After the Mac: Keeping Apple Innovative

by Hadley Stern Jan 13, 2003

Apple’s unified approach to creating a computing experience is what is supposed to set it apart from a windows-based machine. Apple controls the entire user experience by bridging the gap between hardware and software. The PC platform is divided between software manufacturers (Microsoft) and hardware manufacturers (Dell, Compaq, etc). What surprises me is that it hasnt made more of a difference, or been more of a competitive advantage for Apple. For example, the customer experience of buying a digital camera and hooking it up to a box running Windows XP or Mac OS X (even the names are hard to tell apart) is minimally different. Yes, it is undoubtedly easier, more beautiful, and better thought out on the Mac, and yes, iPhoto is an industry-leading tool. However, its not like those with PCs cant use their digital cameras. So what is Apples differentiating quality? To find this we need to go back to 1984.

The world was dominated by command line operating systems when the first Mac came out. Compare OS6 to DOS and the changes are revolutionary. An entirely new metaphor for the computer desktop was brought to life; Apple was truly thinking differently. These changes are still very much with us today, and whether we use a Mac or a PC, we are living the desktop metaphor that Apple popularized (not invented, Xerox did that) with the Macintosh. Apples true differentiating quality was creating revolutionary change in the way we interface with technology.

What Apple needs to do now, more than ever, is get back to this defining difference. And creating yet another iMac (no matter how beautiful it is) is nothing more than repackaging something developed in 1984. Apple needs to move beyond the Macintosh. After all, the company is called Apple isnt it? Not Macintosh. What Apple should do is concentrate all of its innate creativity on making that product that is so startlingly better than OS 6 was to DOS. And no, I dont mean a PDA or an iPhone. I mean a product that does something differently and better than anything else. Something truly novel.

Surely this is easier said than done, but I do know that if Apple wants to stay true to its ethos of thinking differently it needs to start thinking beyond the Macintosh. There are some companies out there, like UserCreations, trying to rethink the desktop. We take for granted today that the only user interface is point and click. But are we now like those drones in the famous 1984 commercial? We point and click and point and click all day. I do not pretend to know what the answer is. I do know that Apple is the company with the vision, resources, and chutzpa to find an answer.


  • My vote is for Apple to produce a car. Hey if Swatch can team up with Mercedes with the Smartcar why can’t Apple team up with say, BMW? They could call it the iBeem.

    contrloptionme had this to say on Jan 14, 2003 Posts: 6
  • An iCar? forget it. Apple was just plain lucky with the Mac. Anytime they’ve tried to branch out (the Newton, the Quicktake, printers, Pippen, and many other examples) they’ve failed miserably. Apple just got lucky with the Mac and will live off it for as long as they can. The original Apple I was a great product thought up in a garage. The next great thing will be thought up in a garage too, not in some big corporation like Apple.

    bobby had this to say on Jan 14, 2003 Posts: 15
  • You forgot the iPod, bobby. I think that’s done pretty well for Apple.

    Matt had this to say on Jan 15, 2003 Posts: 2
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