Michael Mace, once a marketing director at Apple, says that overall, Apple Computer has been a “massive failure.” Instead of changing the world from “bad computer design and stifling corporate dictates,” Apple today is “the eccentric elderly uncle of the computer industry — still interesting, still beloved, but no longer truly powerful,” he writes in an open letter to the
Apple Computer History Weblog.
is an event that celebrates Apple’s historical contribution from its inception in 1976 through 1993. It will be held Saturday, Sept. 13, at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. The event is open to Apple and Claris alumni who worked at the companies during the years being celebrated. The Apple History Weblog is on ongoing record of AppleLore. Registered attendees can populate the Weblog with their personal stories, experiences and anecdotes about key events in Apple’s history.
“Although we successfully forced personal computing to move to the graphical interface, since then fundamental innovation in personal computing has ground to a stop,” Mace writes. “The operating system most computers users work with every day is stuck in 1993, with very little fundamental improvement in the last decade. The applications on users’ desktops, bloated beasts like Word and PowerPoint, haven’t substantially improved in years.”
There’s no effective competition because Apple failed, and it failed because the tale of the company’s employees from the late 1980s to the late 1990s, himself included, is one of “individual brilliance and group stupidity,” he adds.
“Never in my career have I worked with brighter, more interesting, more capable people. Probably I never will again,” Mace writes. “And yet, despite all our braininess, as a team we were the Keystone Kops of computing. For every innovation we brought to market, a dozen great ideas were strangled in the labs. Hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on massive projects that yielded exactly nothing. Remember Taligent? Kaleida? Jaguar [not the Mac OS X version, but an early effort to move Apple to RISC-based computing]? OpenDoc? The list is almost endless. Even today, the PC world has yet to fully deploy innovations that we worked on and failed to bring to market in the 1990s, things like component software and the advanced user interface ideas in the Sybil project.”
Apple’s problem during the time was that the company’s employees and executives didn’t work together, but were segmented by their own projects and personal agendas, Mace feels. Things are different now that Steve Jobs has returned to the fold, but he had “to burn the old company to the ground in order to salvage something viable out of it,” he adds.
Naturally, not everyone agrees. Jim Armstrong, who worked at Apple from 1983-1997 as a multimedia evangelist and competitive analyst, writes on the Apple Computer History Weblog that “Apple changed the world, and not in a little way.”
“It changed publishing industry forever,” he says. “It changed the music industry, the film industry and the video industry. Forever. It influenced in the past and is even now influencing Microsoft and the World Wide Web. It was once said the Lou Reed would only sell 5,000 albums when he produced one. But everyone who bought a copy started their own band. The same is true with Apple. So, in this sense, Apple hasn’t failed.”
Based on what he saw at this year’s Worldwide Developer Conference, Apple has a long and prosperous life ahead of it, he adds.
“The 64-bit G5 RISC processor from IBM is awesome,” Armstrong writes. “The price performance of a dual processor G5 is the best available in the computer industry. Apple and IBM are just at the beginning of this new architecture. I have seen the IBM roadmap of future versions of the Power5 and Power6 chips, and there is nothing on the horizon from other manufacturers that will outperform it … Panther is way beyond what can be done with other operating systems. Longhorn from Microsoft is way, way out on the horizon. They will have a lot of catching up to do with it.”