On January 24th, 1984, Apple released the first Macintosh and a new movement within computing was born.
Your faithful editor was all of five months old at the time, quietly reflecting on life from a crib in northern California, just an hour's drive away from Apple's Silicon Valley headquarters.
It's not much of a stretch to say that i've grown up with the Mac. First introduced to the machines in elementary school, one of my first purchases after getting a job in high school was a refurbished G3, and it wasn't until I began writing for vnunet that I owned my first PC.
And what a 25 years it has been for Apple as well. The company saw first-hand the ups, and downs, and ups of the computer industry. Through it all, the Macintosh has been its flagship product. Whether it was Quadra, Performa, iMac or Mac Pro, there has always been a Mac out there.
So what about the next 25 years? How will the Macintosh get to 50?
If recent years are any indication, the Mac may see its influence drop. The computers are no longer the stars of Apple's big speeches and events; those honors have been passed to the iPhone and iPod lines.
Even Apple's own name, shortened from "Apple Computer" to "Apple Inc." indicates that the Mac's run atop the priority list could be coming to an end.
But not so fast. Though it may not have the entire spotlight to itself, the mighty Mac is still Apple's bread and butter. Keynote time isn't everything, you know. The Mac still makes up the biggest portion of Apple's revenue, and it is selling better than ever.
If anything, we could see the Mac take over the duties of other Apple products in the coming years. For example, the Apple TV: as iTunes continues its metamorphosis into a one-stop entertainment shop, and as the iMac gets slimmer, wider-screened and cheaper, a day may very well come soon when your home computer really does double as your television, and few systems are closer to that setup than the iMac.
Then, of course, there's the MacBook. Notebooks aren't going anywhere, and some of Apple's biggest gains in market share are coming from the success of these two lines. Those college kids using MacBooks on campus will soon be professionals using Macs at home and in the office, particularly with the rise of the Intel-era and the advent of dual-platform programs such as Boot Camp, Parallels, and Fusion.
The continuation of the x86 chip series in the Mac could also be beneficial for the Mac Pro in the next 25 years. The advantages of the Mac in multimedia creation fields have in the past been offset by incompatibility with often-essential Windows software tools. As seamless transitioning from Mac programs to Windows programs comes closer to reality, we could see high-end Macs continue to march into enterprise markets.
That's not to say there aren't going to be challenges in the coming years. The health issues that have befallen Steve Jobs are leaving the company without its top executive for the first time in over what has been a very successful ten years. And we all know what happened the last time Apple tried to make a go without Jobs.
There's also the economy to fret over. While Apple has so far defied the downturn, consumers may begin to decide that paying a premium for a Macintosh is just not feasible.
The next 25 years will, almost certainly, contain just as many ups and downs for Apple and every other computer maker. If the first 25 were any indication, however, the Mac will live in some form to see 50.
Heck, perhaps we'll be doing this all over again in 2034 when both myself and the Mac hit the half-century mark.
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