Apple Computer, Inc.

Steven Jobs and Stephen Wozniak founded Apple in 1976. In 1975, Jobs and Wozniak were both working in Silicon Valley, California, for Atari and Hewlett Packard, respectively. They were also members of the Home Brew Computer Club, a group of computer enthusiasts. Inspired by recent microprocessor developments, they built their own microcomputer, the Apple I, in Jobs’s garage. They received orders from a local computer shop and began small-scale production. Encouraged by this, they looked for financial backing. Mike Markkula became the third partner, taking over the financial and administrative side. The company was incorporated in 1977.

The world’s first commercial personal computer, the Apple II, was displayed at a San Francisco computer fair in 1977 and was an immediate success. Wozniak was injured in a plane crash in 1981, and although he returned briefly after recovering, he subsequently quit Apple. Apple became the first personal computer company to achieve annual sales of $1 billion and the fastest growing American corporation ever, but by 1983 it needed to counter the challenge of the fast-selling IBM PC. Its response was the Apple Lisa, a computer featuring an innovative, user-friendly interface. Program options were displayed in the form of graphic icons, pull-down menus, and windows, with easy navigation via a mouse. However, the Lisa was too expensive for the home computer market. Its basic features were incorporated in the Apple Macintosh, styled by the Californian branch of the German design consultancy, Frogdesign. The Mac received a high profile launch in January 1984 with the showing of an unusually long (60 seconds) TV commercial, directed by acclaimed British film director Ridley Scott. In addition to the graphical user interface (GUI), the Apple Mac had the advantage of compactness. With the monitor, processor unit, and disk drive contained in one streamlined shell, the Mac became a style icon.

Disagreements with John Sculley, the company’s president and chief executive officer, led Jobs to resign in May 1985, and Apple faltered as IBM-compatible personal computers began to flood the market. A dispute with Microsoft over the alleged infringement of Apple’s design rights by Windows 1.0 was settled in a way that left Microsoft free to mimic the Apple GUI in later versions of Windows. In 1986, Apple bounced back by making desktop publishing affordable with the launch of PageMaker software for the Mac and the LaserWriter printer. A portable Apple Mac was introduced in 1989. The introduction of Microsoft Windows 3.0 in 1990 made Apple increasingly vulnerable to competition from PC manufacturers and allied software companies. Apple initially sustained its market share thanks to its loyal existing customer base and then bolstered its position with the introduction in 1991 of the Macintosh PowerBook, a notebook computer with networking and multimedia capability.

A joint venture with the Japanese company Sharp led in 1993 to the Apple Newton. This hand-held computer featured built-in optical character recognition software, allowing input to be handwritten onto the liquid crystal display with a plastic stylus. In 1994, the technical performance of the Mac was boosted by the adoption of the PowerPC chip, a fast microprocessor. In spite of such innovations, Apple’s market share declined steeply, prompting major corporate changes. The decision to license the Mac operating system came too late to be effective. In December 1996, Steven Jobs returned when he agreed to Apple’s acquisition of his NeXT software company. Jobs soon regained control of Apple as acting chief executive officer and in 1997 negotiated a five-year software development deal with Microsoft whereby Microsoft also invested $150 million in Apple.

While Apple continued to improve technical performance through the G3 (and later G4) versions of the PowerMac and PowerBook, it also developed a more competitively priced computer, the iMac. Like the first Mac, the 1998 iMac has a single-shell monitor-cum-processor-and-disk drive. Its distinctiveness lies in its rounded lines and availability in a range of five strong colors combined with translucent white. Back on a profitable footing, Apple consolidated its position in 1999 with the introduction of the iBook notebook computer.