Apple’s Greatness is Only Recent

I fully expect this to be controversial to the Apple fanboys and girls out there. We can duke it out in the comments if you disagree.

While reading the biography of Steve Jobs something occurred to me. He deserved to be fired from the company in 1985 and when someone refers to Apple as if they have been creating great products all along, they are wrong.

Apple did not make a truly great product until the iPhone in 2007. Everything to that point had fatal flaws (including early generation iPods. iPods sucked pretty bad until they introduced iOS in 2007.)

Prior to this time, their computers were inferior to a PC in almost every way. There was almost no software available, the hardware was slower, and you could not use them for business applications.

In order to survive, AppleĀ needed two things when Steve Jobs resumed his post as CEO:

  1. To reach a market share where software developers would start to create Macintosh versions of their software
  2. Either an alternative business “office” suite had to emerge OR for Microsoft Office to improve on the Mac so that business users could adopt the systems

Both of these things began to happen in the late 2000’s, but not nearly as quickly as our revisionist history will lead us to believe. It wasn’t until the 2008-2010 range that business started mass-adopting Macintosh computers as an option for employees (for example, Google switched to Macs around this time). Until this point, Mac’s were used primarily by designers and video production professionals.

Fast forward 5 years and Apple makes the BEST product available in every category possible. How did this happen?

  • End to end control of the product lifecycle (the reason why the iPhone was so great is that it simply had far less moving parts than a full computer, and a simpler operating system. This meant they could create and iterate much faster)
  • Simplicity in small doses, goes a long way. However, when something is too simple, you can’t get anything done. For a long time, Macintosh programs and apps were a victim of their own simplicity and often ineffective as a result. Allowing more complex programs with configuration and settings to come into Mac OSX has finally achieved a good balance here
  • Seamless integration of products. A Mac, iPhone, iPad, iPod or Apple TV itself is a quality product, but when combined? They become unstoppable with seamless integration

Beginning in the late 90’s, Apple became a visionary company under the leadership of Steve Jobs. It took about 25 years for technology to finally catch up to this vision, but when hardware, software and product converged, they produced something that was truly great.

Now Apple is on top of the world.

Just don’t tell me that they were great all along. That would be wrong.

About Jeff Sauer

I started blogging in the year 2000, and go in spurts of inspiration followed by long dormancy. I love writing, and your comments keep me going, so comment!

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  1. Is this controversial? I’d say the only thing I disagree with you on is that their greatness started with the iPod, not the iPhone. With the iPod came iTunes. Without iTunes and the adoption it had, the iPhone would have been just another device. The iPhone’s success was amplified by the established success of iTunes, in my opinion.

    But yeah, Apple was mediocre for quite a few years until Jobs came back. If you haven’t read Great by Choice, you should Collins and crew go into Apple’s greatness and detail at length that Apple has only been great in the second Steve Jobs era.

  2. Excellent points and I didn’t realize that the great Jim Collins already stole my idea. I guess it’s not controversial when someone smart already wrote it.

    Maybe it was just my mind state at the time, but I always thought iPods sucked vs. other digital music players. Too simplistic and not “random” enough in song selection. Then again, I also used to overclock the CPU on my PC back then, so I was not in the target market.

    Thanks for commenting!

  3. I love Apple products…. but only as of the past 5 years. I hated Apple before that!!!
    Good article. Sorry I am so behind on reading your posts…..