With the 5th Anniversary of the iPod upon us, we’re seeing lots of posts from various blogs (including our own) about the revolution that was (and is) the iPod. It’s one of Apple’s greatest innovations…but is it their greatest? I started thinking about that a few weeks ago, and have been researching it ever since. Reflecting on everything Apple has done since the company’s founding in 1976, it’s hard to pin down the top 10 innovations of the company, and I’m sure your opinion will differ, at least slightly (probably greatly) from mine, so I invite you to create your own Top 5 lists either in the comments section at the end of the article, or even on your own blog. With all that said…here is my list of Apple’s Top 10 Innovations of all time…
10) Intel Partnership/Boot Camp
Apple’s decision to partner with Intel, and move Apple Computers to Intel chips created an opportunity for users that had never existed in computing before…the ability to run BOTH OSX, and Windows XP on the same machine. Apple’s released of the software dubbed “Boot Camp” made it virtually effortless to install Windows on your Mac, and keep access to both operating systems a snap. This simple innovation opened up a whole new world to Windows users, and allowed Mac users to have access to Windows features they wanted, without giving up their favorite computer and OS in the process.
9) Mac Mini
If it’s one thing Apple is good at it’s innovating design. The Mac Mini is a robust computer packed in a case that is no larger than six CDs stacked on top of one another. It is a perfect computer for college students or families on a budget, and it’s amazingly compact design makes it a great fit for users without a lot of desktop space. The Mac Mini was the smallest PC being commercially produced when it was unveiled in 2005 (with comparable features), and PC makers quickly attempted to copy the small-scale design of this little Mac powerhouse. The mini was preceded by the Apple G4 Cube, another visually impressive, and compact computer, but the Cube had several problems that kept it from being a success.
Apple’s Newton was not a success. The device, coined a Personal Digital Assistant by then Apple CEO John Sculley, was introduced in 1993. It was not the first PDA, even though Apple did invent the term “PDA”. The Newton did, however, heavily influence the future of the Personal Digital Assistant. One could argue that the Newton was the pattern for all PDAs that came after it. Had the Newton’s handwriting recognition been up to snuff, we’d probably still have Newtons today, but when you look at a Blackberry or Palm, Apple fan’s can’t help but be reminded of this innovative, portable device.
iMovie, iDVD, iTunes, iPhoto, and Garage Band. These iLife applications have taken what were once cumbersome and time consuming tasks, and made them simple, easy, and best of all, professional looking. From making professional quality home movies, to DVDs, photo albums, songs, and podcasts, the iLife suite of apps have become an essential part of the Mac experience, and have given thousands of amateurs delusions of grandeur.
6) Powerbook 100 Series
Apple didn’t invent the laptop…but the did re-invent it with the Powerbook. The Powerbook 100 series, released in 1991, took the world by storm with the seemingly small innovation of pushing the keyboard up toward the screen, leaving the lower part of the laptop for the user to rest his/her palms on. The dark cases, and innovative trackball use also help the original Powerbooks get noticed. If you walk into any electronics store today you’ll find that almost every laptop being built follows the design pattern of these first Powerbooks.
5) The Macintosh
The Macintosh wasn’t the first computer to use a Graphical User Interface – in fact it wasn’t even the first Apple Computer to use a GUI – but the Macintosh computer changed the way the world used computers forever with it’s advanced graphical capabilities and intuitive GUI. The Macintosh was the first computer to make Desktop Publishing possible, and it’s the reason most “artists” and publishing companies create their projects on Macs to this day. The Macintosh has evolved into Apple’s current lines of computers, the iMacs , Mac Mini, Macbooks, and more, but the original Macintosh system will always be an icon, and an innovative product that changed the way we use computers…and what we use them for.
Design. It makes people take notice. Apple decide to use design to make the world take notice of it’s computers, and it started with the “blueberry” iMac in 1998. Soon more colors followed, and the colorful iMac became a staple of 90s iconography. In the new millennium, the iMac has continued to evolve twice, with each system becoming more compact, and more amazing than the last. The iMac line shows no signs of stopping as we head into the latter part of the 00s, and with Apple’s design team behind it, it is sure to continue being an innovative force for computer design for many years to come.
3) OS X
In the 1990s Apple’s OS was feeling dated and attempts to create a next-generation OS through the Taligent and Copland projects were unsuccessful. Luckily, Steve Jobs – then working at his “new” computer company, NeXt – was working on something that would change the computer industry forever…then it was called OPENSTEP, but Apple saw potential in the OS, and NeXt was purchased by Apple – bringing Jobs back to the company for the first time since 1985. In 2001, Mac OS X finally arrived, and it changed computing forever. The beauty and simplicity of the OS was immediately recognizable, and users stood up and took notice. Competitors took notice too…and if you look at Microsoft’s upcoming Vista OS, you’ll notice more than a few passing similarities to OSX. Since 2001 there have been 4 major upgrades to OS X, with a 5th one due in the Spring of 2007, and each time the OS has become more innovative. From simple things like expose making it easier to manage yourmulti -tasking, to features like Spotlight completely changing the way you search for files, OSX has set a standard in Operating Systems that has yet to be matched.
The iPod is one of Apple’s biggest success ever. The iPod has dominated the MP3 player market since early in its release, and has never let go. Apple completely changed the music industry with the release of the iPod, and the iTunes music store. The iPod is currently in it’s 5th Generation, with rumors of new evolutions of the product (by way of a widescreen iPod, and/or iPhone) in the near future. Even with challengers like Microsoft hoping to knock the iPod off it’s throne, it is unlikely that Apple’s digital video, music, and game player will be losing ground anytime soon. The future looks very bright for the iPod, and Apple as a company – and this little player deserves a lot of the credit for that. The iPod’s innovative design, and integration with iTunes has truely made it one of Apple’s greatest innovations.
1) The Apple II
Introduced in 1977 and manufactured until 1993, the Apple II was one of the first, and most popular personal computers ever built. The Apple II was THE standard computer in American education throughout the 1980s and much of the 1990s (in fact, you can probably still find a few running in schools today). This was the computer that introduced most of us (25 and up) to personal computing…but education wasn’t the only place the Apple II was popular, it was popular in business – and with families as well. Most notably after the release of Visi-Cal – the first ever spreadsheet software – that originally ran only on the Apple II. Even after the release of the Macintosh, the Apple II held strong as Apple’s primary computer for years. With it’s innovative software, hardware, and price-point, the Apple II took the world by storm, and will forever be one of Apple’s greatest innovations.