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Apple has been a Silicon Valley trend-setter for almost four decades. Apple's success is due in large part to its obsessive focus on the user experience. Apple is a designer-centric company that likes to build all parts of a product — hardware, software, and online services — itself. That approach has allowed Apple to build some of the most elegant and user-friendly products ever created. The Apple II was the first personal computer to achieve significant commercial success. It was designed in by Steve Wozniak, a brilliant year-old engineer with a knack for packing a lot of functionality into a small and affordable package.
Allie Caulfield. At the time, it was conventional for PCs to be sold as kits, with the user acquiring components such as the keyboard and power supply separately. That's how Apple's first product, the Apple I, had been sold. But Jobs realized that this drastically limited the potential market. So Apple sold the Apple II pre-assembled in an attractive plastic case with a built-in keyboard.
An Apple II. National Museum of American History. Still, the Apple II wasn't very useful. Many seasoned computer professionals — accustomed to more powerful computers from companies like IBM and DEC — dismissed it as an underpowered toy. There was virtually no software available for it. The Apple II also became popular in the education market. Apple sold hundreds of thousands of computers to schools that wanted to give their students a chance to learn how to program.
Apple continued selling Apple II computers until , when they were discontinued in favor of Macintosh computers. In total, around 5 million Apple II computers were sold. The Macintosh, or Mac, is a line of personal computers Apple has sold since The original Macintosh was the first commercially successful computer to use a graphical user interface GUI based on a mouse. The basic ideas of the Macintosh interface — windows, menus, icons, and the like — were developed at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center in the s.
But Xerox never made a serious effort to turn the technology into a commercial product. Steve Jobs secured a demo of Xerox's technology for his engineers, who began working on their own implementation. The original Macintosh had significant limits. It had a tiny black-and-white display, no hard drive, and barely enough computing power to run its complex graphical software.
But subsequent models were more powerful. Apple brought color to the Macintosh with the Macintosh II in The Mac's innovative graphical interface quickly attracted imitators. The most significant was Microsoft, which introduced the first version of Windows in Windows borrowed heavily from the ideas the Macintosh pioneered, and Apple sued Microsoft for stealing its ideas.
Microsoft largely prevailed in a ruling. The modern iMac Rafael Fernandez. The Mac's powerful graphics capabilities, along with an affordable laser printer Apple introduced in , sparked the desktop publishing revolution. Software like Aldus Pagemaker and Adobe Illustrator allowed designers to design documents entirely digitally for the first time.
Many graphic designers became loyal Mac users. Today, Apple sells Macs in laptop and desktop formats. Apple sold almost 20 million Macs in In January , Apple was ready to introduce the Macintosh, and the company celebrated with one of the most famous ads in advertising history:. The ad, depicting an attractive young woman rebelling against a repressive police state, was a shot at IBM, which then dominated the computer industry and had recently entered the personal computer market.
To raise the money they needed to get the Apple II off the ground, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak brought in investors who wound up controlling a majority of Apple's board seats. Steve Jobs was brilliant, but in the early s Apple's board felt — not unreasonably — he was too young and temperamental to run Apple. So in , Jobs recruited Pepsi executive John Sculley to run Apple, famously asking him "Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?
Steve Jobs and John Sculley in Marilyn K. But they clashed frequently, and by Sculley had had enough. He convinced the board to sideline Jobs. So Jobs left to found a new computer company called NeXT. In , NeXT stopped making computers and focused on selling the company's innovative software, but the company struggled to gain traction.
Apple was struggling too. The software that powered Apple's Macintosh computers were beginning to show its age. Macs no longer had a big technical advantage over cheaper PCs running Microsoft Windows. And the sequence of executives who ran Apple in the post-Jobs era seemed increasingly baffled about what to do to regain Apple's competitive edge. A few months later, the board fired Amelio and gave Jobs control of the company though he wouldn't formally accept the title of CEO until When Steve Jobs took the reins at Apple in , the company was in tough shape.
It had a bewildering array of products, no clear strategy, and was losing tens of millions of dollars every quarter. Steve Jobs introducing the iPhone in Jobs acted decisively. Then he started work building products that became Silicon Valley legends:. All of these products were crafted by Apple's top designer, Jony Ive. Jobs found a soul mate in Ive, and would visit Ive's studios on a daily basis to discuss the designs of forthcoming products.
Jobs was a perfectionist, frequently rejecting work that wasn't up to his standards. Jobs was a genius at marketing. He marked his return to Apple with a "Think Different" ad campaign that associated Apple with unconventional thinkers such as Albert Einstein and Mahatma Gandhi. He introduced new products at keynote addresses that became major media events in their own right.
And he developed a chain of Apple Stores that ensured that Apple's products would be presented in a favorable light. Jobs was also one of the savviest negotiators in Silicon Valley. He pulled off a major coup in by convincing the "big five" record labels to allow Apple to sell their music in the iTunes Music Store, helping to cement the popularity of the iPod.
Steve Jobs died of pancreatic cancer in Since then, Apple has been run by Jobs's longtime deputy, Tim Cook. Before he died, Jobs warned Cook against trying to run Apple by asking how Jobs would have handled each decision. Cook appears to have taken that advice to heart. Tim Cook. Jobs ran Apple as if it were a small, founder-owned startup. All significant decisions flowed through Jobs. Often, if Jobs wasn't personally interested in a particular task, Apple just wouldn't do it.
For example, Jobs shut down Apple's charitable giving program in and never re-started it. Jobs directly supervised Apple's mergers and acquisitions, which meant that Apple didn't acquire very many companies. Many popular computer functions could be done on Apple's mobile devices using stripped-down apps—available, of course, on Apple's App Store. Being the first big mover into many of these markets, Apple built the stadium and set the rules for the game. When you pay for books, movies, apps, or music on an Apple device, Apple gets a cut.
Of course, this business doesn't generate as much revenue as selling an iPhone or an iPad, where the markup is much more generous. That said, it is the content you buy through Apple that locks many people into buying Apple again when their i-devices get old. So the content part of the ecosystem pays off for Apple in the short-term and the long-term.
Once you migrate to Apple because of the design or the simplicity, it is the integration with your content that keeps you there. Steve Jobs died in of pancreatic cancer. Apple continued to be the dominant tech company in both market share and stock price. Some analysts feel that without Jobs as the creative force, Apple has become solely iterative in its tech releases rather than transformative. The major release of the post-Jobs era has been the Apple Watch. In the absence of a groundbreaking new product, Apple is heavily reliant on the iPhone's production cycle to power its financial success.
Critics say that without Steve Jobs at the helm, Apple has lost its innovative edge in recent years and is riding on its brand to drive sales. The company still produced some of the best products with the most integrated ecosystem. However, the gap between Apple and competitors like Samsung and Google was no longer as pronounced as it once was. Indeed, companies like Samsung were increasingly poised to take the lead when it comes to product innovation in some categories. Apple's market capitalization reached new highs in , as the company enjoyed some successes and set new goals for the future.
The company's revenue from wearable technology, such as the Apple Watch, set new records. Apple's revenue from services also rose to record highs during the crisis, as contactless payment options like Apple Pay became more popular. Apple also announced two major changes to the Mac in First, Apple is transitioning the Mac away from Intel processors to its own custom-designed chips.
Apple's new processors are based on the ones used in iPhones and iPads, making them more energy-efficient. The new chips have the potential to give Apple's laptops longer battery life and more processing power than PCs. That will dramatically expand the number of apps available on the Mac and make it more competitive with PCs.
There is a fairly good chance that you are reading this article either on an Apple device or with one near you. Maybe you are doing it on a MacBook Air while listening to an iPod touch and occasionally glancing at the newest Apple Watch for alerts from your iPhone.
That's why the company has such a powerful brand and lofty stock valuation. The marketing helps, and the media and fan frenzy never hurt. However, it is the quality of the products that drive Apple's success. Add to this the iEcosystem that makes it much easier to stay with Apple than try something new, and you have a company with what Warren Buffett called an economic moat. It should not be surprising that Buffett invested heavily in Apple.
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Personal Finance. Your Practice. Popular Courses. Table of Contents Expand. Table of Contents. From Apple I to Steve Jobs 2. The iEcosystem. The Post-Jobs Era. Apple in the 20s. The Bottom Line. Business Company Profiles. Apple went public in , but Jobs eventually left—only to triumphantly return several years later.
Apple's success lies in a strategic vision that transcended simple desktop computing to include mobile devices and wearables. Both performance and design are key drivers of the Apple brand and its ongoing success. Article Sources. Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
Apple is the largest information technology company by revenue, totaling US$ billion in ) and, as of January , it is the world's most valuable. On August 2, , Apple made history by becoming the first publicly traded U.S. company to be valued at $1 trillion, as measured by market. Apple Inc., formerly Apple Computer, Inc., American manufacturer of personal computers, smartphones, tablet computers, computer peripherals.