If you happen to land on the Apple (AAPL) website today, you will be greeted with the colorful images like the one below as the company celebrates a huge milestone: the 30th birthday of the Apple Mac.
Given the company’s current focus on iPads and iPhones — and the fact that it dropped “Computer” from its name altogether in 2007 — it’s easy to forget that Apple started as a computer company. But thanks to the still-evolving Macintosh computer, AAPL remains an industry leader.
In fact, Apple has actually managed to expand its share of the PC market — even though that market is currently stalling and has long been dominated by computers running Microsoft (MSFT) Office. On the strength of innovative products like the new Mac Pro and the trend-setting MacBook Pro laptops, Apple Mac sales have outperformed the rest of the PC market in 29 out of the last 30 quarters.
In celebration of the 30th birthday of the Apple Mac, let’s take a few minutes away from the iPhone, iPad, iTunes and AppleTV to reflect on five of the biggest moments in Macintosh computer history.
Biggest Moments in Macintosh Computer History: The Original Macintosh
Apple Computer was already a pioneer that had helped launch the era of the personal computer with its Apple I and Apple II. The Macintosh computer was Apple’s attempt at revolutionizing things once again, this time with an all-in-one PC that introduced a graphical user interface and the mouse. The last two elements were inspired by a Steve Jobs visit to Xerox (XRX) in 1979.
The original Apple Mac was released in 1984 — accompanied by the now famous Superbowl ad — and became a hit among the desktop publishing crowd, especially once Apple launched the LaserWriter laser printer to go along with it and PageMaker software.
The Macintosh computer wasn’t actually the first all-in-one Apple desktop (the Lisa was released in 1983) but it was the first commercial success. It also led to an expanding line of computers that soon included Apple Mac laptops.
When we say Apple’s Mac turns 30, it’s the original Macintosh computer that started it all.
Biggest Moments in Macintosh Computer History: The Apple PowerBook
Apple’s MacBook Pro is one of the most popular notebook PCs. What you may not know is that its roots reach back to the PowerBook line of Apple Mac notebook computers.
While Apple did release the so-called Macintosh Portable (all 16 pounds of it) in 1989, it was the introduction of the PowerBooks in 1991 that signaled Apple was serious about the laptop market.
I actually owned one of those first Apple notebook computers, the PowerBook 100. Although the black-and-white display and anemic CPU were laughable by today’s MacBook Pro standards, the PowerBook 100 has made many PC “best of” lists. For one thing, it was tiny for the day, weighing in at just 5.1 pounds, thanks to collaboration with Sony (SNE) to miniaturize components. It was also affordable at $2,300.
Many PowerBooks followed — some were hits while some (like the PowerBook 5300) didn’t do so well. But the Apple PowerBook still deserves to be recognized. The Mac turns 30 in part because Apple didn’t just release desktop PCs like the original Macintosh computer, but also recognized the need for a Mac notebook in order to appeal to business users.
Biggest Moments in Macintosh Computer History: The Apple iMac
It’s not an understatement to say the Macintosh computer turns 30 today largely because of the Apple iMac. After a decade of declining sales and a confusing product line, the company was in real danger of going under. Then came a turning point in Apple Mac history: The iMac was released in 1998.
The Apple iMac was a much-needed hit and not only marked the beginning of Apple’s turnaround, but showed how the company’s industrial design shone when Steve Jobs (newly returned to Apple) and Jonathan Ive collaborated.
This iconic all-in-one computer has gone through multiple iterations, from the egg-shaped translucent plastic original to the “desk lamp” version with an LCD panel mounted to a base with a swivelling arm, and eventually to the sleek aluminum and glass iMac we know today.
As the best-selling Apple desktop of all time, the iMac is where many of Apple’s PC innovations were pushed into the mainstream: the switch to Intel (INTC) processors, the use of LED displays instead of CRTs, the elimination of the floppy drive and OSX to name a few. That was a huge development in Macintosh computer history.
Biggest Moments in Macintosh Computer History: The Apple MacBook Air
Why not focus on the MacBook Pro as one of the biggest moments in Macintosh computer history? While Apple’s Mac turns 30, the Mac Pro is approaching a decade in age — a long run for a line of laptop PCs.
But while it’s true that the MacBook Pro has been incredibly popular, it was the natural evolution of Apple’s PowerBook line of Mac notebook offerings. It’s always been an impressive machine and the latest MacBook Pro is a high-resolution powerhouse. But it’s the MacBook Air that’s had a massive influence on the PC industry as a whole.
Ever since Steve Jobs first pulled a Macbook Air out of a manilla envelope on stage in 2008, this tiny Apple notebook has upset the apple cart (no pun intended). Weighing in at only 3 pounds (current versions start at just 2.3 pounds) while still offering decent performance and battery life, the MacBook Air quickly became the best-selling Mac notebook. PC makers raced to compete, resulting in the Ultrabook — which still hasn’t matched MacBook Air sales, despite offerings from the likes of Sony, Asus and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ).
The MacBook Air was used by Apple to commercially introduce technologies like solid state drives (SSDs), eliminate optical drives and to push the limits of battery capabilities. The latest challenger to the MacBook Air is Google (GOOG) Chromebooks, including the lookalike Samsung (SSNLF) Chromebook Series 3.
It’s innovative and wildly popular products like the MacBook Air that will ensure that the 30th birthday of the Apple Mac isn’t the last major anniversary this PC pioneer will be celebrating.
Biggest Moments in Macintosh Computer History: The New Mac Pro
Last on the list of big moments in Macintosh computer history is the new Mac Pro. Sure, Apple’s Mac turns 30 today … but the company itself began a new era in 2011 when Steve Jobs stepped down and was replaced by Tim Cook as CEO.
Naturally, there were many questions about whether Cook could step into Jobs’ shoes and continue Apple’s success. After all, the iPhone, iPod, iPad, every Mac notebook and Apple desktop in the current product line had been overseen by Jobs.
The new Mac Pro is the first all-new Apple desktop released under the Tim Cook reign and that in itself is noteworthy. Beyond that, the Apple Mac Pro is a showcase for Jonathan Ives’ design talents, an affirmation of Apple’s commitment to the professional users that made the Mac’s 30th birthday a reality, an announcement that Apple is capable of producing one of the most powerful PCs on the market and a response to the “Made in China” criticism leveled at many high-tech companies today. Remember, the new Mac Pro is made in the U.S. at an Apple facility in Austin, Texas.
The company is not likely to sell a lot of Mac Pros (this is one expensive Apple desktop), but the new Mac Pro is symbolic in many ways and deserves a nod on the day that Apple’s original Macintosh computer turns 30.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.