We’re all Apple fans. But why? Deep thoughts like that — and 50th issues — call for a countdown! But don’t worry, we balanced our enthusiasm with a hard-hitting look at the dark side of Apple…
Turning 50 is certainly a milestone, and we’ve been saving something special for our 50th issue: a countdown that examines all the reasons that Apple fans are Apple fans. After all, as the Microsoft Stores so perfectly prove, no other tech titan can inspire the same level of devotion.
But there’s no single reason we love our Macs, iPhones, iPads, and iPods — in fact, we thought of a lot more than 50. It took some of the most epic staff meetings we’ve had in Mac|Life history — we haggled, we argued, and we picked on Nic and Flo because teasing them is pretty fun — but in the end, we emerged with a thoughtful, incisive look at what makes Apple so successful.
To prevent any rose-colored glint to this story, we conclude with the five ways that Apple drives us crazy. So if at any point this list gets a little too smoochy for you, head here for a bracing, no-holds-barred look at exactly what’s wrong with Apple.
Now it’s your turn: What did we get wrong? Right? What else should be on this list — or should come off? Let us know at email@example.com (we’ve warned our inboxes to steel themselves). And seriously — thanks for sticking with us for 50 great issues.
100, here we come!
50. Bertrand Serlet
Bertrand Serlet killing it at the WWDC 2009 keynote.
Nothing’s hotter than a French accent. Unless it’s a jolly-seeming, awesome-haired Apple executive who uses his French accent to eviscerate Windows on stage at WWDC, bringing the house down with phrases like “Redmond, start your photocopiers!” and “It’s still DLL hell.” That’s entertainment.
There’s a silver lining to keeping your data in this cloud…
If you use an iPhone, MobileMe is a no-brainer — its wireless contacts and calendar syncing are awesome. Add to that the ability to sync bookmarks across machines, 20GB of iDisk storage, a bevy of third-party apps that can sync via MobileMe, and your own @me.com IMAP email address…and you’ve got a winning combo of cloud-based power.
Bundling a MobileMe membership with new Macs would be a killer proposition, but even as a paid add-on, MobileMe is pretty sweet. Still, as we all know, MobileMe does have a dark side —see here for more.
48. The Clamshell iBooks
The iBook G3s make us happy as a clam.
The iBook G3s were released in 1999, and their distinctive design quickly netted them a handful of nicknames ranging from “Clamshell” to “Barbie’s toilet seat.” But the iBook G3s didn’t just bring color and style to an overly beige laptop market; they were sturdy as all get-out and the first mainstream computers with built-in wireless networking.
47. iTunes U
Q: How can you lose? A: Trick question. You can’t.
What’s not to love about free education? This section of the iTunes Store has fascinating info about virtually any subject, including entire courses from institutions like Yale, Stanford, MIT, and the Library of Congress. Talk about smart.
46. Infinite Loop
A friend at Apple laughed at the lettering, saying “Steve hates bitmap.”
Apple’s campus is decidedly spare and simple, just like the company’s products. On the outside, there’s not much to it: a Company Store (the only place in the world to score official Apple-brand clothes) and a now-defunct icon garden — and that’s as far as most people get. But inside, there’s a cafeteria dubbed Caffé Macs and a pavilion fit to host huge bands (Jimmy Eat World once played there). All in all, it’s a terrific HQ.
In the last five years, Apple made significant strides toward becoming the environmentally friendly company we know now. It’s eliminated PVC, arsenic, and BFRs from its product lines, then cut mercury from the iMac’s LCDs, just to name a few of its Earth-friendly changes. We sure do appreciate a green Apple.
44. The iMac G4
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, y’all.
The iMac G4 might seem like the ugly duckling of the iMac line — dubbed by Mac users everywhere as “the lamp one” — but looks aren’t everything. The Lamp One brought a decreased footprint, a swivel-able screen, and a paradigm-setting whiter-than-snow color scheme to the iMac line.
43. Clarus the Dogcow
Before there really was an internet, Apple managed to launch an internet-style meme: Clarus, that’s you! This wacky icon first appeared as part of the Cairo font in the original Mac, then moved over to the Page Setup panel in the Finder. Clarus was such a beloved mascot that the folks in Developer Technical Support had to write an explanation for it. It’s as awesome as Clarus, and you can read it at http://bit.ly/t5knc.
The mothership for podcasts
Long before iTunes’ podcast subscriptions were a twinkle in Steve Jobs’ eye, podcasts were known as “webcasts.” But then came iPods, which became the perfect way to lug around these frequently lengthy listens. A journalist dubbed them “podcasts,” and the moniker stuck. And though Apple didn’t invent them, it did more to push them as everyday downloadables than any other mainstream company. In June 2005, Apple released iTunes 4.9, which let users subscribe to podcasts quickly and freely. We’ve been listening ever since.
41. The Newton
Eat up Martha.
Before the Palm Pilot, WinMo, and the iPhone, there was the Newton. Sure, its handwriting recognition was a bit janky and was the focus of jokes on The Simpsons. But without this doomed PDA, those devices probably wouldn’t be around.
40. The Packaging
Who else keeps all their Apple packaging safe and sound…simply because it’s too pretty to recycle?
Apple clearly cares about creative, well-designed packaging, and with each new product, it proves that the devil is in the details. Every Apple device comes in an elegant, simple-to-open box — like the iPhone 4’s truffle-style box and the iPod’s easy-to-open plastic shell. Even the more spartan MacBook “suitcase” boxes stand out in a crowd, thanks to the gorgeous photos filling the main panels.
But in general, Apple’s packaging is so cleverly engineered that we always feel like we’re spoiling well-folded origami by tugging it apart. Fortunately, the familiar and comforting words “Design by Apple in California” encourage us to charge ahead like kids at Christmas, and we’ve all learned that opening one is so unlike the experience of opening…well, pretty much anything else that it’s become a vital part of the Apple mystique.
39. Support for Education
When you’re there at the beginning, you’re often there until the end.
Raise your hand if your first encounter with an Apple computer was in grammar school — remember Math Blaster and Oregon Trail? Fiddling with BASIC and Logo? Good times.
Apple’s always supported education, and in 2002, it even released the eMac specifically tailored to classrooms’ needs — and budgets. The CRT eMac had the same 700MHz G4 processor and 128MB of memory as the new LCD-equipped iMac G4, but it cost $300 less. While eMacs eventually went on sale to the general public, Apple gets props from us for putting the kids first — and also for how the Apple Store for Education still offers special deals for teachers, administrators, staff, and college students.
38. No Viruses
Before your Windows-loving friends start talking about Trojan horses and market share, think about this: OS X is on version 6, right? In that time, how many viruses have taken over your Mac? Uh-huh. But will Macs be virus-free forever? Probably not, but for now, we’re sitting pretty.
37. The Macintosh Portable
The Portable was easy to upgrade and included a swappable keyboard.
The Portable was Apple’s first “laptop” and the world’s first full-powered portable computer. Of course, at 16 pounds, “luggable” might have been a more accurate name. Still, we’ve gotta give credit to Cupertino for trying, even if the Portable didn’t exactly take
off with Mac users.
36. Easy Networking and Sharing
The AirPort Utility makes managing your network a headache-free task.
Floppy disks are dead. The network is the way to move information now, and nobody makes networking easier than Apple. AirPort introduced Wi-Fi to the masses in 1999, and the innovation train has been rolling ever since, right on through to 2008’s set-it-and-forget-it Time Capsule, which automates network backups without a single wire. And then there’s Bonjour, which finds other computers and printers on your network without you lifting a finger. The Sharing pane of System Preferences also lets you share files, printers, optical drives, and even your whole screen with just a few clicks. It just works, and we just love it.
35. The Power Mac G4 Cube
It looks like a cube, it soundes like a cube, but it’s a computer in an acrylic box.
Somewhat reminiscent of today’s Mac mini, the Cube was a Mac with a small, interesting form factor, and we admire it for its boldness and its shout-out to Jobs’ days at NeXT. Unfortunately, its high price point and lack of expandability — not to mention those cracks in its acrylic enclosure — lead to it eventually fizzling out of existence.
34. The Best Bundles
Compare this to the junk that comes installed on a new PC. Yeah, no contest.
When you boot up a brand-new PC, you’re greeted with umpteen offers to buy this security software and that media browser. And oh yeah….Internet Explorer. In contrast, a new Mac greets you with Safari, iPhoto, iMovie, GarageBand, and a fistful of super-useful utilities for tasks ranging from networking to migrating between machines. Thanks, Apple.
33. The Intel Switch
Intel Inside? Woot!
After years of jabs at Intel, the writing was on the wall. Apple’s deal with Motorola and IBM (at the end, just IBM) to produce PowerPC chips for Macs that could compete with Intel’s offerings was doomed. Cheers to that, because with Intel inside, the Mac enjoys a level playing field with the rest of the industry, and creating a virtual machine on your Mac no longer brings it to a stand-still. That’s right, an actual processor roadmap makes the Mac better and us happy.
32. Retina Display
A display this crisp can make a believer out of anyone.
Remember pixels? We don’t either. Ever since the iPhone 4 was launched, our Retina Displays have been the killer feature we never knew we needed. One glimpse at the crisp letters and smooth-as-butter icons, and it was love at first sight.
31. Great Commercials
The renowned “1984” commercial launched Apple’s tradition of creativity in advertising.
From the eerie “1984” ad directed by Ridley Scott to the memorable “Get a Mac” campaign, Apple’s commercials have been iconic, often parodied, and almost always a hoot.
30. The Mac Pro
The Mac Pro is our computing hero.
If you went back in time and told yourself you’d one day have a 12-core Mac Pro with 32GB of RAM and 8TB of storage space, wouldn’t Past You have peed your pants? Here’s to the most upgradable Mac ever — and a shout-out to its predecessor, the Power Mac G5, still desirable on eBay four years after being discontinued.
29. The Apple Logo
Apple’s original logo was of Sir Isaac Newton hanging out under an apple tree, reading “Unix for Dummies.”
It began with Sir Isaac Newton sitting under an apple tree and evolved into the “bitten” rainbow logo that defined Apple until 1998. Now the familiar monochrome Apple logo can be seen illuminated on the hood of MacBook Pros in coffee shops everywhere, and it’s become one of the world’s most iconic logos.
The logo that identified Apple for decades.
28. The 12-inch PowerBook
4.6 pounds of awesome
It was the last generation of Apple laptops to use the PowerPC G4 processor, and it ushered in the era of aluminum MacBooks. The still-beloved 12-inch PowerBook was the precursor to Apple’s latest lightweight, the 11-inch second-gen MacBook Air, and more importantly, it proved that there’s a market for a compact Apple laptop.
27. System 7
It’s hard to imagine life before multitasking. (Photo by Yandle)
System 7 gave birth to several modern-day Mac features. Multitasking, aliases, and opening documents by drag-and-drop were just a few of its innovations. In fact, we still miss the old Apple menu for quickly opening favorite files and applications.
26. The “Little Things”
The MagSafe charger might seem like a small feature…until it saves you from wrecking your Mac.
Every time you buy an Apple product, you get more bells and whistles than a marching band. Thoughtful details — like light-up keyboards, voice control, universal access, the MagSafe adapter, and accelerometers — come standard and make your gear even easier to love. Plus, with every whiz-bang feature comes a handful of clever uses for it, like your MacBook’s motion sensor locking the hard drive if it’s dropped.
25. The Mac Mini
The idea of handling an entire computer in the palm of your hands was truly innovative.
Launched in 2005, the mini’s aimed both at PC switchers who already have a monitor, keyboard, and mouse — and at anyone else (ooh! ooh! us!) who simply admires its awesomely small form factor. But we’ve also learned to respect its powers as a server or a home-media Mac connected to a TV — all possible without bruising your bank account.
24. The GUI
Doing windows isn’t so bad after all.
Apple didn’t invent the graphical user interface, but it certainly perfected it — so much so that Microsoft has spent the last 25 years playing catch-up. Apple started using a GUI with the Lisa in 1983, and those concepts have been honed into the OS X that we know today.
23. The iPhone’s Touchscreen
Two of the early touchscreens developed in the 1970s by CERN for use in the control room of the Super Proton Synchrotron. No, we’re not making that up! (Photo by Maximilien Brice)
Like the GUI, touchscreens were around before Apple was, and other companies used them extensively before Apple did, but the iPhone’s touchscreen expanded our conception of what a touch-based interface could do — and why it was so cool. Now we swipe and pinch-zoom on a multitude of devices, but by making a touchscreen so central to the iPhone, Apple started something important and big.
Hello, world! (Photo by Sebastian Reichert for www.koeln.de)
Apple’s cofounder was almost one spot higher on our list, but then we realized Steve Wozniak would want AppleScript and Automator to go first (see #21). That’s just the kind of stand-up, big-hearted, Segway-riding Nerd King he is. We love you, Woz.
21. Automator & AppleScript
The other thing we love about the Automator is its adorable icon.
Remember BASIC, the simple programming language taught to 8-year-olds in the 1980s? Okay, that went nowhere, but luckily, Automator and AppleScript are nearly as easy to learn and infinitely more useful. Cheers to Apple for including the building blocks to becoming a power user with every Mac.
20. The 2010 MacBook Air
Thin is in, and flash is fast.
Apple’s TV spot for the MacBook Air boasts that everything it’s learned about design has culminated in these gorgeous little 11- and 13-inch laptops. And you know what? We believe it. We drank the Kool-Aid. And our iPads sit neglected ’cause we can’t keep our paws off the Air.
19. Art for the Masses
iMovie’s great for so capturing smiling children and sharing those videos with their prom date 11 years later.
There was a time when only professionals or dedicated hobbyists could publish their own works, cut their own movies, or record their own tunes. In 1985, Apple and Aldus launched the wave that changed all that by releasing the LaserWriter printer and PageMaker, a powerful one-two punch that ignited desktop publishing. Throughout the 1990s, Macs earned their rep as the platform for digital publishing with support from software like QuarkXPress, Photoshop, and Illustrator — and for an encore, they branched out into other media with iMovie in 1999 and GarageBand in 2004. Yes, plenty of other apps covered those bases (and some of them first), but only on Macs was the learning process cut so dramatically short. The effect was gigantic. Pretty much anyone with a hankering to create learned they could easily make movies, music, and much more, giving today’s and tomorrow’s artists a powerful way to get started.
18. “It Just Works”
A simple thing that conveys so much about how Apple computers are designed to help, not hinder. (Photo by Rama, Wikimedia Commons, Cc-by-sa-2.0-fr)
Sure, Apple devices sometimes glitch and crash, but if you’ve ever dabbled in “other” platforms, you know how easy it is to start taking it for granted that Apple’s creations are mostly plug and play. There’s almost no arguing with drivers or control panels — everything from Wi-Fi networks to iTunes/iDevice integration to software updates and beyond is as painless as can be — and to us, that’s priceless.
17. The iPad
Anybody still think it’s just a big iPod touch? We didn’t think so.
“Come see our latest creation” read Apple’s humble invitation to the iPad unveiling. Since then, the iPad has taken the world and our hearts by storm, becoming one of the fastest-selling gadgets of all time while changing the way we read books and play music, movies, and games.
16. The Apple II
The computer that spawned a million Mac geeks.
Many of us got our starts on the venerable Apple II in a classroom. Before the Mac, there was the boxy Apple II and its expansion slots, green monochrome screen, 4KB of RAM, and 5.25-inch floppy drives. Oregon Trail has never been better. B-A-N-G-B-A-N-G.
15. The Bondi Blue iMac
Beige is dead, long live Bondi Blue! After all, that color adorned the all-in-one Mac that brought Apple back from the brink. After years of hiding your computer under your desk, it was time to make it the centerpiece of the work area. This iMac was the first in a long line of beautifully designed Macs that told the world that a powerful, easy-to-use computer didn’t have to look like a cardboard box with ports.
Ads with Jeff Goldblum “lamented“ the ease of setting up the new iMac. Plug it in to the wall and in to a phone jack, and you were ready for a brave new world of computing. The iMac has seen a multitude of designs since the Bondi Blue took center stage, but this bubble-shaped Mac will always have a special place in our hearts.
14. Mac OS Isn’t Windows
Life is about choices: iPhone or Android. Mac|Life or Macworld. Mac OS X or Windows 7. And though we love to have options, we’re happy Apple made that last decision a no-brainer.
OS X’s superiority is clear from the moment you buy it. It’s $29 for a single license and $49 for a family pack — you don’t have to decide if you’re Home Premium, Professional, or Ultimate. There’s no activation code. No upcharge to add additional features. No confusing User Account Control dialogs.
Setup takes just minutes. The plain-language System Preferences are easy to understand. We could go on and on, but since you use a Mac too, we don’t have to. You already know.
13. Impact on the Music Industry
Apple made digital downloads simple and legal.
In the olden days (pre-2003), acquiring digital music online meant settling. You could have poorly organized illegal MP3s of dubious quality, or monthly subscriptions to complicated sites with skimpy catalogs of minor-league music. Apple’s answer — then called the iTunes Music Store — was the first to bring together the five major labels in a simple interface. Clearly, they were onto something.
Since the debut of the Music Store, paid album downloads continue to climb — and recent estimates put iTunes’ share of those downloads around 90 percent. That kind of clout is game-changing.
In 2007, Apple pressured the labels into eliminating cumbersome digital rights management (DRM) after years of complaints from fans, musicians, and even Steve Jobs himself. Apple proved what fans have been talking about for years — give people a simple way to get music online, and they’ll gladly pay for it. Even old-school holdouts like the Beatles get that now.
12. The Apple Store
Our country’s financial outlook might be less than rosy, but you would never know it if you wander into an Apple Store. After relying on mail-order, mom-and-pop stores, and deals with places like Sears, Apple finally decided it was time to create its own retail experience. And it’s so cool and groundbreaking that even Microsoft has copied it. Again.
11. Jonathan Ive
This fellow can be credited for the design of a majority of Apple’s greatest hits.
These days, almost everything you love about the look and feel of Apple devices can be credited to Apple’s superstar designer, Jonathan Ive. His highlight reel includes the iMac, MacBook Pro, iPod, iPhone, and iPad…no wonder he’s nearly as famous and important as Steve himself.
10. Design Sense
The original iMac came in a variety of flavors, including “Strawberry,” “Blueberry,” and an ethereal-sounding skin called “Flower Power.”
Back in the day, computers were often limited to the stale outfitting of a beige chassis, and as their innards got faster, their bodies stayed bloated. But Apple changed all this in 1998 with the introduction of the iMac G3. The candy-colored plastic shell helped distinguish Apple’s focus on design — something other computer companies hadn’t yet considered. Apple followed suit with the iBook in 1999 and eventually the PowerBook G4 in 2001, a refreshed notebook with a longer battery life and a speedy processor inside a sleek aluminum body.
Since then, the hits just keep coming — who can forget the small, sleek lines of the Mac mini, the iPhone, the iPod, and even the new Apple TV? All these luscious devices prove that Apple has mastered the art of designing gear that perfectly marries simple yet sexy form with powerful function.
9. Product-Announcement Events
Everytime Apple holds one of its now-legendary product announcements, the tech world stands still. Jobs & Co. know how to tug at our nerdy heartstrings, pacing their words and selective unveilings until the excitement becomes palpable. Don’t even get us started on those “one more things.”
8. The iPod
22 models later, we still love the iPod.
In 2001, Apple made what would turn out to be a huge leap from computers to consumer electronics. The first iPods were Mac-only and held a mere 1,000 songs, but we can’t imagine listening to anything else. Besides, without the iPod, there’d be no iPhone. Rock on!
7. Ruthless Futurism
Apple is not only ceaseless in its innovation — it’s ruthless in its pursuit of it. Apple has helped to usher in technologies like USB, Wi-Fi, and solid-state memory while inventing its own tech, as seen, for example, in the Magic Mouse and unibody laptops. But the flip side of the coin exists as well — the Cupertino crew eliminates support the instant they deem something outdated. Flash, Macintosh TV, the Mighty Mouse, floppy drives, FireWire, and even optical drives have all fallen to this sword, often before users were ready to part with them. Ultimately Apple’s single-minded devotion to improvement makes the industry more competitive…and leaves other companies always trying to keep up.
6. Mac OS X
OS X, a new beginning.
By taking the raw power of NeXTStep and BSD and rolling it into a user-friendly OS, Apple created a Unix-based system that’s usable for novices yet still gives super-geeks a powerful base. When released, it was a new robust OS for a new robust company. Today, we’re stoked to see what Lion has in store for us next.
5. The App Store
The App Store has exploded in less than three years.
As much as the iPhone changed the game, the App Store — which came a year later in 2008 — changed the iPhone from, well, a fancy phone to a handheld computer that can do practically anything, from pointing out constellations in the night sky to making fart sounds.
4. The iPhone
And we used to think BlackBerrys were cool.
The iPhone has been blowing our minds since its dramatic introduction on January 9, 2007. Touchscreen interface, amazing web browsing, and effortless multimedia capabilities — who knew a nearly buttonless device could do so much, even before the App Store. It’s the king of the smartphones, and we’re just its faithful subjects.
3. Steve Jobs
The man and the Mac.
Genius, tyrant, savior. He founded Apple with friend Steve Wozniak in the ’70s. He was ousted in the ’80s and he returned in the ’90s to save the company. And make no bones about it: Steve saved Apple.
He has the uncanny ability to know what we want before we even know. He pushes the company to make products that are more than popular—they’re game-changers.
From a history of walling himself off from the average Joe to his recent email exchanges with users, journalists, developers, and the occasional spoiled student, it’s difficult to describe the man with a single word. But we’ll try: he’s Steve.
2. The First Macintosh
The mother of all Macs.
Yep, that right there is the very first Mac computer, and if you’re old enough to remember its launch — as many of us at Mac|Life are — seeing one still spikes a moment or three of awed nostalgia. Its specs are even more awesome: 128KB of DRAM, a 9-inch black-and-white CRT screen, a mouse and keyboard, and a single-sided 3.5-inch floppy-disk drive. Priced at a whopping $2,495, it shipped with System 1.0 and included MacPaint and MacWrite as bundled software.
Even with the backing of Ridley Scott’s famous “1984” Super Bowl commercial, it sold a little slowly (70,000 units in its first 100 days of availability), and while Macs couldn’t really be called successful until the days of the Mac Plus and Mac SE, the original Mac was still the first mainstream personal computer with a graphical user interface, and that makes it an epic part of computing history.
1. The Apple Community
We are Apple.
Sure, the easy pick would have been Steve Jobs. Like we mentioned on the previous page, he started the company with Woz, got shown to the door, and returned to save Apple. But there wouldn’t have been a company to save if not for the loyal, often-quirky, and always awesome Apple community.
We’ve been called cult members, fanatics, and worst of all, people who don’t know how to use a “real” computer (the insinuation being that using Windows and enduring all the problems that come with that system is a technological “red badge of courage”). Of course, we know there is a better way. An easier way. A way to get actual work done without having to reconfigure our audio drivers for the 30th time. Our allegiance to the company and its products has been and continues to be ridiculed. As if wanting a product that just works is a personality flaw.
At our worst, we’re blinded by Steve’s reality-distortion field and we defend Apple’s bad decisions. Like sticking with the PowerPC chip architecture when it was clear that IBM wasn’t interested in pushing the chip speed forward. At our best, we’ve gathered at Macworld Expo and in MUGs to celebrate our platform of choice. We steer family members towards Macs, knowing that the experience will be an enjoyable one. We’ll help a stranger with an iPhone problem.
We’ve weathered the storm in good times and in bad. We continued to believe in the company even when it decided we needed 10 versions of the Performa. We gathered on BBSs, AOL, and IRC before Facebook and Twitter. We lined up for iPods before the rest of the world caught on to their brilliance.
Apple may be a company, but it’s the community that’s gathered around that company that makes it special. We’ve sold more Macs for Apple than any commercial because we believe in the products. We stick together when times are tough, and we share a sense of pride when the company releases something spectacular. And we appreciate the legions of creative indie developers and peripheral-makers who continue to make the kind of smart, well-designed software and accessories that fit us like gloves.
That community is why we are here. Look around — do you see a Dell magazine? Even the Windows-centric magazines talk about the Mac. iPhoneMY, like Apple, is here because of that community and its desire to make the most of Apple’s products. Wherever you live, that community’s reach is a magazine or a few mouse clicks away. Because we are everywhere, and we are Apple.