How many times has Apple changed the world? There’s a bit of hubris in the statement, assuming that any mass use of technology beyond electricity has actually changed the world for the better. Apple’s Steve Jobs thought his company’s products changed the world and perhaps put a dent in the universe.
Pokémon GO is an app that comes to mind as something that may have implemented change in behavior but not necessarily for the good of mankind, unless gathering mindless drones to a single location to stare into handheld devices for hours is good. Still, it’s a worthy thought to consider how many times Apple changed the world of technology.
Computing. Computers. Users.
Many Windows users would not consider Microsoft’s effort to dent the universe as a worthwhile endeavor unless the considered ‘dent’ is akin to a crumpled fender. Still, Apple’s Jobs worked toward a noble cause which gave him many riches so let me take a look at the ones that seemed to matter the most.
Apple II – without question Apple was the first personal computer company to popularize computer usage at home, in schools, and to a certain extent, on the desktop in businesses.
Mac – and who would deny that the Mac– or, perhaps more so, the GUI (graphical user interface originally inspired at Xerox PARC)– changed the face of personal computing. That it took Windows a decade to catch up is a tribute to how far advanced the Mac was and how little Apple moved the bar forward in the next decade.
iPod and iTunes – the combo changed the music industry, that’s for sure, and provided hundreds of millions of people an easier and better way to listen to music, buy music, and store music. That MP3s are still around is a testament to computer users tired of upgrading music with every generation of technology (78s, 33 1/3s, 45s, 8-tracks, cassette tapes, CDs, et al).
Apple Store – this one shows up on my list not because Apple Store changed the world, but showed the world how a store was still relevant in the age of online mega-stores and home delivery.
iPhone – this diminutive device might be the single most dent the universe of technology has ever seen. Add to the billion or so iPhones Apple sold, and the couple of billion Android copy cat devices sold, and the entire PC industry has been dwarfed by a device that is more like a Mac in your hand than a telephone in your pocket. And, to put it mildly, the iPhone’s camera has changed the face of how society communicates.
iPad – the device that actually started the iPhone goes on my list because Apple showed the world the right way to do a tablet, and to this day insists that most personal computer users don’t need all that heft and power as much as they need usability in a more compact package.
Watch – Apple’s most controversial new product goes on my list because of what it represents; portable computing to the extreme, a wearable that definitely heralds the future of mobile computing. Compare the original iPhone in 2007 to the recently released iPhone 7 and you’ll see nearly miraculous but incremental progress in less than a decade. Now, extrapolate to the year 2025 when Watch celebrates a decade of use. What will it do?
Along the way to the future Apple was a pioneer not just of products that moved the industry to a new direction but also added and discarded addendum technologies with ease. The big floppy disk was killed off in favor of the 3.5-inch floppy which Apple killed in favor of CDs which it killed in favor of wireless. That’s how Apple rolls. Flash? Didn’t need it any more. Headphone jack? It’s time.
Perhaps more than any other consumer technology company, Apple actually changes not only its own product line, but drives the entire industry in new directions.