10 Best Apple Decisions of the Last Decade

by Chris Seibold Aug 18, 2006

Ten years ago Apple was searching for a buyer, preferably a White Knight type, but really anyone with a few billion in cash would have done. The state of the Mac was a sad one. Clones were stealing profits from the high-end Mac line. Copland, the next generation OS, was less substantial than a cumulous cloud and the thing that was supposed to save the company (the Newton) never lived up to the hype. Mac evangelism was in full swing but the extollers were pushing a rapidly dying platform. If the Mac had been a patient the attending physician would have asked to be paid in cash before telling said patient he would be lucky to see the far side of the waiting room door while still living.

The Apple of ten years later is far different. While it may be embroiled in a stock option controversy, everything else seems to be going very well. The stock price is way up from the sub-ten-dollar value of the mid nineties; the computers are interesting again and market share seems to be growing. Even if market share were stagnant it wouldn’t matter because the people buying the computers aren’t the die-hards of old but the young, the hip, the commercially motivated. Apple has transformed itself from a company no one wanted anything to do with, to a company everyone wants a little action in. How did the company pull it off?

10) Betting on the iMac

The iMac was, well, not special. It did everything exactly like the beige standard PC style Mac that it replaced but it did it in a bondi blue shell with USB ports while capitalizing off the growing popularity of the internet. Essentially, it was the same candy in a see through wrapper with a more appealing price.

9) The G3

While the iMac gets the credit for saving Apple, deservedly so, it was the beige machines with the G3 chip that took Apple from money sucking swamp to profitability. The power of the G3 inspired the “toasted bunnies” ads and made those who wanted the best performance possible consider a Mac.

8) Hiring Gil Amelio

When Gil Amelio opted for NeXT instead of BeOS insiders said Steve Jobs would “F—- Gil so hard his eardrums will pop.” Those who are not privy to the sexual predilections of Cupertino denizens might wonder just what part of the anatomy those folks are interested in, but that is a topic for independent research. In any event, though he doesn’t get nearly enough credit, Gil Amelio put Apple back on track by raising scads of cash, cutting Apple programs deeply, and killing off the Performa line.

7) Click and Mortar Stores

Cult of Mac, Mac evangelists, Macolytes etc. There has never been any shortage of people comparing those that love the Mac to religious folks. Problem was, until 2001 the lovers of all things Mac either had to put up with a decidedly unApple presentation at CompUSA or order off the web.

The Apple store rectified those shortcomings. Not only could users walk in to an Apple store and walk out with the coolest Apple kit fifteen minutes later; they could commiserate with other users, see properly maintained machines, and get an Apple Genius to solve their problems. Opening Apple branded stores seems like a no brainer with the success of said stores, but Apple did it just as the Gateway stores were failing. A gutsy move but one that really paid off.

6) Switching to Intel

For long-time Mac users the switch to Intel is a matter of little importance. Folks like us just like Macs and don’t care (too much) what chip powers the interface we love. From recent results, it would seem that people like us are in the minority. The “iPod halo effect” is suspect but the rub from Intel is undeniably real.

5) Introducing the iPod
It is great. It is small. It holds a lot of music. Behold the iPod. The music player has become a personal statement that you are actually into the aughts. The tiny player of myriad media has even changed the way car companies manufacture cars. The iPod plus iTunes made Apple stock sexy again and keeps the future bright for Apple watchers.

4) Outsourcing
The truth of the matter is Apple doesn’t make computers anymore, the company designs them and farms out the actual production to companies who specialize in cranking out computers quickly and cheaply. While some argue that construction quality has gone markedly down from the days when Apple computers were designed AND built by Apple (the original iMac was an all Apple affair for a time) there is little objective evidence of this. Outsourcing allows Apple to hit price targets it would otherwise miss.

3) Unleashing Jonathan Ive

Jonathan Ive has been at Apple longer than Steve Jobs, since 1992 to be exact. No one noticed Ives when he was designing the Message Pad 110 or the Twentieth Anniversary Mac. When the original iMac made the scene people began to notice, when the TiBook showed up you could hardly not know who Ive was. When the iMac revisions kept getting better and better Ive finally started getting the credit he deserved. Once Steve Jobs came on board Jonathan Ive was free to truly innovate and the results have been spectacular.

2) Sacking the Board of Directors

Apple’s Board of Directors had been run for years by Mike Markulla. The guy deserved the position, he was the one who wrote Apple’s first business plan and rounded up the money to make the Apple II a reality. After the early success the board started making mistakes. They didn’t question Sculley’s pricing decisions, provided incentives to CEOs if they managed to sell the company and, most tellingly, once counted on a successful suit against Microsoft as the road to Apple solvency. Nothing says, “We’ve lost the will to even try” more than relying on a lawsuit to make a company viable.

When Steve first regained control at Apple one of his first moves was to get rid of the same folks who granted him authority.

1) Hiring Steve Jobs

Mr. Jobs gets far too much credit for everything Apple does. It is kind of a win-win situation; anything that turns out insanely great is commonly regarded as having Steve’s fingerprints all over it. Anything not so great? Blame the software/design team.

Though he does get way too much credit for Apple’s success there is a lot of credit to go around. No single factor has been larger in Apple’s turnaround from “beleaguered computer maker” with “moribund stock” than Steve Jobs. He didn’t do it all himself, but he did a lot more than anyone else.


  • I agree that most Mac folks do not give enough credit to Gil Amelio. The man was responsible for the Apple snowball effect of today. He bought NeXT, brought in Steve the proverbial backstabber, killed the morassed Copland project, and overall provided the very pylon that Apple needed when the Apple pier was indeed in trouble of sinking to the bottom. We should be paying more gratuity to the man as an Apple Hall of Famer, alongside the Steve, of course. Never mind Spindler, but give a little credit to Sculley for introducing the Mac and the Newton lines.

    As for Jonathan Ive, his best work outside of the iMac was the eMate 300 (the last Newton-class device) that could one day make a reintroduction as the iPod hybrid device. I must confess, I love the idea of introducing an iPod with a similar form factor as the eMate.

    Robomac had this to say on Aug 18, 2006 Posts: 846
  • How about the worst decision?  Hiring John Sculley.  He of the voraciously greedy, extremely shortsighted, insanely expensive Mac pricing strategy.

    tundraboy had this to say on Aug 18, 2006 Posts: 132
  • Focusing on open standards and and leveraging open source was a great decision.  I hope they continue to expand in this domain.

    Ray Fix had this to say on Aug 18, 2006 Posts: 21
  • Hey Robotech Infidel,
    Just to let you know, the eMate 300 wasn’t designed by Jonathan Ive. According to the book AppleDesign: The Work of the Apple Industrial Design Group (very neat book full of beautiful photos) the eMate industrial design was done by Thomas Meyerhöffer, while John Tang and David Baik did product design. However, it’s unclear to me when Ive exactly took over IDg from Bob Brunner. Officially, Ive took over in Januari 1996, but Brunner already announced his “sabatical” in May 1995. The book also states that Meyerhöffer was recruited by Jonathan Ive and Daniele DeIuliis (who designed the MessagePad 2000). These two managed “the studios”, while Brunner was at the helm.

    The book is great to have for a true Apple enthusiast.

    The Man had this to say on Aug 19, 2006 Posts: 2
  • Thanks, The Man. If Ive “managed” the design dept at the time, do you think the actual person with the pencil and clay (in this case, Meyerhoffer) will get the credits?

    Anyhow, if you just look at the eMate 300 svelte curves and relate those of other genius Ive designs (iMac G4 come to mind), I would bet that Ive’s imaginative mind was in total control, wouldn’t you think?

    Robomac had this to say on Aug 19, 2006 Posts: 846
  • Robotech Infidel,
    Meyerhöffer does get the official credit for the design. And the book does tell the tale how he came up with the (counter)design for the eMate. I think Ive is just the person who recognized the talent, brought him in and greenlit Meyerhöffer’s vision all the way. Meyerhöffer is now a freelance designer. http://www.meyerhoffer.com/

    Here is a Businessweek article from 1997 in which Meyerhöffer is credited with the eMate design and philosophy. http://www.businessweek.com/1997/22/b352913.htm

    Also found an Apple press release (google cached)öffer+emate&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd;
    Ive takes the credit for the 20th aniversary Mac, Meyerhöffer for the eMate.

    The Man had this to say on Aug 21, 2006 Posts: 2
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