Apple's Macintosh: 30 years doomed

Apple's Mac turns 30 today. Apple's Website today celebrates the platform that defined and revolutionized the PC -- despite being "doomed" since it began.

30 years doomed: Happy Birthday, Macintosh

30 years of Apple not getting it

You see, the Mac was doomed from day one:

"The nature of the personal computer revolution is simply not fully understood by companies like Apple (or anyone else, for that matter.)," wrote John Dvorak in 1984.

Apple sold 70,000 Macs by the end of April 1984 but interest soon waned and sales slowed, contributing to Steve Jobs' dismissal from the company.

"We were asking developers to bet their companies on a computer that had no installed base, no tools, and no brand awareness," said Guy Kawasaki.

Apple stuck with the platform. The Apple LaserWriter printer and Aldus Pagemaker, launched the era of desktop publishing. By the end of the decade the company owned the graphics design market.

The company proliferated its Macintosh range but by the early '90's weak management meant the company offered a confusing matrix of Mac models.

A desperate move to support Mac clones further weakened the platform as consumers purchased cheaper clones. Apple's struggles with creating a new OS further diluted the brand. Meanwhile the Windows ecosystem had proliferated.

"Whether they standalone or are acquired, Apple as we know it, is cooked," said Stan Dolberg of Forrester Research in January 1996.

The purchase of NeXT in 1996 and the return of Steve Jobs to the company saw its product range reduced and a return to focus.

These glimmers of hope didn't impress the critics. Asked what he'd do if he ran Apple, Dell's Michael Dell said:

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders."

Apple responded with the popular black PowerBooks and the generation-defining iMac, the first computer to ship with a built-in modem at a time when Internet use was exploding. The company followed this up with 1999's iBook, the first wireless laptop.

Both breathed new life into the platform, but the firm faced challenges securing sufficient distribution to capitalize on the renewed interest in the Mac. What was to be done? 

Apple appears to be facing a dead end in its business growth, the victim of mismanagement and unmitigated hubris,"wrote Sam Jaffe.

He was wrong. Apple opened its first Apple retail store in 2001, a huge step in wide product distribution. Doomed?

"I give them two years before they're turning out the lights on a very painful and expensive mistake," said David Goldstein of Channel Marketing Corp.

Mac sales exploded as the hugely successful iPod ignited interest in its platform. Critics didn't see the writing on the wall. Apple's Mac was "fading away". What was coming?

"Certainly by...2005, possibly by the end of 2003, Linux will pass Mac OS as the No. 2 operating environment," said IDC's Dan Kusnetzky in 2002. "Apple will…abandon Mac hardware by the start of the next decade," said Chris Selbold in 2006.

Apple today is one of the world's top five PC vendors and seems to have no intention of quitting the market it defined -- and you can read a whole heap of 'Apple is doomed' predictions from those who confused wish-fulfillment with objective analysis right here.

“There is a super-important role [for the Mac] that will always be,” Phil Schiller tells Macworld. “We don’t see an end to that role. There’s a role for the Mac as far as our eye can see."

Not such a bad promise for a product that's been doomed since birth.

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Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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