Jobs had said at the launch of the iMac G3, Apple had refocused, on what he described as the “four box” matrix strategy, concentrating on supplying consumer and professional users with desktop and portable computers. Following the launch of the iMac, and in line with other products in the range, a gap was left for an internet enabled portable consumer device.
The iBook G3 was the first Mac to use Apple’s new “Unified Logic Board” Architecture which enabled the machine’s core features to be condensed into just two chips.
The G3 powered iBook with a full 12.1” TFT display, full-sized keyboard, six-hour battery life, Ethernet, USB, a modem and an optical drive, fitted as standard, redefined the laptop style notebook. It sold in the US for $1599 and, in parallel with the iMac, it was presented in a transparent colored case called “the Clamshell” – made of bullet proof vest grade polycarbonate – that echoed in its aesthetics a suggestion of the shell fish.
The iBook was the first consumer machine that was designed for wireless networking driven by an internal wireless antenna attached to an optical wireless card.
Designed by Jony Ive and his design team at Apple who were clearly influenced by their earlier iMac’s look yet the iBook was the first of it’s kind. It had a fluidity to the design and textured rubber on its colored surfaces encouraged users to touch it and enjoy the product. The instantly recognizable iBook was originally available in two colors, Tangerine and Blueberry with Graphite, Indigo and Key Lime (an Apple store online exclusive) following in 2000.
Reviewers were unkind and criticized its integrated handle implying it was a little feminine and with its colorful body one likening it to “Barbie’s toilet seat”. Regardless, it was a huge commercial success. It has been suggested that the decision to make a Graphite version, released as a special edition in February 2000, was intended to appeal to a more masculine market.
The design was discontinued in May 2001, in favor of the new “Dual USB” iBooks G3 – nicknamed “Snow” because of its white color. In 2006 the iBook was superseded by the first iteration of the now iconic MacBook which continued the iBook’s design tradition with no latch on the lid – but matched by a sturdy hinge.
Consistent with Apples philosophy of great designs the original iBook G3 is featured in the permanent exhibition at the London Design Museum.
I am an Apple devotee and am writing this on my six year old Apple MacBook Pro, which I love.
Image Credits – Apple Computers
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