As Apple overtook Microsoft in market cap and as Steve Jobs reminisced about some recent history, I thought I’d reflect on some of the decisions that brought Apple to the pinnacle of technology companies. The criteria I used to select these is how improbable and hence courageous they were when taken and how much impact they have had on the industry. Since the impact of these decisions could not be felt for a long time, the courage required to act early is all the more remarkable.
At the time they were made, none of these decisions did anything to move the stock price or cause great rejoicing. In fact, in many cases the decisions were ridiculed by those who should know better. Yet each one became a massive pillar of the foundation of Apple as it is today. As you read through, think of the decisions that Apple competitors made or did not make in the same time frame.
The decision to support a standard video codec at a time when the industry was mostly arguing over whether Blu-ray or HD-DVD would win signaled a foresight that physical media was not long for this world. The consequences are still being weighed as YouTube and other media sources are shifting their inventory to this format.
ITunes started as a personal music database, grew into music and media store-front, a payment processing engine, device synchronization and updating center, and finally an application store. It was forked into both a PC and a mobile version. What made IPod what it is today and not just an mp3 player is for no doubt ITunes, and it is doing the same thing to IPhone.
Implemented in Airport before the spec was finished, WiFi gave the laptop wings. Think back to when you still had to plug a wire into a computer to have it communicate. PC’s did not catch up in being wireless for years. Wi-Fi was even a rare feature on mobile phones when the iPhone shipped in 2007 with some operators (Verizon) banning it from their phones even in 2009.
Seven years in development and still sublime. Starting down this road in 2003 must have seemed science fiction. But, unlike other companies, Apple took this science experiment and went to market. Steve Jobs said how he wanted a screen keyboard and how scrolling opened his eyes to making a phone. That took vision.
The company’s backbone. Everything above hangs off OSX. Remarkably scalable, portable, robust and reliable. With roots going back decades, it’s the canonical OS. Somebody should build a monument to it.
And the last one thing should be that for many years Microsoft centered largely on Operating Systems market while not only kept up with them, they ventured into other areas where they have took the initiative like IPod.
Recently I came to know there is a movie trilogy being made on Atlas Shrugged (@Sanskar: I hope you finished it) with Brad Pitt as Galt.
And I am not saying that Microsoft made all bad decisions, they did make pretty good ones (anyone remembers IBM).
It finally rained here bringing an end to that that dust storm that brought on my allergy again.