(Apple Inc., Cupertino, CA, www.apple.com) The world's second largest manufacturer of computers and consumer electronics with revenues of USD $184 billion in 2014 (Samsung was #1 by a small margin). Due primarily to the iPhone, Apple also became the most profitable company on the planet in 2014.
Apple was founded in a garage on April Fool's Day 1976 by Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. Their first computer, the Apple 1, was introduced at the Palo Alto Homebrew Computer Club, and 10 retail stores were selling it by year-end.
A year later, the Apple II was introduced, which blazed the trails for the personal computer industry. A fully assembled Apple II with 4K of RAM sold for USD $1,298. With an open architecture that encouraged third-party vendors to build plug-in hardware enhancements, Apple IIs became the most widely used computer in the home and classroom. They were also used in business primarily running the innovative VisiCalc spreadsheet software.
In 1983, Apple introduced the Lisa, the forerunner of the Macintosh. Lisa was aimed at the corporate market, but was soon dropped in favor of the Mac. As a graphics-based machine, the Mac was successful as a low-cost desktop publishing system. Although praised for its ease of use, its slow speed, small monochrome screen and closed architecture did not excite corporate buyers.
In 1987, the Mac II offered higher speed, larger screens that were in color and traditional cabinetry that accepted third-party add-in cards. Numerous models were offered and more widely accepted. In 1991, Apple surprised the industry by announcing an alliance with IBM to form several companies that would develop hardware and software together. All these eventually folded back into Apple and IBM, but the major product of the alliance was the PowerPC chip (see Apple-IBM alliance). In 1994, Apple came out with its first PowerPC-based Power Macs, which proved popular. Its PowerBook laptops were an instant success, and all subsequent models departed from the original Motorola 68K architecture to the PowerPC.
The Mac stood alone in a sea of PCs based on the IBM architecture and watched its graphical interface copied more with each incarnation of Windows. In 1994, Apple licensed its OS to system vendors in order to create a Macintosh clone industry. However, a couple of years later, that was discontinued.
In 1997, Apple acquired NeXT Computer, which brought Steve Jobs back to the company he founded and gave it a raft of object-oriented development tools, parts of which filtered down into the Mac OS X operating system.
In 1998, Apple introduced the iMac, the first personal computer without a floppy disk. Self-contained in one unit like the original Mac, Apple sold 800,000 iMacs in a year, making it the fastest-selling computer in its history.
In 2001, Apple launched the iPod. Followed several years later by the iPhone and iPad, Apple set the bar for mobile devices and grew exponentially as a result. See iPod, iPhone and iPad.
In 2006, Apple switched the Mac to Intel chips, and combined with sleeker designs and continuous refinements, the Mac has gained market share ever since.
The Two Steves
Wozniak and Jobs (left to right) pioneered the microcomputer revolution. Wozniak's engineering and Job's charisma built a legend. Here they hold the motherboard from the Apple 1, Apple's first computer. (Image courtesy of Apple Inc.)
The Apple 1
Rather humble beginnings, yet the Apple 1 led to the very successful Apple II series, which thrived for many years. See Apple 1
and Apple II
. (Image courtesy of Apple Inc.)
A Quarter Century Later
With a CPU chip 500 times as fast as the Apple 1, the G4 Cube in 2000 bore little resemblance to Apple's first offering. (Image courtesy of Apple Inc.)