This particular video is very inspirational. It is rare that such an event happens and even more rare when all the hype is actually true. Introduction of the Mac was a point of history that continues to be strong. It became the first viable and popular graphical user interface computer. It did not take long for this model to take hold, and as a result, products such as Windows came into being.
I have never seen this launch video before today. It really shows how things can go unnoticed.
Personally I did not use a Mac much. My earliest use would have been around 1986 at a computer rental shop. I had a need to type up a resume for interning at IBM. It was a pleasant experience to use the Mac and it was very well suited for the task of composing documents. The Apple laser printer excelled as well. For me, it was a taste of what was to come.
However, I must admit that the early experience was much simpler and cleaner than any experience I had with word processors later on Windows. It seems that Apple has always embraced the KISS principle whereas Microsoft tends to encourage the inclusion of every option. At the risk of sounding biased, it still seems true today.
Early in Citrix history we considered writing a Mac client for WinFrame. I started buying books about the Mac with the intent of investigating what was needed. The task was just too big for someone like me because of the lack of Mac experience. Luckily Citrix bought Insignia which already had a Mac client for ICA.
At this point in time, the Macintosh model is very mature. Things are always changing but the basic framework is the same as 1984. When I say framework, I mean the elements are very similar. Things have been vastly improved. The fundamentals are still there.
My earliest experience with this idea was in 1983. When I was shopping for a computer, I came across an Apple Lisa in Tucson at an Apple dealer. The sales guy showed me all the bells and whistles and I was truly impressed. It seemed like looking into the mirror and seeing a machine from the future. He told me the price was something like $10,000 which was shocking. However, I could see how this kind of technology was going to change the landscape quickly. In the video, Steve Jobs makes mention of the Lisa and how the Mac is a slimed down version.
This is what it took to make it succeed. Reflecting this to my recent post about Windows XP and Windows Vista, it becomes more obvious that Microsoft needs to do something similar.
I still do not own a Mac. However, I have had to work on Macs more recently. Just within the last few months I needed to resolve an issue with XenDesktop and SpeedScreen Browser Acceleration. This exposure to the most recent version of the Mac shows that Apple is still ahead.
The key point to learn is that being technically superior does not equate to being the most popular. Other factors have a major role. In Apple’s history, this equates to many different “mistakes” that lead to them not getting the upper hand. There are several obvious ones but usually it is the subtle ones that can really make a difference.
Based on my own experience with OS/2 during 1989-1992, playing the tech superior path just does not mean much to customers. Microsoft understands that people are not always aware of these things and often will settle for whatever is easiest to get and what is being perceived as being the cheapest. As a key example, Microsoft sells its software to a large array of computer manufacturers. Apple (as far as I know) only has its OS X on its own hardware. In the early battle of Windows versus Mac, the Mac could never compete price wise with the IBM clones.
So does Apple ever really think it will take the market away from Windows? Realistically, probably no. However, it does still want to convert consumers away from the Windows model. There is evidence that Apple has moved on to other battles where it can define the terms of engagement. It is heavily embracing the appliance (post-PC) space and providing specific models that would be very challenging for Microsoft to duplicate. Clearly this kind of space loves “Keep it Simple Stupid”. Once a space is dominated like this, it becomes incredibly hard to knock Apple off the hill. Everybody knows about iTunes/iPod. Very few are familiar with Zune. If all your friends have iPods, most likely you will pick the same.
This gets into a whole discussion about needing to do something disruptive in order to displace an existing company. You have to be willing to tackle things that the other company sees as being not worth doing. You have to be willing to have a lower price based on much lower costs. You need to attract loyal customers over time with introduction of new products and services which consistently undercut the competition.
You would need a serious war chest to attack Windows. It probably does not even make sense to disrupt it. You have to think unconventionally to see what alternatives exist. The obvious contender is Linux based on industry analysis but I would disagree. Linux, like Windows, is an operating system. Disruption is going to happen from somewhere else. Linux has a lower price but it is not a consistent front from a consistent single company. However, Linux could be used in a new form (stripped down and new device type) that could build a disruptive solution. The key is not to focus on a compatible solution but rather a new solution from pieces that are common and small. The best bet for a challenger is something throws the operating system model into history. It is bound to happen sooner or later. More than likely it will come from new research based on duplicating intelligence in nature. The concept is to have small pieces that aren’t that smart individually but collectively form an intelligent whole. This idea comes from emergence theory. This would allow for components and devices to work together based on basic intelligence but also forming a more “living” intelligent system.
I am purposely being vague since I don’t know how this is going to play out. The future does not need fancy theories to do what it does. However, I would predict that the next major wave in computing technology will be much more natural than what any of us are currently use to.
I would recommend reading books from Raymond Kurzweil. A few years ago I read his book entitled “The Age of Spiritual Machines“. Kurzweil provides a framework of believable ideas that show that artificial intelligence is coming and what the implications are. It is both exciting and a bit scary at the same time. His writing convinced me that things are not that far off really and all it will take is some key discoveries to revolutionalize the industry. Perhaps one of the most baffling models uses quantum theory to create a quantum computer. It is nothing like what we know today. Solutions which could take eternity are potentially solved immediately. Currently this many cryptologists wondering how secure our current models will be. Regardless of what any of us do, this is coming.
To wrap up this wandering post, I’ll close by saying that it all starts with a dream. Steve Jobs obviously started with a very big dream which he is still working on today. These dreams end up possessing us and bringing new passion to this world. This video is, in part, evidence that dreams can become real and these dreams can be shared. These thought forms are real and well understood, and always lead to more dreams. It remains true that we should be passionate about what we do. This passion comes from believing that this is the way things are supposed to be.