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The 10 most significant Apple keynotes

Apple keynotes have become hotly anticipated events. On the eve of WWDC 2013, Dan Moren looks back at the ten most significant Apple presentations.

The 10 most significant Apple keynotes

Apple keynotes have become hotly anticipated events, watched closely by folks both inside and outside the tech industry. Here are just 10 of the most significant presentations from the company’s history.

10. Macworld Expo 2003 — January 7, 2003

In 2003, the first browser wars were going strong; in January, Apple threw its hat into the ring by announcing the public beta of Safari. As important as Safari was for the Mac, it became even more critical just a few years later with the release of the iPhone, of which the browser was a strong core component.

9. Music Event — September 7, 2005

At the time, Steve Jobs’s decision to kill off the company’s most popular product—the iPod mini—seemed nuts. But the introduction of its replacement, the iPod nano, set the stage for Apple’s pattern of constantly iterating and improving upon its work, and never being afraid to throw out what it’s doing in favor of something better.

8. Worldwide Developers Conference — May 6, 2002

Speaking of killing your darlings: At 2002’s Worldwide Developers Conference, Steve Jobs presided over a mock funeral for Mac OS 9, which Apple discontinued in favor of the then year-old Mac OS X. In the same way that Apple axed floppy disks and legacy ports on the iMac, the OS 9 funeral was meant to illustrate a clean break with the Apple of yesteryear, urging developers to forget the past and move forward on Apple’s new platform.

Image courtesy Mike Zornek.

7. Macworld Expo 2006 — January 10, 2006

Maybe transitions are just a theme for Apple. In June 2005, Steve Jobs shocked Apple customers everywhere by announcing that the company would shift its Mac line from the PowerPC architecture to Intel chips. But it wasn’t until Macworld Expo in January 2006 that we saw the fruits of those labors: the new Intel-based iMac and the rebranded MacBook Pro. And we’ve never looked back.

6. iPhone Software Roadmap Event — March 6, 2008

Having previously declared that Web apps were “a pretty sweet solution” for third-party developers looking to make software for iOS, Steve Jobs seemingly reversed course—as planned all along, really!—when Apple released an iOS developer roadmap and software development kit at this special event in March 2008.

5. iPad Special Event — January 27, 2010

Rumors of an Apple tablet had hit critical mass by the time Steve Jobs took the stage at the Yerba Buena Center in January 2010. While some observers derided the iPad as nothing more than “a big iPod touch,” it ended up being the device that launched a thousand competitors, and to this day it remains the tablet to beat. It also solidified Apple’s strategy of holding stand-alone events to introduce new products, rather than tying them to existing conferences.

4. iPod Special Event — October 23, 2001

The iMac and its successors had managed to keep Apple afloat, but it was the introduction of the iPod three years later that started the company on its course to world domination. The deck-of-cards-sized MP3 player, which put 1000 songs in your pocket, was an odd play at the time for Apple, which was then still primarily a computer company. But the iPod launched a future of digital entertainment and consumer electronics devices that has defined Apple for the past decade.

3. Macworld Expo Boston — August 6, 1997

Nothing epitomizes the modern Apple more than Steve Jobs’s return to the company. But his first keynote upon that return, during 1997’s Macworld Expo Boston, wasn’t an unqualified success. Microsoft’s Bill Gates loomed, Big Brother-style, over the proceedings, thanks to the $150 million deal that would ensure Apple’s solvency for a little while longer. Given the shift in Apple’s leadership, no products were announced at the 1997 keynote—it wouldn’t be until almost a year later that Steve Jobs’s return was really felt, with the release of the iMac.

2. Apple shareholders event — January 24, 1984

Here’s the one that started it all. Though the introduction of the Macintosh had been teased two days earlier with the famous 1984 Super Bowl commercial, it was on January 24 that Steve Jobs showed Apple shareholders the company’s next, ambitious project: a computer called Macintosh. Heck, it literally introduced itself.

1. Macworld Expo — January 9, 2007

An Apple phone was a source of constant speculation leading up to Steve Jobs’s January 2007 keynote. But nobody knew what such a device would look like until the then Apple CEO pulled it out of his pocket … and subsequently ordered 5000 lattes from Starbucks. Even now, the fondest moment many of us have of the late Steve Jobs is when he gleefully exclaimed, “Are you getting it? These are not three separate devices. This is one device. And we are calling it iPhone.”