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Top 10 Apple Innovations

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apple-logo.jpgWith 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-boot-camp-public-preview.jpgApple’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

mac-mini.jpgIf 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.

8) Newton

apple_newton_mp_100.gifApple’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.

7) iLife

ilife.jpgiMovie, 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_powerbook_150.jpgApple 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

macintosh_case.jpgThe 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.

4) iMacs

blueberry.jpgDesign. 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

osx86.jpgIn 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.

2) iPod

ipod-firstgen1.jpgThe 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

apple2.jpgIntroduced 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.

Kokou Adzo

Kokou Adzo

Kokou Adzo is a stalwart in the tech journalism community, has been chronicling the ever-evolving world of Apple products and innovations for over a decade. As a Senior Author at Apple Gazette, Kokou combines a deep passion for technology with an innate ability to translate complex tech jargon into relatable insights for everyday users.

27 thoughts on “Top 10 Apple Innovations

  1. What about the Apple I? According to Woz, it was the first computer to use a keyboard as its primary input device… as opposed to punch-cards…

  2. It was VisiCalc.

    It was the ‘killer app’ that took personal computers from curiosities to tools.

    The other thing about computers before the early ’80s is that you often had to use a TV as a monitor, since CRTs weren’t generally available. Especially color CRTs. In 1977, Apple recommended th “Pixie-verter” which was a converter you could build, but the instructions would say something like ‘do not connect this final wire in order not to violate FCC rules.’

  3. I don’t think #10 can be considered an “innovation.” In the realm of dual-boot systems, Linux has been doing this for years, even on a Mac (YellowDog Linux, Ubuntu, etc) So Bootcamp wasn’t the first to get multiple OS’s booting on a single desktop computer, nor was it the first to get an alternate OS booting on Apple hardware.

    If you narrow it down to “getting Windows running on intel hardware first occupied by OSX” you’ve split hairs to the point that everything is “innovation”. 🙂

    Now if you get a list going of the Top 10 Most Clever Things Apple Has Done, Boot Camp may qualify.

  4. Very cool. However this drove me nucking futs:
    “it’s” = “it is”. Only write “it’s” where you can 100% replace it with “it is”.
    “its” = possessive, like “Apple sells its computers online.”

  5. Oh man did you miss the mark. Where are the real Apple innovations? Stuff like:

    Apple ][ Floppy Disk Drive

  6. Charles –

    The Apple ][ floppy disk drive, in my mind, goes along with the Apple ][ – which is #1.

    MacPaint was bundled with The Macintosh – which is #5

    As for the Lisa, it was an innovative product in many respects, but The Macintosh did everything (that I can think of anyway) that the Lisa did…and did it better…and cheaper.

    However, like I said before I made the list, I know not everyone is going to agree with me.

    I’d love to see your own version of the Top 10. Feel free to post it here in the comments, or in your own blog, I’ll be glad to link to it.

  7. The original iMac is referred to as the “bondi blue” model. The “blueberry” model was a revision and replaced the first “bondi” one.

  8. The Xerox Star was the first machine to ship with a mouse and about a decade before the Lisa shipped with a mouse. Of course, Englebart developed the mouse well before Apple was a company or even a notion.

  9. I think this was a pretty good list, however i’d modify it a little. I’ll show my top 5.

    5: Early adoption of Firewire and USB.
    4: OS X
    3: iTunes (shure iLife is cool, but this sparked a revolution of how we all do digital music)
    2: iPod
    1: The iMac. In recent times, this is the 1 product changed the course of Apple (and everything from Geroge Forman grills to alarm clocks) forever. It brought a sence of style and design into all products we now purchase. One could argue, that if haddent been for the iMac, the iPod would not be as popular as it now is today.

  10. I’d replace MacMini, iLife, Newton and Powerbook 100 with Apple Advertising Campaigns, Quicktime, iTunes and HyperCard.

  11. I should definitely remove Mac Mini from the list, it was released (at least) five years later than similar products. I would also remove iLife since it could hardly be seen as a innovation, all Apple did was take a few simple programs and arrange them in a neat package. This have been done by others for years. I’m also a bit critical of Powerbook, NEC with their Ultralite created the model for how a laptop should be designed with its clamshell-construction. And IBM’s Thinkpad showed the world what the perfect laptop should look like. OS X is also a no-no. They took an already developed kernel, modified it and added a GUI. Expose, spotlight, the coming spaces etc was already available as third-party addons for Windows and/or Linux. What Apple did was collecting ideas – but that could hardly be consider innovating. The same thing with iPod, while creating a revolution for the common man, the geeks hade been playing with mp3-players for years, even harddrive based. It was more in the line of an evolution – but a damn fine steep it was.

    What could instead be added is firewire which is the de facto standard for video equipment.

    I must say that the list is a bit strange, some parts of it mention products because of their financial success (iPod, iMac, OS X), other because they were the first of a kind (Newton) with little regard to the financial result. It makes it a bit schizofrenic. Either make a list with the top innovations from an engineering point of view OR make the list from a financial point of view, not both.

    Best of regards

  12. The #10 should definitely get out of the list. “Intel Partnership” is in no way “an innovation”. Somewhere up these comments, someone wrote Bootcamp does not merit “innovation”. I agree. Apple is definitely not the first in dual-boot/dual-OS world.

    And iPod? ” The iPod’s innovative design, and integration with iTunes has truely made it one of Apple’s greatest innovations.” What was the innovative design anyway? Surely the integration with iTunes does not make it “an innovation”. Surely any hardware maker makes software (driver, GUI) for it’s hardware. The iTunes is not anyway different. It’s actually an annoyance because if you want to use an iPod, you don’t have choice but to use iTunes. The iTunes interface is annoying. Been looking for replacement but there seems no one making. Surely the iPod’s GUI concept is not the first too. I remember Creative Audio sued Apple on this (GUI concept). However, the touchpad control (or whatever you may call it) is what it made iPod innovative. It was the first scratch to use touch sensitive stuff and thing like that and it’s what made it different, and it’s what made some buy it.

    And, anyone thought of the fonts? Yes. FONTS. The fonts is what made the first mac os a hit. Ever read of Steve Job’s history before they founded apple computers? Google it. Steve Job perfected fonts (of course that means rendering it on the display) and that made the first apple OSes ahead of rival OSes that time. It was even borrowed in to different OSes, Microsoft Windows is no exception.

    #1 : “the” Fonts 🙂

  13. Visi-Cal should Visi-Calc from Visi Corporation. I have an origial case at home.

    There are many products missing like AppleWorks that actually saved the
    Apple II and kept them in business for many Years (the product envolved from the Apple /// 3EZ Pieces).

    Then we have the Appe IIGS the 16 bit and last generation of Apple II that had a more colorful and flexible user interface that the Mac for a couple of years (Compare HyperCardGS with the Mac version).

  14. #10 is more of a wise decision that Steve Jobs made. In 2006 after they switched to the Intel Duo Core 50% of new buyer were none Mac users. It was a great decision, only if they can unlock their iPhone.

  15. You totally forgot the Laser Printer. Apple’s laserwriter hardware along with the incorporation of a built-in PostScript interpreter totally redefined desktop printing. This is a HUGE omission.

  16. Apple is extremely innovative. BUT
    You missed all of Apple’s greatest innovations in OS and hardware – FireWire is just a small example.

  17. So basically, the only innovation apple has created according to this list is the iPod. For those who don’t want to read a fan boy/girl article here’s the tl:dr

    TL:DR, not 10 innovations, just one, the apple iPod, the rest is a fan boy rewording of things everything everyone else beat them to.

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