Happy 40th Birthday Apple!

Apple marked its 40 years of existence with a, well, nothing. For most companies, a milestone is a cause for celebration, or atleast, an opportunity to sell more items through an anniversary themed promotion. But not Apple. It chooses to celebrate this occasion by doing nothing.

Now, most observers would have noted that Apple is not like any other company. Born in a humble suburbia garage in San Jose by a hippe-esque Steve Jobs and a pre-Geek-is-Chic Steve Wozniak, the company has risen, and fallen, and risen again in a remarkable trajectory that had made consumer technology what it is today

An early evidence of Apple’s copy-worthy industry defining DNA was evident from the very first mass commercial product that the company produced- the Apple II. The very first computer that I played with had the familiar “]” prompt and looked beige with an integrated keyboard and CPU unit but it wasn’t an Apple. It was a clone of the Apple II.

The first machine that I ever lusted for was a Macintosh. In college, I had to settle for a PC clone because, well, I couldn’t afford an Apple. The years when I first joined the workforce, Apple’s fortune was clearly on a decline. It nearly got decimated when its market share shrank and developers abandoned the platform. But there I was, the lone individual who refused to give up my Macintosh Performa because I gave the flimsy excuse that Adobe and Macromedia software worked better on the Mac.

I celebrated when Steve Jobs made his return to Apple via the NeXT acquisition. I cheered when the Bondi Blue iMac was launched (and put in the Purchase Request for it immediately). And then, everything happened in light speed.

PowerMac G3.
PowerBook G4 Titanium.
iTunes Store.
Apple Watch.
Apple Music.

In a matter of less than decade from the launch of the new candy shaped iMac, Apple has not only regained its footing but has managed to made itself to become the largest tech company in the world. More importantly, more people view Apple as a trendsetting luxury tech brand more than a geeky technology company. And this will give it some momentum to maintain its lead over other companies when it comes extracting higher margins from its customers.

Unfortunately, in order for it to remain relevant in the next decade, it has to regain back some of its innovativeness. Of late, it has become safe, making small marginal improvements on its product and not really setting out to create some industry shaking products. Its lack of focus in the nascent virtual reality space is worrying. Its cloud offerings are still rudimentary and derivative. Its reliance on selling content piece meal flies in the common method of how media is consumed today. Its watch is worn as a fashion item more than a utilitarian must have device.

To be fair, Apple is taking steps to rectify those things listed above. There is the much rumored Apple Car project. They are ramping up their VR solution. They have launched Apple Music. New WatchOS 3.0 is scheduled to be announced soon. The iPad got bigger and now comes with a stylus and keyboard accessories. But all of this is happening at an incredibly slow pace.

But perhaps I am getting ahead of myself over here. Maybe Apple doesn’t need to always be the first. After all, all of their hits are just better iterations of products which were already in the market but failed due to spectacularly bad user experience. Perhaps, if the likes of Microsoft, Google, Oculus, Spotify or Pebble keeps innovating, a company like Apple with its consumer friendly brand and great design acumen can sweep in and put their take on these products.

Even if you are not using a single Apple product ever or at this present moment, let us take a moment and imagine a world without Apple. In this butterfly effect exercise, we can see that a lot of things that we have taken for granted probably won’t materialized in the way that they did:-.
  1. No Apple II = No PC. IBM got into the game because of Apple II’s success. Prior to Apple II. nobody thought that there was a mass consumer computer market.
  2. No Macintosh = No WIMPS (Windows, Icons, Menus, Pointers, Scrollers). Ah yes, computing would be reserved for those purists who are familiar with archaic commands on green monochromatic CRT tubes.
  3. No iPod = No iTunes = Still listening to music on expensive CDs. The iPod/iTunes combo destroyed music labels’ hegemony on artists and consumers by allowing greater access to music anywhere, anytime. Music, sadly, didn’t get better.
  4. No iPhone = No Android = No Samsung = Nokia/Blackberry rules. Yes, the shiny Samsung Galaxy S7 started off as an iPhone clone. Heck, Apple even won the suit against Samsung.
  5. No iPhone = No great camera wherever you go. Yes, Apple may not have created the best smartphone camera but it popularized it and tht allowed all those annoying cat videos to become so ubiquitous.
  6. No iOS = No app store = No Uber/Tinder/AirBnB/Waze (enter your favorite app here). Apple created the ecosystem where a simple Vietnamese can make millions from creating one of the most annoying avian collision prevention game in the history of games.
  7. No iPad = No Tablets. At that time, people laughed at the iPad as an oversized iPhone with a funny name. Without it, our bedtime reading material would be a whole lot heftier (and a whole less interesting).
  8. No Apple Watch = wait, this thing is almost like a Newton or a G3 Cube, right? Or one of those shiny plastic iPhone 5cs?
Apple has been the most influential tech company in the world over the past decade. Keep innovating and in the words of Steve Jobs- always stay hungry. The world needs you. And your competitors too.

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