The Apple II was the computer that built Apple, whereas the Apple III damn near killed it. The Apple III was designed to be a serious business machine. A lot of great business software had been made for the Apple II such as VisiCalc, and Apple wanted to build a machine that addressed this. (This was before the Macintosh, so Apple wasn’t seen as the company for creatives yet).
There was just one problem: the Apple III had, according to Steve Wozniak himself, a 100 per cent failure rate. Every single machine Apple sold had to be repaired.
Jobs had insisted on no fans or air vents to ensure it ran quietly; so engineers made the case from aluminium (to dissipate heat). But they hadn’t calculated the logic board and case properly, and the Apple III would overheat which screwed with the logic board. The screen would display garbled text, the solder would melt to form connections between chips, and some users reported floppy disks showing signs of heat damage. Chips would melt out of their sockets.
One famous fix involved lifting the machine three inches in the air and dropping it so the chips would slam back in to their sockets. This was Apple’s official solution. Frankly we’re amazed Apple was ever taken seriously ever again.
Anything else? Sure… the Apple III was far more expensive than rival CP/M business computers, and had very little software available for it, so even if it had worked there wasn’t much demand for it.
To call the Apple III a commercial flop is a gargantuan understatement. Steve Jobs said Apple lost “infinite, incalculable amounts” of money on the Apple III, although this wasn’t quite right: it was all too calculable, indeed, with the numbers adding up to $60m. To its credit Apple fixed every single machine, and kept fixing the design until it worked.