The Mac had a milestone birthday this week – but what is its future?
The Mac – Apple’s long-standing iconic machine turned 40 this week, and against all odds, it’s looking better than ever.
But its existence over those four decades has been far from plain sailing – it’s taken some tough knocks for sure but as we stand on the cusp of the Apple Vision Pro era, does the Mac still have a place in Apple’s lineup and in our hearts?
In short, is there a future for the Mac?
Happy Birthday to the Mac!
It was on January 24th 1984 that the Mac was first unveiled to the world at a fairly inauspicious low-key event.
It was far from being love at first sight and although it would go on to make a huge impression on the world and be something of a trailblazer, at first the public was not too keen on this new computer from Apple – the Macintosh.
Oddly, it wasn’t only facing competition from its competitors but also from within Apple itself. That Macintosh in today’s money would cost $7300 so it was somewhat niche and very expensive compared to the Apple II.
The Mac’s interface was revolutionary – it was the first popular personal computer to have a mouse and a menu-driven user interface. But what was to go on to become its strength was part of its initial shortcomings. It was so different from other computers at the time that it took the public a long time to be convinced of its merits.
Ironically, it was Microsoft who was the first to embrace the Macs UI – who then of course promptly went on to become the dominant player in the market leaving Apple with only a tiny share.
As we know Jobs was forced out of Apple eventually returning in 1996 with Apple only weeks away from bankruptcy.
There were a couple of key decisions that Jobs made on that return. One was to simplify and slim down Apple’s lineup and the other was to give the software team time to develop two key areas – the iPod project and …macOS.
However, many Mac users felt the writing may be on the wall as from outside the walls of Apple HQ it looked as if the newer sexier product lines such as the iPhone and iPod were going to be the future for Apple. It was feared those products would get given the Apple development dollar & resources ahead of the Macs.
The truth is though that Apple never lost faith or love with the Mac. The Mac is the foundation of Apple and they’ve never lost sight of it.
The dark days
The Mac was responsible for saving Apple – that is how ingrained it is in the fabric of the company and that will never be forgotten.
There would probably be no Apple in 2024 and so no Vision Pro without…the iMac.
Those colourful, playful, innovative iMacs saved the company. The all-in-one out-of-the-box design was an immediate hit – the cash registers were busy, the doors stayed open and Apple thrived.
It was, after all, the iMac which has always had the image of being the playful consumer Mac that was the first of Apple’s machines to lean into the era of USB ports – a first for any mainstream computer.
Jobs always believed in the Mac and as if to prove that he more or less wore his heart on his sleeve when ten years after the original iMac was launched, he famously pulled the first MacBook Air out of a manila envelope.
The Mac through its various iterations though has had plenty of less-than-memorable moments – the trash can Mac Pro, those god-awful MacBooks with the butterfly keyboard and the Touch Bar MacBooks with virtually no I/O – all less than stellar moments in the Macs’s 40-year history.
There were flat years for the Mac for sure when even Apple seemed to lose its love for it.
Who recalls the 2017 advert which showed an iPad user biking around a city using an iPad Pro to do her homework when she was asked what she was doing on her computer?
Her response – what’s a computer?
Were Apple about to go full bore behind a mobile tablet future and dump the Mac? Worrying times…
Whatever their plans may have been something changed – the Mac made a comeback. Why? The answer can be found in just two words.
Into the future
Apple silicon has massive implications for the future of macOS.
Apple silicon Macs can run unmodified iPad apps and iOS app developers love it. With a few fairly minor and simple tweaks they can convert their existing apps to run on the Mac so getting twice the bang for their developer buck. It’s a win-win!
Apple silicon also led to class-leading laptops with vast amounts of power and phenomenal battery life taking desk-free computing to another level. When we first saw M1 Macs it was one of those once-in-a-generation, seismic moments.
Personal computing would never be the same again and because of Apple silicon, the future looks pretty rosy for the Mac.
One week out from Vision Pro landing in stores in the U.S. Apple featured the Mac in the explainer video which they released last week. It may have caused a few headaches for those boffin engineers but after a complete rewrite of the Mac’s screen-sharing infrastructure, you’ll be able to use Vision Pro as a wall-sized monitor for your Mac.
Would Apple have gone to all that effort if they didn’t know that Mac was here to stay?
Next week, Apple will release financial results that will reinforce that Mac sales are among the best they’ve been in the product’s history proving the Mac is as relevant today as it’s ever been.
Still in love with Mac
Jason Snell recently had a chance to interview Greg ‘Joz’ Joswiak – Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing who has been working at Apple since 1986.
Snell asked ‘Joz’ what Mac’s enduring appeal was – considering it only represents roughly 10% of the company’s business. Why do they keep on giving it love?
The answer was simple;
The Mac is the foundation of Apple… and today 40 years later it remains a critical part of our business. The Mac will always be part of Apple. It’s a product that runs deep within the company and defines who we are. And after all, we run Apple, one of the largest companies in the world, on Mac.
As a platform, the Mac is still breaking new ground and continuing to propel the concept of computing forward in unprecedented ways. People can do things on a Mac laptop that they would have never dreamed possible 40 or even 10 years ago. Today, the Mac also plays an important complementary role to other devices in the Apple ecosystem, whether it’s the iPhone, iPad, or soon Vision Pro.
Snell was still intrigued though and went on to ask ‘Joz’ why he thinks the love affair from the public has endured with the Mac.
From the beginning, the Mac has always embraced big changes to stay at the forefront of personal computing. It revolutionised the concept of the personal computer 40 years ago and is still doing so today — challenging the notion of what’s possible on a laptop or desktop computer. Mac has led with nearly every major technological wave.
This constant evolution paired with our unrelenting dedication to the user experience across hardware, software, and design, has led the Mac to become a product that has not only stood the test of time, but that has built a loyalty among users like no other. People love their Macs. It’s hard to imagine any other PC that people love as much as the Mac. That was true with the very first Mac, and it’s still true with the Macs we make today.
So for all the headlines and attention that Vision Pro is about to get over the next few weeks, let’s not forget that at its heart it’s nothing more than a Mac accessory!
The old boy is teaching the new kid on the block a few tricks. It remains to be seen if Vision Pro will have the remarkable longevity of the Mac, but one thing seems certain – the Mac is going nowhere.
40 years young – the Mac is better and stronger than ever.