The Apple family tree: Apple platforms through the years

Only two machines in this series, the 500 and the 700, reached the market. Their high price and bizarre mixed pedigree limited their appeal, and the platform met its end with Steve Jobs’ return to Apple in 1997. Interestingly, the ANS 500 and 700 are the only Apple machines ever designed exclusively to run a non-Apple operating system.

iPod (2001 to present)

Apple
The original iPod

Platform size: 20

As a consumer electronics gadget with a streamlined interface and (very) limited third-party software support, the classic iPod series is something that few people think of as a computer platform. But underneath those fancy click wheels lay the beating heart of a computing machine.

Every member of the classic iPod family (save one, the first iPod Shuffle) has sported an ARM-based CPU, most in configurations designed by PortalPlayer. Similarly, almost all classic iPods run a custom version of the Pixo OS, an embedded operating system initially licensed by Apple (and later bought outright from the Pixo company itself).

For the first five years of its lifespan, the iPod classic platform remained closed to third party development. In 2006, Apple unveiled a line of iPod click-wheel games created by select, Apple-invited third-party developers—with casual games like Bejeweled and Mahjong being typical fare. Overall, 50 titles appeared on the iPod before Apple removed them from the iTunes store in 2011.

Of the various iPods, the only units capable of running Apple-sanctioned third-party software are the later iPod classic models and the iPod nano. According to most reports, all iPod nano iterations run versions of Pixo OS, even those with touchscreen interfaces.

iPod classic (2001 to present)

CPU class: ARM
OS: Pixo OS
Development status: Moderated
Subplatform size: 7

iPod mini (2004 to 2005)

CPU class: ARM
OS: Pixo OS
Development status: Closed
Subplatform size: 2

iPod nano (2005 to present)

CPU class: ARM
OS: Pixo OS
Development status: Moderated
Subplatform size: 7

iPod shuffle 1st generation (2005 to 2006)

CPU class: Sigmatel STMP3550
OS: iPod Shuffle OS
Development status: Closed
Subplatform size: 1

iPod shuffle 2nd to 4th generation (2006 to present)

CPU class: ARM
OS: iPod Shuffle OS
Development status: Closed
Subplatform size: 3

Apple TV (2007 to present)

Apple
Original Apple TV

Development status: Closed
Platform size: 3

The Apple TV digital media box began its life as a special-purpose x86-based computer running a modified version of OS X. In 2010, the platform fractured drastically, shifting to an ARM/iOS combination that more closely resembled an iPhone than a Mac.

So far, Apple’s diminutive TV box isn’t an open or even moderated platform, but with an app-like home screen in the most recent OS version, many suspect that that status will change at some point.

Apple TV 1st generation (2007 to 2010)

CPU class: Intel x86
OS: OS X (modified)
Subplatform size: 1

Apple TV 2nd and 3rd generation (2010 to present)

CPU class: ARM
OS: iOS
Subplatform size: 2

iOS (2007 to present)

Apple
The original iPhone

CPU class: ARM
OS: iOS
Development status: Moderated
Platform size: 16

iOS began is life as iPhone OS, which itself stemmed from Apple’s OS X desktop OS. This touchscreen operating system powers three distinct hardware subplatforms: iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Each contains a CPU based on the ARM microprocessor architecture. Many iOS apps can run on all three subplatforms, while others are limited to or optimized for a certain iOS device class.

iOS initially shipped on the 2007 iPhone without the App Store or any means of installing third-party applications. In 2008, Apple launched the App Store, and iOS quickly became one of the most populous software platforms of all time. As of this writing, it boasts over 700,000 third-party apps and is growing bigger every day.

With an ever-increasing stable of family members, the iOS platform is the heir apparent to claim the title of most popular Apple platform.

iPhone (2007 to present)

Subplatform size: 6

iPod touch (2007 to present)

Subplatform size: 5

iPad (2010 to present)

Subplatform size: 5

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