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Why Apple Failed in the 90s 369

Posted by Zonk
from the no-ipod dept.
An anonymous reader writes "With news of amazing sales figures for both Mac hardware and the iPod, the future for Apple looks bright. But it wasn't always that way. The 90s were a bad time for the company, and Roughlydrafted.com has a look at Apple's failures of the previous decade." From the article: "During the development of Mac OS X, Apple polished the existing classic Mac OS, and salvaged what it could of Copland developments. Apple modernized its existing Mac APIs into Carbon, which would run software in Mac OS 9, and later allow it to run natively in Mac OS X. Despite fixing the obvious flaws in Apple's operating system offering, Mac OS X did not in itself solve Apple's problem. The company now only had an improved platform that nobody had any reason to buy. The real solution to Apple's problem was stumbled onto by a fortunate accident. "
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Why Apple Failed in the 90s

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  • by bartron (772079) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:44AM (#16535480)
    sigh....that will teach me to preview my post first. My Mac is good but somehow didn't fix my bad typing skills....same as it is under Windows.
  • by God of Lemmings (455435) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:50AM (#16535534)
    Me too!

    The wikipedia page is more informative than this article...
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_Computer [wikipedia.org]

    Which after reading it, provides better insight than the article....
  • by mattr (78516) <mattr AT telebody DOT com> on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:15AM (#16535668) Homepage Journal
    The article does not in fact give the answer! Presumably it will be unveiled in the sequel ("Coming up next...") advertised at the end of the page.

    They mention the analysts were wrong that Apple needed more Apple market not more PC market, and that some execution (Performa) was done badly. That at least is true, and why Mom had to use a PC for a while until she got back to Macs.

    Of course I was a Mac person in the 90s even though Apple had screwed me a number of times. Now Macs are better but PCs (with XP) are better too. If they can come out with Leopard this year instead of next year they will do much better at Christmastime I bet.
  • by jbolden (176878) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:38AM (#16535776) Homepage
    ven if their share rises from 2% to 4%,

    Their share has moved from 2% to 6% already gartner [gartner.com] You'll need a new line now.
  • by cluckshot (658931) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @09:28AM (#16536026)

    There were reasons Apple went rotten to the core. I know because I have owned and operated many of their computers throughout the years. I would say the most important reason for my exit from using Apple was the concept they had regards software. I had bought the machines to program them for business applications unique to the industry I was in. The shop was small. We didn't have multi-million dollar budgets.

    When we tried to program we ran up against limitations associated with the programming languages available. They were good programming languages but they lacked the adequate documentation for us to make them really effective and useful. We contacted Apple. They bluntly told us that information was proprietary and we should hire Claris Works to write the software. That was it. We were out in the cold. No more Apples for me.

    Microsoft started with the IBM PC. The PC had a fortunate spy incident in which IBM OS basics were stolen before the PC came out. This opened up and allowed thousands of programmers entry into the business. It was this farm of people that Microsoft drew from. Apple had no such farm because it herbacided the crop every time they could. They viewed programmers as weeds.

    Apple is succeding now with IPod etc largely because many many people can play. If they wanted to take out Microsoft, it would be easy. All they have to do is take their basic superiority in graphics and etc and lock the doors open to developers. It will be a short time indeed before MS is on the ropes.

  • Re:The real solution (Score:5, Informative)

    by suv4x4 (956391) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @09:35AM (#16536048)
    Any bets on what the fortunate accident was?

    That's just a lame cliffhanger so you go back and click his ads some more.

    the fortunate accidents were:

    - Steve Jobs coming back
    - them hiring Johnathan Ive (iPod, iMac designer)

    Them conspiring to make Apple a more branded, more complete experience, and hype it up, using their assets (OSX with a shiny interface, loyal designer crowd following them, the MS/Adobe/Macromedia software packs).
  • by rogerborn (236155) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @10:30AM (#16536372)
    This, from a novel written in the late Nineties - about the real reason Apple and the Mac exists.

    MARY R147 [rogerborn.com]

    GO HERE if that link is overwhelmed [mymac.com]

    People do not expect this kind of thing, but it very well may be true on a completely different level, which exists beyond the thinking of most everyone else.

    Is there any validity to this? If it is true, it changes everything, because it means that the current success of the Mac, iPod and OS X comes from a very unexpected place. You would almost have to watch HEROES to get a clue about where it comes from.

    I know you may think this borders lunatic fringe territory, but you owe it to yourself to at least consider it.

    ~ 'Ro'ger 'Bor'n '' '''' '
    "Glad to have gotten this off my chest. Your mileage may vary."
  • by unother (712929) <[myself] [at] [kreig.me]> on Sunday October 22, 2006 @11:04AM (#16536608) Homepage

    Im in agreement here. But really, Im just having issues with this RoughlyDrafted kid getting linked to two-three times a week. It seems to me like an attempt to maneuver eyeballs for click-throughs...

    Cynical? Well sure, but my real point is that the information this person has used in their several articles:

    1. ...isnt that compelling (i.e. he is obviously a young Mac-Fan).
    2. ...isnt that accurate (i.e. the devil is in the details and he gets those wrong in places).

    In sum, these articles are more screeds than accurate research.

    Disclaimer: I am a Macintosh user of 15 years standing. Having "lived" a lot of the history reported on that blog, I feel qualified to speak on this...
  • by phillymjs (234426) <slashdot@NOspam.stango.org> on Sunday October 22, 2006 @02:46PM (#16538130) Homepage Journal
    The argument for going with the PowerPC was that IBM was going to make Macs. Yes, that was the whole point of the deal. Didn't happen, but that was Apple's big plan. And that bad move happened under Jobs.

    Wrong. The first PowerPC-based Macs were released on March 14, 1994, during Michael Spindler's tenure as Apple CEO. The alliance to create the PowerPC was formed before that, during John Sculley's tenure. Jobs had absolutely nothing to do with Apple switching to the PPC architecture. Apple announced their intention to purchase NeXT on December 20, 1996 and finalized the deal on February 4, 1997. During that timeframe is when Jobs and his influence returned.

    But hey, don't let little things like easily-verifiable facts get in the way of you spouting your drivel.

    ~Philly
  • by jbolden (176878) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @03:00PM (#16538194) Homepage
    Your sentence isn't written using a latin alphabet it was written in English.

    The above is essentially what you said.
    X is a windowing protocol
    TWM, Enlightenment... are Window Managers

    Gnone, KDE are GUIS.

    KDE for example used KWin as a window manager on top of X.
    Wikipedia entry for more details [wikipedia.org].
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 22, 2006 @03:12PM (#16538274)
    The scrambling local vendor who jumped through that expensive hoops then got the privelege of paying full retail for his units and add ons (few anyway) from Apple, then had to try and make it with Apple inc undercutting their price via their online or at the end of the telephone store!

    What on earth are you talking about? Until 1997, Apple did no reselling whatsoever. You could buy the "Performa" line in big box stores, or you could buy real Macs (Power Macs, Quadras, PowerBooks) from authorized vendors. There was NO online store, NO telephone store, NO direct channel whatsoever. If you were a local Apple shop, you had NO competition whatsoever. You could charge whatever you wanted on a PowerBook, and nobody could undercut you (unless there was another local Apple shop in your town.

    About 1997, Apple realized that most of those local shops were gouging their captive markets, and opened an online store like Dell's.

    It's hard to buy an apple when you can't even see one any place for sale near you. This is 2006, I can go to various cities near me that have computer stores large and small, from big department stores that offer computers *blahmart, etc, and then like office depot, etc, to the smallest whitebox shop, maybe going on two dozen stores now locally to me in three different cities in a 20 mile diameter, and not a single mac for sale. It's unobtainium, and people aren't going to go out of their way to try and track it down and drop serious cash when they have right at their fingertips a huge variety of shapes sizes colors and functions and prices of computers they can just grab and go home.

    Which explains why Dell is not selling any PCs. "Buy Direct." Who are they kidding? Who would ever buy a PC online? It'll never work, I tell you.

    Nevermind that you can touch, grope, and drool over a Mac at any CompUSA, Fry's, J&R, ABT, university computer store, or an actual Apple store in every major city. Apple just isn't going for the $400-PC walmart crowd.
  • The 'i' in "iMac" (Score:4, Informative)

    by Old Man Kensey (5209) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @03:32PM (#16538430) Homepage
    The iMac looked like it could have been a "network computer." Did the 'i' in iMac stand for "internet" Mac?

    Why yes, yes it did. It was even considered "edgy" because the Internet (capital I) was abbreviated with a lowercase letter!

    The degree of the industry's plagiarism of Apple's style decisions can be measured by the fact that prior to the iMac introduction, anything vaguely Internet-related was tagged "e-" (for "electronic) -- e-commerce, e-mail, e-this, e-that. Almost immediately after the iMac exploded on the scene, the e- was quietly dropped and new Internet things were tagged "i" or "i-".

  • by gnasher719 (869701) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @03:56PM (#16538598)
    '' Geez, the whole Apple is more expensive still perpetuates even though it is not as true as it once was. By using the same basic components, there is now more of a direct comparisons between PCs and Macs, yet people automatically dismiss Macs as more expensive without really comparing the machines. You can get a Dell desktop for under $400 which is $200 less than the cheapest Mac. Remember though that Dell is selling you a cheaper computer because it does not have as many features. Instead of a Core 2, you'll get a Celeron D. Instead of XP Pro, you get XP Home. There is no wireless Bluetooth option. You don't get a remote. You don't get any software like iLife or FrontRow, etc. It's like complaining that a Toyota Camry is more expensive than a Toyota Corolla. ''

    A few months ago I had to help someone on an extremely limited budget to buy a computer. Sadly the budget was too limited for any new Macintosh, and used Macs are horrendously expensive. So I visited about half a dozen computer stores to get the absolute best value for money. (Interestingly, the local supermarket turned out the best value). There are quite a few machines out there that are cheaper than any Macintosh - they are not as nice as a Mac, but they are cheaper, so you get what you pay for. However, if you start looking at the more expensive PCs, like £800 to £1000, and compare to an iMac at the same price, then suddenly the iMacs are extremely good value.
  • Re:The real solution (Score:3, Informative)

    by Graymalkin (13732) * on Sunday October 22, 2006 @04:46PM (#16538922)
    While the early CRT-based iMacs did help Apple, in my opinion it wasn't until the arrival of the second-generation LCD-based iMac that that sales really took off.


    You would be wrong about that. The G3 iMac sold extremely well during its lifetime. In the four years after its introduction about six million were sold. At the time selling an AiO computer was pretty novel, configuring it out of the box to easily connect to the internet even moreso.
  • by ElitistWhiner (79961) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:00PM (#16539994) Journal
    Bill Gates $150M and committment to Office on the Mac.

    Microsoft needed Apple not to fail because 5% marketshare was all the evidence Bill Gates needed as proof that Windows was not a monopoly. For $150M, Bill got the room he needed to breathe out from under Anti-Trust and seeded further MS product, even if he lost a window sale or two. It was his cost of staying in business, without the US Gov't breaking Microsoft into separate operating units.

    Steve Jobs got serious credibility on the Street, with businesses really nervous about being stuck with Mac's going out of business. Bill G. stopped all that bleed, angst and hesitation in the sales pipeline for Apple Computer Inc.
  • AUX worked... (Score:4, Informative)

    by meburke (736645) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:07PM (#16540090)
    During the early '90's, when OS 7 and OS 8 were crashing every 15 minutes, I had a couple of customers with 500+ Mac II's and III's that almost never crashed; they were running AUX. AUX was UNIX, and it still ran the Mac OS on top. At that time, a Mac III with a Radius monitor was the fastest AutoCAD system around.

    IMO, the article (incomplete as it is) is right on about the weaknesses in Apple's strategy to gain market share. IMO, if they had contiued to expand in the UNIX area and done a better job of marketing AUX, they wouldn't have had to re-develop the idea for OSX. The Microsoft platform, with it's huge base of applications, is a great example of Kevin Kelly's proposition that "Value flows from Abundance" (Kevin Kelly, "New Rules for the New Economy", 1998). In short, Kelly claims that in the networked world, the more people you have using your product, the more valuable it becomes. His first examples are the telephone and fax machine: Both devices were in short demand until enough people had them so that owning one was a convenience rather than a curiosity. IMO, if Apple had done with AUX what they've done with OSX, the sheer utility of owning an Apple computer would have been enough to avoid some of the problms they had in the '90's.
  • by falconwolf (725481) <falconsoaring_2000&yahoo,com> on Monday October 23, 2006 @01:09AM (#16542728)

    When we tried to program we ran up against limitations associated with the programming languages available. They were good programming languages but they lacked the adequate documentation for us to make them really effective and useful. We contacted Apple. They bluntly told us that information was proprietary and we should hire Claris Works to write the software. That was it. We were out in the cold. No more Apples for me.
    ...
    Apple is succeding now with IPod etc largely because many many people can play. If they wanted to take out Microsoft, it would be easy. All they have to do is take their basic superiority in graphics and etc and lock the doors open to developers. It will be a short time indeed before MS is on the ropes.

    Have you ever used ADC, Apple Developer Connection [apple.com]? Though I haven't I've met some who have and they swear by it. I'm using now and have been using Windows almost exclusively for 8 years but when I get a new laptop hopefully within a few weeks I'll be getting a MacBook Pro. I'm just waiting for Apple to release one with the Merom Core 2 Duo cpu. When I do I'll be joining ADC as well.

    Falcon
  • Re:AUX worked... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 23, 2006 @09:46AM (#16545748)
    I used A/UX a bit in the 90s, and agree it was an excellent system. The big problem with it was that it was Unix (i.e. contained AT&T source code), which meant Apple had to pay ridiculously high licensing fees to AT&T (and later Novell). OS X, in contrast, is based on Mach and BSD code, so it doesn't require a Unix source licence (a very good thing, given that Caldera/SCO now owns the Unix source code).

    As a related aside, Microsoft decided to exit the Unix business in the mid-80s, when AT&T was broken up, and focus instead on OS/2, and later NT. The reason was that the Bell telephone monopoly had been legally barred by agreements with the American government from entering the computer business (and thus marketing Unix itself), and when it was broken up, those agreements ceased to be applicable. Although Microsoft Xenix was the most popular Unix OS on the market at the time, Microsoft's management correctly anticipated that AT&T's entry to the market would give it an advantage over competitors, and lead it to demand (much) higher fees from Unix licensees. This all came to pass, with the result that Unix was relegated to a niche.

    If Unix hadn't cost so much in the 80s/90s, there never would have been a need for Linux or the open-source BSDs. It's nice to have the source code, of course, but the main thing holding Unix back wasn't that it was closed, it was the outrageously high price tag.

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