November 14, 2019

Apple and the Mac

 

The Lisa

Until the introduction of the IBM PC the Apple II was the biggest selling microcomputer. Sales of Apple machines were badly hit by the PC. Apple III was perceived to be a failure. Machines at that stage had a command line interface, they were not user friendly. Apple decided to develop a machine that would be easy to use.

Jobs and others from Apple visited PARC where they saw the Alto and realised that A GUI would solve the problem. They set about developing the Lisa.

Set up by Mark Markkula the project was highly organized and well funded. Jobs, whose approach was more in the hacker/garage tradition, was removed. The project was to be run on the lines of an IBM style of corporate professional development.

The Lisa was based on a Motorola 68000 chip, had 1 Mb of memory and a hard drive. This spec led to a high price of $10,000. It was slower than the PC but its biggest drawback was the price which meant that its intended market could not afford it.

GUI and metaphors

Lisa had a GUI that employed the metaphor of a desktop. (Visicalc used a blackboard). Metaphors enable us to make constructs in order to visualise and overcome problems and is particularly valuable when dealing with computers. to organize and manipulate data and logic circuits is very complex. By relating these processes to other ordinary, well understood models these procedures are simplified. PARC had understood this and developed the desk/folder/file metaphor with the mouse selecting, dragging and dropping.

Lisa was released in 1983 but was not a success. Jobs however was already working on its successor the Macintosh.

Developing the Macintosh

Headed by Jef Raskin the Mac team also wanted to produce a machine that was easy to use but it was to be affordable, no frills. Based on a less powerful Motorola 6809 chip, bit mapped display but no mouse. Jobs who had been booted off the Lisa team saw the Mac as his revenge. Jobs was soon in conflict with Raskin who subsequently left. Jobs then changed the spec, introducing a mouse and the 68000 chip. Jobs cultivated the Apple spirit of earlier days and with a small team of talented highly motivated engineers, Jobs, a driven man, drove his team to its limits, and in many cases beyond, to achieve his goal. Released in 1984 for $2,495 it was late and more expensive than Raskin's $1000 plan. Big business resisted buying the Mac. Objections raised about its perceived "toy-like" approach to computing. Mac seemed to oppose corporate computing's more serious command line stance. In some cases it was seen as a threat to specialists. It also lacked a compelling application. Even so, it attracted a dedicated group of users who loved its looks and ease of use when compared to the PC. The Mac was built by a team who believed, as Jobs did, that this machine would change people's lives.

Technology and social change

Many people saw the development of the PC as a means to bring about social change. Computers would no longer solely be in the hands of big business. Desk top machine would produce a radical transfer of power to the individual. California in the late 60s and early 70's was the centre of the counter-culture. As the computer industry grew, so more of the radicals were attracted to the industry, which they saw as one that reflected their values of freedom of expression and mistrust of "big business". Of course the irony is that several went on to achieve what they claimed to despise, namely wealth and power. Similarly big business, far from relinquishing its grip, has used the new tools to increase both wealth and control of markets. The belief was that the machines would unleash creativity, increase connectivity between individuals and enable people to access information previously in the domain of government, business and large educational establishments.

With the introduction of increasingly sophisticated technology, it would seem that far from "empowering" humanity, we are dividing society into the haves and have nots. The information rich and the information poor. This is particularly evident on a global scale, where developing and poorer countries are being left behind. We have witnessed the development of a technological elite and a market-driven industry fuelled by extraordinary profit margins.

Desktop publishing

Mac sales were not good. IBM had Lotus 1-2-3, Mac was reliant on Excel as a spreadsheet, but needed a killer app. Aldus' PageMaker was the answer. This revolutionised the production of newspaper/magazine layout and design. PageMaker adopted the metaphor of the layout board. Mac achieved its dominant position in the visual design field on the back of PageMaker and yet it never overtook the IBM PC. By the early 90s, Apple was incurring heavy losses.

After the Mac

Apple's senior executives experienced problems with Jobs' managerial style. Without Jobs there would be no Mac and yet he was unsuited to the running of the company that Apple had become. Jobs failed to lure Estridge from IBM and brought in John Sculley from Pepsi. Sculley, who many insiders considered unsuitable and lacking an understanding of the computing industry, saw Jobs as the problem and forced Jobs out in 1985.

Apple's problem may well have stemmed from the fact that it was not an open system. Had they taken IBM's lead, other manufacturers may have produced clones bringing prices down and increasing sales, but this may not have increased Apple's market share. Leadership has been a continual problem at Apple, with a succession of CEOs who have not had the technical expertise of other employees. This is unlike the management structure of Microsoft. From Gates downwards, MS management are often gifted programmers.

Apple's computers have always been more expensive than PCs.

The structure of Apple caused problems and affected staff morale morale. Complaints were made of disruption of work patterns caused by constant "reorganization". the company were accused of a lack of focus after production of the Mac. Apple failed to handle the transition from being a small company to a large one.

Jobs after Apple

Steve Jobs formed NeXT Inc to produce a new computer and OS for the education market. The OS would employ OO techniques. Although critically well received they were too expensive and achieved poor sales. Apple bought out the company and planned to use the NextStep OS. Jobs eventually returned to Apple and spearheaded production of the iMac and with it a return to profits for the company. He also formed Pixar(Toy Story etc).

The personality of companies

Companies seem to have individual personalities, which are often a reflection of their founders.

IBM

Tom Watson Sr.

Founded IBM in 1924. Methodist, hard working, competitive and a firm believer in "family values" and tradition. A good salesman ,but not a technician. Believed that a job with IBM meant a job for life. Unwilling to abandom product lines (and customers) even if it made economic sense to do so. Rigid management structure, austere, strict. Yet Watson believed in employing what he termed "a few wild ducks" in order to persue unconventional projects (Don Estridge was a good example).

Microsoft

Gates is deeply competitive, he hates losing at anything. Thinks deeply and is technically excellent. He is also careful with money, not flamboyant. He is ferociously protective of his business and believes it to be the best. Microsoft is not multi-layered and Gates likes to stay close to his workers, both managerially and geographically. He expects them to be wedded to MS, to live MS. He wants MS to produce the best software across the board although many feel that MS is not particularly innovative. Its workforce achieved a reputation for being predominantly young, white and well educated.

Apple

Jobs and Wozniak 1977. Jobs - counterculture mentality. Driven, passionate, stylish, demanding, "sociopath" (Cringely). Woz, brilliant techie. Apple was stylish, technically innovative, yet chaotic.

 

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