This list is a detailed followup to Wired's "101 Ways to Save Apple" from June 1997. There have been other followups to the original list, but none of them went into any great detail. I like studying things in depth and I've spent an unhealthy amount of time watching Apple, so here's my take on a followup list.
This page is link-happy, so grab some coffee and click on all of them. Wherever possible, I've linked to the exact moment during an Apple keynote video where an announcement was made so you don't have to take my words at face value.
Cast yourself back to Apple's darkest days—the mid-1990s when Apple repeatedly failed to replace its aging operating system, shipped hardware that was beige, boring and buggy, all while the company hemorrhaged money. "We" were all certain Apple was about to die.
Happy clicking! Oh, and don't forget to buy a subscription to Wired. Thank you for not suing me, Wired.
Wired, June 1997: Admit it. You're out of the hardware game. Outsource your hardware production, or scrap it entirely, to compete more directly with Microsoft without the liability of manufacturing boxes.
Status: done, 1990-present.
Apple may have already been outsourcing some or all of its production long before Wired's article was published. Early Macintoshes were manufactured in Apple's own factory in Fremont, CA, but Apple began outsourcing at least some of its manufacturing as early as 1990. [see notes re: meeting high demand for the Mac Classic].
Shortly after the Wired article was published, Apple effectively killed off the clone makers. Scrapping hardware altogether immediately afterwards would have left customers with no Apple-sanctioned hardware platform to run the Mac OS.
Nowadays we're highly aware that Foxconn handles all of Apple's iPod, iPad and iPhone manufacturing and assembly. Quanta handles Apple's notebook production. [try putting your own laptop serial number in the Apple Serial Number Identifier]
As for desktop machines, iFixit's teardown of the late 2009 iMac reveals Chinese characters on the motherboard and the phrase "Made in China" on the power supply PCB.
Wired, June 1997: License the Apple name/technology to appliance manufacturers and build GUIs for every possible device—from washing machines to telephones to WebTV. Have them all use the same communications protocol. Result: you monopolize the market for smart devices/homes.
Wired, June 1997: Invest heavily in Newton technology, which is one area where Microsoft can't touch you. Build voice recognition and better gesture recognition into Newton, making a new environment for desktop, laptop, and palmtop Macs. Newton can also be the basis of a new generation of embedded systems, from cash registers to kiosks.
Status: not while Steve is around!
Bandai's Pippin was a little-known product that was essentially a small PowerMac disguised as a game console. It ran the Mac OS (slowly) and evidently made neither a large enough positive or negative impact to be mentioned in Wired's list. While a small number of game titles were produced, they were not enough to make the Pippin to stand out amongst its contemporaries.
The brick-and-mortar Apple Stores deployed an iPod touch-based checkout system in late 2009. [overview; gory details; speculation about licensing potential]
Apple's planned partnership with cybercafés would have made for highly visible licensing and promotion of the Apple brand. (see #77)
However, even if words 'Apple' and 'licensing' have never mixed very well, there are a remarkable number of applications written for the iPhone and iPod touch that are designed specifically to control other devices and software.
Bob Cringely has suggested that Adobe could do the same with Flash and AIR.
Wired, June 1997: Start pampering independent software vendors. Your future depends on strong, user-friendly software. ISVs are losing confidence and crossing over to the Dark Side to take advantage of Wintel's market share. Remember what happened to OS/2—not enough applications, updates too late, scarce industry support. And all the marketing dollars IBM threw at it couldn't help.
Status: good enough? 2001-present.
Jobs announced a mostly symbolic deal with Microsoft on August 6th, 1997, part of which assured customers that Office would remain on the Mac OS platform for another five years. [event video]
Independent? Well, Microsoft is financially independent...
Today, indie developers are raking in money through the iTunes App Store. However, I don't feel that Apple has ever been particularly friendly towards independent developers. That said, I can't name any cases where they've been particularly nasty, either, apart from the Karelia/Watson vs. Sherlock 3 incident.
Existing Select and Premier Apple Developer Connection members receive up to 20% off Apple hardware, at least until Apple decides otherwise; these two membership programs (and thus the hardware discounts) appear to be on their way out. I tried to purchase an ADC Select or Premier membership but was only presented with the option of enrolling in the discount-free $99 Mac Developer program.
Apple has encouraged development for Mac OS and iOS by making the necessary tools available free of charge since 2001. By comparison, developing software for the Classic Mac OS was a much more expensive proposition (CodeWarrior Academic: $119; CodeWarrior Professional: $449), never mind the sheer increase in online tutorials, forums and other Internet-based help since the mid-1990s.
To have your application reviewed for inclusion in the App Store, you must join either of their developer programs ($99).
I was hoping to find a chance to mention my favourite small Macintosh software developers here, but...
Wired, June 1997: Gil Amelio should steal a page from Lee Iacocca's book—work for one year without a salary, just to inspire the troops.
Status: done, 1997-present.
"Mr. Jobs is widely known for taking the $1 salary, which has been his practice since rejoining the company as chief executive officer in 1997." (The Wall Street Journal)
The flip side: lower income tax (I'm assuming) and a Gulfstream V ultra-long range business jet. [Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation press release, 20-Jan-2000]
By the way, did you know that there's a Wikipedia page dedicated to the idea of one-dollar-per-year salaries?
Wired, June 1997: Straighten out the naming convention. Link model numbers to processor speed. When buying a 3400 laptop computer, what, exactly, are you getting? Unless you study the brochures, you don't know how it compares with its competition. On the other hand, Wintel talks explicitly about processor speed. It's a Pentium 200-MHz box.
Wired, June 1997: Simplify your PC product line. Reduce the number of Apple motherboards and the number of distinct Apple system models.
Status: done, 1998-present.
Jobs openly acknowledged this confusion at the WWDC 1998 and Macworld New York 1998 keynotes.
Thankfully, Jobs was not content with simplifying the naming convention for over 20 products, opting instead to simplify the product line down to what began in 1997 as a 2x2 matrix: consumer/pro and desktop/notebook.
Disadvantage to Apple's modern product naming and styling: it's pretty difficult to distinguish between different generations of iMac. Solution: Apple System Profiler, your "iMac16,2" model number and MacTracker or EveryMac.
Wired, June 1997: Apologize. You've let down many devoted users and did not deliver on the promise of the Macintosh platform.
Status: Better than nothing. 1997-present.
During the Macworld Boston 1997 keynote, Steve Jobs directly apologized for Apple's customer care, in particular response times on the Apple customer support hotline. [keynote video]
Apple has performed some other acts of kindness that were not clear-cut apologies. Nobody in management said 'sorry' in these cases, and many of the gifts listed below were handed out at Macworld keynotes—events that involve an admission fee and airfare! The keynote applause should tell non-Applenauts just how crazy—or how frustrated—we were.
WWDC 1999: Apple gave away 50 top-of-the-line Lombard PowerBook G3s to conference attendees. Steve Jobs: "We'll pay postage."
MWNY 2000: All keynote attendees received a new optical Apple Pro Mouse
March 24th, 2001: Everyone who purchased the Mac OS X Public Beta and provided feedback was offered a $29.95 discount on Mac OS X 10.0 ($129).
WWDC 2003: All keynote attendees received an external FireWire iSight camera ($149)
MWSF 2003: All keynote attendees received a copy of ... Keynote 1.0
MWSF 2004: Free "Anya Major with iPod" poster for attendees.
January 2006: Developers who purchased an i386 Developer Transition Kit for $999 (which had to be returned the following year!) received a first-generation 17" Core Duo iMac
Wired, June 1997: Don't disappear from the retail chains. Rent space in a computer store, flood it with Apple products (especially software), staff it with Apple salespeople, and display everything like you're a living, breathing company and not a remote, dusty concept.
Status: done, 2001-present.
Another case where I'm happy to report that Apple did Wired one better. On May 15th, 2001, Apple unveiled the design of its first brick-and-mortar retail store. My favourite quote from the same week: "I give [Apple] two years before they're turning out the lights on a very painful and expensive mistake." (David Goldstein, President, Channel Marketing)
I'm less certain about what happened to retail sales outside of Apple, partly because I avoid big box retail stores when I can, and partly because I haven't been exposed to all the different electronics retail giants in the USA.
Apple's "store within a store" concept was supposed to boost Apple's presence and sales punch, but I wasn't able to find many articles singing their praises. A quick Google search reveals that this concept may still be alive at some Best Buy locations in the USA.
The most concrete evidence I have of Apple expanding its retail strategy outside of its own retail stores was an announcement at WWDC 1999: "... we are adding Sears to our stable of national and regional [distributors] of iMac..." Sears was also amongst the distributors of Apple's Performa product line in the 1990s.
Wired, June 1997: Buy a song. Last year, it would have been "Respect" by Aretha Franklin. This year, maybe it's "Ain't too Proud to Beg."
Status: done 13,000,000+ times over. 2003-present.
Actually, now Apple can buy a song from itself. They've licensed over 13 million songs so that you can buy songs from them. I'm sure at least one Apple employee has purchased both Respect and Ain't Too Proud to Beg, so that's all taken care of.
Other people with too much time on their hands have compiled exhaustive lists of songs used in Apple advertising campaigns.
Wired, June 1997: Take control of your inventory problems and fire the people who develop your sales forecasts.
Wired, June 1997: If you sell it, make it! Stop releasing new products if you can't fulfill the orders. Angering the few loyal customers you still have is no way to do business.
Wired, June 1997: Solidify the management team. Pushing people out or allowing them to leave does not inspire the remaining troops.
Status: done, 1999-present.
The Second Coming of Steve Jobs tells us that Steve fired a lot of people when he returned in 1997. He also announced a new board of directors at Macworld Boston 1997 to much applause, plus one extended 'boo' for Larry Ellison.
By WWDC 1999, inventory problems seemed to be under control: "We've gotten down to... 1 day of inventory leaving the quarter... during last 3 quarters we have beat Dell."
Wired, June 1997: Get a great image campaign. Let's get some branding (or rebranding) going on. Reproduce the "1984" spot with a 1997 accent.
Wired, June 1997: Change the visual presentation of marketing/advertising to signal that real change is under way. Focus attention (operationally and in marketing terms) on Apple's concrete growth. Boldly setting the milestones along the path to rebirth and hitting them is the only way to evolve the marketing message that so far has focused on undelivered promises.
Wired, June 1997: Cash in on millennium fever with an ad campaign that portrays Apple as a return to basics, a rediscovery of simplicity and purity, a rejection of complexity.
Status: done, 1997-present.
Chiat/Day was the agency responsible for Apple's advertising during the era of the original Macintosh. As I set out to find out which ad agencies were in Apple's employ during the Sculley, Spindler and Giblet era, it struck me that nobody would be foolish enough to admit that they were ever involved in any of that work.
TBWA\Chiat\Day won several awards for the "Think Different" TV commercial and associated print advertising.
Apple spent 3m38s rejecting complexity in the form of the Simplicity Shootout video.
I say this one's in the can because "Think Different" has taken Apple a million miles further than "It does more and it costs less" ever did.
Wired, June 1997: Instead of trying to protect your multicolored ass all the time, try looking forward. You've gotten stale by adopting the worst aspects of your competitor's business practices.
Status: suggestion unclear.
I wish I had enough business brains to remember which practices this suggestion might have been targeting. If the author is talking about the business practice of losing hundreds of millions of dollars per quarter: done!
As of early 1999, Apple's rear-end is no longer multicoloured.
Wired, June 1997: Build a fire under your ad agency. People don't need warm, fuzzy infomercials about the Mac family. And who cares what's on Todd Rundgren's PowerBook? People want to know about power (the CPU kind, not George Clinton's), performance, and price.
Wired, June 1997: Exploit every Wintel user's secret fear that some day they're going to be thrown into a black screen with a blinking C-prompt. Advertise the fact that Mac users never have to rewrite autoexec.bat or sys.ini files.
Wired, June 1997: Testimonials. Create commercials featuring real-life people in situations where buying a Mac (or switching to a Mac) saved the day.
Status: done, 2002-2009.
Chiat Day came back, and not a moment too soon. The Switch and I'm a Mac ad campaigns did exactly this and more:
Wired, June 1997: Do something creative with the design of the box and separate yourselves from the pack. The original Macs stood out because of their innovative look. Repeat that. Get the folks at Porsche to design a box. Or Giorgio Giugiaro. Or Philippe Starck. We'd all feel better about shelling out the bucks for a Power Mac 9600 if we could get a tower with leopard spots.
Wired, June 1997: Give Steve Jobs as much authority as he wants in new product development. Let Gil Amelio stick to operations. There's no excitement at the top, and Apple's customers want to feel like they've joined a computer revolution. Even if Jobs fails, he'll do it with guns a-blazin', and we'll be spared this slow water torture that Amelio has subjected us to.
Status: Done, again and again.
Here are some of the case designs that made people stop and say, "Hey, that's kind of cool." I would add the Power Mac G5 and the Titanium PowerBook to this list but nobody outside the Mac community talked about those in quite the same way.
Wired, June 1997: Dump (or outsource) the Newton, eMate, digital cameras, and scanners.
Wired, June 1997: Sell off the laser printer business. Create an auction between HP and Lexmark International. Get Japanese companies into the act. Sell to one that's already making money in the printer business or to one that makes related products. That way, the buyer is getting increased market share.
Wired, June 1997: Give the company that buys the printer business a contract to manufacture printers with the Apple trademark and then put it in your existing distribution system. Selling off the manufacturing assets for printers provides a one-shot infusion of cash that reduces the drain on the balance sheet. You also make a distribution margin on the printers and associated supplies.
Status: done, 1997.
Most of Apple's peripheral lines were "Steved" in 1997—scanners, hard disks, printers, cameras, and PDAs.
I often wonder why Apple kept trying to compete in the peripheral market for so long. But when you look at the pathetic software bundled with consumer scanners today, it all makes sense. (I miss Ofoto. Check out VueScan and SilverFast if you do too.)
Aside: why would HP buy Apple's line of Canon engine-based laser printers when HP already had their own lineup of laser printers based on the same engines? Aside aside: HP LaserJet printer guts have been manufactured by Oak Technology since 1997.
Wired, June 1997: Take better care of your customers. You need every one. Make customer service a point of pride. Many Mac users feel alienated and have jumped ship.
Status: better than it used to be? 2001-present.
Apple Retail Stores take better care of potential new customers than any Best Buy ever did. Also see #6.
Wired, June 1997: Build some decent applications that the business community will care about.
Status: Not done.
Thankfully, Apple is a long way from producing something as near to most CIO's hearts as SharePoint, Exchange, or Microsoft Security Essentials.
Apple is focused on consumer products. (see #84/92) They had some early success in business with VisiCalc, and more recently with the iPhone's Exchange integration, but that's about it. There seems to be some enterprise interest in the iPad, but it must be painful to manage and deploy thousands of devices tied to individual iTunes accounts.
Since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, Xserve hardware saw but one update before Apple decided to discontinue the product altogether. No plans to allow virtualized instances of Mac OS X Server on VMware ESX or the like have been announced.
The Xserve RAID had a similar but much shorter life. After the initial product received positive reviews in 2003 for its price/performance benefits, it was end-of-lifed in early 2008.
During the launch of the Xserve, an audience member asked about Apple's past enterprise and server efforts. Steve replied that he thought of those projects as "... a dream when Apple was in a coma." Now that Apple has killed the Xserve, it would appear that Apple's committment to enterprise products is in a coma once again.
Apple's foothold in the professional non-linear video editing market remains strong.
Wired, June 1997: Stop being buttoned-down corporate and appeal to the fanatic feeling that still exists for the Mac. Power Computing's "I'll give up my Mac when they pry it from my stiff, dying fingers" campaign hits the right note. In the tech world, it's still a crusade. Support the Mac community, and the Mac community will support you.
Wired, June 1997: Don't lose your sense of humor. Build a very large life preserver and display it in front of your Cupertino, California, headquarters.
Status: slow progress.
1997 and 1998 saw slightly more aggressive advertising from Apple: Steamroller, Toasted Bunnies. Apple's 'Switch' and 'I'm a Mac' campaigns have carried some of this spirit. (see #12/13)
Apple isn't afraid to poke fun at Microsoft now and then (John Hodgman at WWDC 2006, WWDC 2007 and WWDC 2009) but I can't name any examples of Apple poking fun at itself.
Wired, June 1997: Get rid of the cables. Go wireless.
Status: better, but still waiting for wireless power that won't fry everything within range.
Wired, June 1997: Tap the move toward push media by creating a network computer with state of-the-art technologies, e.g., videogame support for Nintendo 64, top notch graphics such as QuickDraw 3D, and the best possible bandwidth.
Wired, June 1997: Team up with Sony, which wants to get into the computer business in a big way—think Sony MacMan.
Wired, June 1997: Merge with Sega and become a game company.
Status: done if you agree that an iPhone, fresh out of the box, is not very useful without Internet connectivity.
Ha ha ha, push technology! I suppose the idea lives on in the form of RSS and podcasting. (Not PointCasting!)
Of course, nobody—probably not even Apple—knew that the iPhone would help Apple steal market share from the likes of Sony PlayStation Portable.
Wired, June 1997: Sell yourself to IBM or Motorola, the PowerPC makers. You can become the computer division that Motorola wants or the alternative within IBM. This would give the company volume for its PowerPC devices and leverage for other PowerPC offerings.
Status: not done, thankfully.
Nobody wanted to buy Apple in the 1990s! Besides, I'm not sure how selling a large computer company to a (relatively) small chip company would have helped anyone.
Closest match: Apple invested a significant amount of money in ARM during the Newton era. Owen Linzmayer's Apple Confidential 2.0 states "... Apple's investment in ARM more than made up for the entire outlay on the Newton project and provided much-needed revenue during Apple's dark days ahead."
Wired, June 1997: Create a new kids' computer, an upgradable Wintel-compatible machine, in bright rugged colors that can take stickers and duct tape, and that a young user can call his/her own. This machine has two killer apps: autograding of homework for the teachers; passing notes via wireless for the kids. Price: US$350 before upgrades.
Status: getting there.
Closest match: an iPod touch is $229USD and it runs a derivative of OS X.
Wired, June 1997: Create a new logo. The corporate graphic of the multicolored apple was tired in the 1980s, now it's positively obsolete. Plaster the new logo on hats and T shirts to be worn conspicuously by Andre Agassi, Nicolas Cage, and Ashley Judd.
Status: done, sort of 1999-present.
1999: Single-colour Apple logos start appearing with the introduction of the Blue & White G3 (white apple) and "Life Savers" fruit-coloured iMacs.
Wired, June 1997: Pay cartoonist Scott Adams $10 million to have Dilbert fall in love with a Performa repairwoman.
Status: marketing stunts? Done.
Better idea: stop making Performas which require repairwomen. (They did.)
Other major marketing stunts that Apple has pulled since 1997:
Wired, June 1997: Portables, portables, portables. Pick the best-of-breed Wintel in each of the portable categories and then better it. Wintel has a fantastic range.
Wired, June 1997: Work closely with Hewlett-Packard, Casio, or someone who understands power management. When was the last time anyone got more than 60 minutes out of a PowerBook battery?
Status: Done, 1999-present.
If the general idea here is to "stop making junk", Apple took a significant step forward in both form and function with the Wall Street (1998), Lombard (1999) and Pismo (2000) PowerBook G3s. Whether they were better or worse than their competition is entirely subjective, but they were certainly more attractive all-round than previous PowerPC notebook offerings. (i.e., they didn't catch fire like the 5300, and they didn't debut at $4500USD like the PowerBook 3400)
Upon its release in 2001, Apple drew direct comparisons between the Titanium PowerBook G4 and the Sony VAIO subnotebooks.
Wired, June 1997: Relocate the company to Bangalore and make it cheap, cheap, cheap. (See Wired 4.02, page 110.)
Status: manufacturing: done. Corporate HQ? Sit! Stay!
See #1. As far as I can tell, Apple doesn't do much of their own manufacturing anymore. I'm not sure how much money relocating all of Apple to another country might save.
Wired, June 1997: Reach forward by reaching back. Secure the hearts and wallets of college students through a highly targeted AppleLoan program.
Status: securing college student hearts and wallets in the form of iPhones and MacBooks? Done
The September 1994 issue of Macworld featured an advertisement for an Apple/Citibank credit card which provided discounts on Apple products based on how heavily you used the card.
Better idea: start making popular products that college students can afford. Today, a MacBook Pro at $1199 is much more affordable than even the original entry-level iBook at $1799. (EveryMac) Also: iPod touch.
Wired, June 1997: Build a PDA for less than $250 that actually does something: a) cellular email b) 56-channel TV c) Internet phone.
Fourth generation iPod touch starting price: $229USD. You can do e-mail over wi-fi, YouTube provides more than 56 channels, and it even packs a camera and a microphone into an annoyingly thin enclosure. If you add Skype, you've got a nice pocket-sized wi-fi videophone device.
Wired, June 1997: Advice to Gil Amelio: shorter speeches, tighter pants.
Status: done, indirectly.
Giblet was fired a few months after the Wired article was published, so his speeches are history.
Keynotes probably became longer on average after Steve's return since he can easily keep a crowd engaged for upwards of two hours:
Wired, June 1997: Port the OS to the Intel platform, with its huge amount of investment in hardware, software, training, and experience. Don't ignore it; co-opt it. Operating systems are dependent on installed base; that is your biggest hurdle now. It is not the head-to-head, feature-set comparison between Windows and Mac OS.
Wired, June 1997: Abandon the Mach operating system you just acquired and run Windows NT kernel instead. This would let Mac run existing PC programs. (Microsoft actually has Windows NT working on Mac hardware. It also has emulation of Mac programs with NT running on both Power PC and x86.)
Wired, June 1997: Make damn sure that Rhapsody runs on an Intel chip. Write a Windows NT emulator for Rhapsody's Intel version.
Status: x86 compatibility achieved through the Intel transition and virtualization
Why would you want to abandon an operating system as elegant as OPENSTEP?
Windows NT for MIPS and PowerPC were abandoned shortly after the Wired list was published, and Windows 2000 for Alpha machines was dropped in August 1999. I'm glad Apple didn't pursue this option since I'm not convinced Microsoft would have continued PowerPC development just for Apple.
Nowadays, Apple's transition to Intel CPUs allows you to run any x86 operating system (and thus application) you please, either standalone or alongside Mac OS X.
Watch Steve confirm the rumors that Mac OS X has been cross platform since Mac OS X 10.0. BPrior to 2001, NeXTSTEP was also ported to the i386 architecture.
Historical side note: Apple's Star Trek project successfully ported System 7 to the i386 architecture in 1992.
Wired, June 1997: Get MkLinux and BeOS to run on PowerBooks.
Status: More robust OS running on laptop Macs? Done, 2001-present.
Mac OS X is a flavour of Unix that ran on PowerBooks and now the Intel-based MacBooks. Unlike BeOS R5.0, it works with just about every printer and I don't have to restart the networking stack every half hour.
Wired, June 1997: Clone the PowerBook. When the shabbily made 5300s started to fall apart, catch on fire, and explode, a lot of Apple customers were forced to turn to Wintel for laptops. There was no place else to go. If clones had been available, the users might have stayed in the family.
Status: done... by the Hackintosh and Dell Mini netbook community.
Have you seen the insides of some of the Mac clones, or even Apple's own clone-like Power Mac 4400? I'm not sure this would have been a step in the right direction given your average computer firm.
Wired, June 1997: Take advantage of NeXT's easy and powerful OpenStep programming tools to entice a new generation of Mac software developers.
Status: Done (2001-present)
The iPhone/iOS SDK brought in a new generation of Apple developers as well as developers from all kinds of surprising places.
Wired, June 1997: Make it easier for ISVs to make applications for both Apple and Wintel environments—if not at the desktop, then certainly at the server. Without these innovations, the only hope is to keep what is left of the installed base.
OPENSTEP's runtime environment was ported to Windows NT in 1995. OPENSTEP on NT was later discontinued after Apple purchased NeXT despite some hints that Apple did not want to kill OPENSTEP-on-NT outright.
Closest match: WebObjects deployment runtime is Pure Java, so you can run WebObjects on a wide variety of platforms.
Wired, June 1997: Build a laptop that weighs 2 pounds.
Status: 11.6" MacBook Air: 88% complete. iPad: done.
11" MacBook Air: 2.24 pounds. My delightful co-worker pointed out that the iPad is a mere 1.5 pounds.
I'd say we're done here, but there are probably some VAIO, ThinkPad X-series and 12" PowerBook users out there who are still not satisfied.
Wired, June 1997: Arrange venture funding for new, cutting-edge multimedia publishers—this is where you shine and where the public will become interested again.
Status: Done, 2008.
11 years later, Apple announced $100 million in venture capital for iPhone developers courtesy of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
Wired, June 1997: Organize a telethon. Hire Jerry Lewis to get dewy-eyed over the new line of Mac products.
Status: Not funny.
Wired, June 1997: Remain committed to the openDVD Consortium, addressing the issues of implementing digital versatile-disc technology. You've always been a bridge between the entertainment and high tech industries. Maintain it.
Status: Not done, but does it matter?
The Open DVD Consortium became the DVD Forum. There are a few dozen members listed on their web site but Apple is no longer amongst them. Apple is involved with of the Blu-Ray Disc Association, yet it refuses to ship products with Blu-Ray drives or optical drives of any sort. Steve Jobs famously called the licensing and DRM encumbrances of Blu-Ray "a bag of hurt".
I'm rooting for Steve because his agenda makes for speedier and more responsive systems. Waiting for an optical disc to spin up so you can start accessing it is merely annoying. Watching an entire application grinds to a halt while my workstation waits for the DVD drive to spin up so it can access one lousy random sector for absolutely no reason at all is maddening.
Armed with the iTunes Music Store, Apple is more bridge than foundation in the media world these days.
Wired, June 1997: Continue your research in voice recognition. It's the only way you're going to compete in videoconferencing and remote access.
Status: Not done.
During an "All Things D" Q&A session with Steve Jobs, Jobs remarked that significant advances in voice recognition are "... always 5 years out, always constant time to completion". [see this All Things D 2003 interview, 37m19s]
Wired, June 1997: Don't raise the Mac OS licensing fee. Cloners have helped stabilize and even increase market share for the Mac OS; this keeps software developers happy.
Technically they didn't raise the licensing fee; the whole Mac OS licensing program was effectively shut down a few months later. [Steve Jobs' delicate explanation of the situation at hand]
Software developers seemed to lighten up when Apple stopped revising their OS strategy every year and started making progress towards the release of Mac OS X.
Wired, June 1997: Stop wasting time on frivolities like Spartacus, the 20th-anniversary Mac. Get over yourself ... at least for a while.
Status: Stop wasting time? Done. Jobs, get over himself? Never.
Wired, June 1997: Work on ways to make your lower-end models truly upgradable. Giving customers a definite, manageable upgrade path will attract and hold customers. People need to be able to upgrade and expand, so they don't feel dead-ended every time Apple changes its mind. Upgrading a IIvx to a Power Mac is theoretically possible, but there are so many hardware and software problems that the experience is enough to turn a nun into a crack-smoking serial killer.
Wired, June 1997: Quit making each Mac in a platform-specific case, with platform-specific parts. Make one case for desktop systems and another for laptops. The case, chassis, and all that stuff needs to be as upgradable as the system software used to be.
Status: Upgrade problems are history, but not for the reasons you might be thinking.
The real pain back then was the Mac OS. By 1997, you were probably running System 7.5.3 Update 2 with System Enabler 14723, whatever that was. Mac OS 7.6 and new Power Mac G3 hardware put an end to seemingly random patches and "enablers". The phrase "one-pass install" was actually used in some of the marketing material for System 7.6.
There were some caveats involved if you wanted to use a PowerPC upgrade card, but that's to be expected when your accelerator card is capable of dragging hardware from six years ago into the state of the art. (The Macintosh IIci from the late 1980s was the oldest Mac capable of using the Apple PowerPC Upgrade Card introduced in 1994.)
Nowadays, nobody bothers spending the money to design expansion cards that boost system performance. Macintosh and Wintel users avoid upgrade path issues by simply buying new machines. If your system isn't being held back by an ancient PATA controller, it's your system's relatively small memory bandwidth or the new processor socket that prevents you from buying and using a faster CPU. Hard disks and memory are the only items that are guaranteed upgradeable... sometimes.
Some brave individuals have put newer Intel CPUs into Mac Pros and Mac minis.
Wired, June 1997: Get Ben & Jerry's to name a flavor after you. Suggestion: Apple Silicon Chip Supreme.
Status: Also not funny, but maybe Jerry Lewis would eat it.
A scientific poll amongst whoever happened to be within reach while I was writing this found that three out of three of my diehard Macintosh friends were not likely to buy "Apple Silicon Chip Supreme" ice cream.
While there is no such thing as an Apple Computer-themed ice cream flavour, there is a technical school named after Jobs in Mexico.
Wired, June 1997: Bring back Andy Hertzfeld and the other original Mac folks to explain to the executive team that simplicity and design elegance are what made the Mac attractive to developers in the first place and what still makes the Mac unique: automounting diskettes, self-configuration of hardware, direct manipulation of files, free-form filenames with spaces and no three-dot suffixes, uniform user interface across applications.
The original iPhone OS has done Wired one better: "Show, don't tell." iOS is so easy to use that even my mother fell in love with the "free" iPod touch that came with her iMac. To anyone who's ever suffered with a Motorola or Sony-Ericsson cell phone user interface before the days of Android, you're welcome.
Wired, June 1997: Speak to the consumer. Not to the press, not to the competition, but to the people who grew up with the Mac.
Status: vague (the suggestion, not the outcome).
Wired, June 1997: Return to the heady days of yore by insisting that Steve Jobs regrow his beard.
1999 saw a lot of bearded Steve..
Wired, June 1997: Recharge your strategy for Europe, where the PC market penetration is lower than in the US and the population is educated and interested in high tech. There's an opening there that doesn't exist here.
What little I do hear about Apple's presence in Europe isn't very positive, mostly because of the product pricing disparity between the US and everywhere else. (I live in Canada, and we endure a bit of that as well.)
Wired, June 1997: Stick to your schedule. After canceling the long awaited Copland, you can't afford to miss even one of your OS deadlines.
Wired, June 1997: Build a computer that doesn't crash.
Status: Not done, but Mac OS X shipped.
Let's count the number of delays in shipping Mac OS X 10.0. Not that we really minded, of course! Past alternatives had included no new operating system whatsoever or developers rewriting entire applications...
Wired, June 1997: Bring back John Sculley. He would provide a convenient whipping boy.
Status: Waste of time; not done.
Jobs has no time for the past. Anyone who wasn't worth keeping was fired upon his return in 1997. For the record, John Sculley regrets pushing Jobs out of Apple.
Wired, June 1997: Create dollar incentives to attract software vendors to write for the upcoming Rhapsody platform. You have cash in the bank—use it.
Status: Done, sort of.
Today's dollar incentives from Apple come in the form of customer purchases from the App Store, which has proven to be quite profitable for developers.
Wired, June 1997: Ink a promotion/development deal with Shaquille O'Neal; introduce designer Shaqintosh model.
2004 saw Apple's only celebrity-branded product, the U2 Box Set iPod.
The rest of us are waiting for the Adriana Lima upgrade to the Gisele Bündchen iMac.
Wired, June 1997: Make Java work on your OS. Then develop an enterprise computing strategy in partnership with Sun. Java is not a magic bullet, but supporting it will keep Mac owners happy and prevent them from looking elsewhere.
Status: Done, 1998: Mac OS Runtime for Java (unified Netscape/Microsoft/Sun/Apple specs)
Most of Java's fighting power is on the server side nowadays, but Apple did make an effort to improve compatibility between all the different JVMs that ran on the Mac OS back in the day.
Wired, June 1997: Roll out the Mac Plus again as a hip retro machine. Make it really, really uncool to use whizzy, leading-edge PCs.
Status: Not done.
Closest match: the "1984" poster distributed at Macworld San Francisco 2004. (see #6)
Second-closest match: Due to what must have been a mistake, there was a brief period in 2009 when you could place an order for an original generation (2001) iPod.
If you're a Macintosh history buff (you've made it this far down the list, haven't you?) check out the RetroMacCast with James and John.
Wired, June 1997: Get the top systems integrators to push NeXT's WebObjects as the ultimate intranet/Internet development environment. You cornered desktop publishing. What do you think the Web is becoming?! Besides, there's plenty of room in this area for new tools.
Status: Not done.
WebObjects has evolved at a much slower pace in recent years, with some wondering whether it would be discontinued altogether. Apple still uses WebObjects to power the Apple online store, MobileMe, and the iTunes Store.
Closest match: In 2007, the software required to develop and deploy WebObjects applications were made available free of charge.
Wired, June 1997: Tighten the focus on your publishing niche—both print and electronic—and seek to dominate it in every way.
Wired, June 1997: Become a graphic design company and dominate your niche the way Sun and Silicon Graphics do.
Status: Done, sort of.
Jobs at Macworld Boston 1997: "When was the last time you saw Adobe and Apple co-marketing Photoshop? When was the last time we went to Adobe and said, 'How do we make a computer that will run Photoshop faster?'"
If you're willing to connect Steve's words and the introduction of "the ultimate Photoshop machine" two years later: done.
Wired, June 1997: Retain your Apple Fellows at all costs. With Don Norman and Alan Kay recently leaving, there is a serious drain in the Big Think department.
Status: not done.
Apple has not named any new fellows in recent memory. Last known award: Guy Kawasaki, 1995.
Wired, June 1997: Change your name to Snapple and see if you can dupe Quaker Oats into buying you.
Wired, June 1997: Rename the company Papaya and begin an aggressive South Pacific marketing campaign.
Status: Better than the Jerry Lewis suggestion, and probably better than the ice cream flavour suggestion.
I believe it was MacAddict that suggested Apple should merge with Snapple and adopt the slogan, "Apple: The Power To Be the Best Stuff On Earth".
Wired, June 1997: Try the industry-standard serial port plug. RS-422 should be a last resort.
Status: Done (USB).
Once again, Apple went a step further. Industry-standard serial ports would have been great in the 1980s but Apple removed ADB, SCSI and legacy serial ports from their consumer product line with the introduction of the original iMac in 1998.
In place of these ports were two serial ports based on an emerging standard from Intel: USB. I couldn't find any evidence that Apple was the very first computer manufacturer to embrace USB technology, but they were certainly the first company to drop multiple legacy connectivity options all in one go.
Hackers and electronics hobbyists can still obtain serial port functionality by way of USB-to-RS232 adapters.
Wired, June 1997: Speed sells. Push your advantage on the speed of the processor. This summer, you'll release Macs using 450- and 533-MHz processors. Your lead over Intel will be remarkable. Brag about this. Once the operating system shifts toward the end of this year, the PowerPC will really kick some ass (the OS is a major drag on the processor). Intel is forever marketing the speed of its chips. Make it clear that yours are much faster.
Life was pretty good for a while there, wasn't it? Intel decided to ship the fiendishly slow cacheless Celeron, the PowerPC G3 required only a passive heatsink while the Pentium II and III were really heating up, and the G3's backside cache running at near-CPU clock speeds put us in the fast lane... for a while:
By 2001, Apple felt compelled to do some damage control. There was no further public bragging about PowerPC performance save for a brief show during the introduction of the G5.
At WWDC 2004, Jobs claimed that 90nm CPU production problems had hit the entire industry, slowing the development of faster CPUs. The Intel transition heralded the end of live Photoshop bakeoffs during Apple keynotes.
Wired, June 1997: Lose the cybercafés idea. Geez, what were you thinking?
Either this is really obscure or there was so much bad Apple news in 1996 and 1997 that even I missed out on this gem.
Apple announced, then cancelled a plan to license and promote the Apple brand at Internet-equipped coffee shops. According to the press release, the plan was scrapped a few months after the original November 1996 news item was published, perhaps around the time of Wired's suggestion.
Modern coffee/computer connection: during the September 2007 introduction of the original iPod touch, Apple announced that it would be partnering with Starbucks to enable iPod touch owners to buy and browse music that played in Starbucks outlets.
Wired, June 1997: Turn Claris loose so it can do some real damage.
I remember reading this suggestion more than once in the early 1990s: spin out Claris, get rid of Claris, sell Claris...
Much to my surprise, what became FileMaker Inc., is still a wholly owned subsidiary of Apple, Inc. rather than an independent entity.
Damage? FileMaker is the Microsoft Access of the Mac world, so it's done some damage in that sense... and I only mean that in a half-facetiously. Not even Microsoft's we-bleed-in-six-colours Mac Business Unit has attempted to bring Microsoft Access to the Mac. I attribute this situation to FileMaker's continued presence on the Mac.
Wired, June 1997: Exploit your advantage in the K-12 education market. That's the future. Most students use the computer as a true multimedia tool, and their technological expertise is very sophisticated, especially when compared to the typical business user.
Wired, June 1997: Price the CPUs to sell. Offer novice users the ability to enter the Mac market at a competitive price point and move up the power curve as their level of sophistication increases. The initial price keeps new buyers away.
Status: Apple products, cheap? Does not compute.
Well, we came close a few times. Apple doesn't make cheap stuff. "We make Hondas, not Yugos," said Jean-Louis Gassée before his departure from Apple in 1990. Nothing has changed.
Nowadays, a Mac mini with almost no RAM (2GB) starts at $699USD.
Wired, June 1997: Maintain existing loyalty at all costs. Use incentives like free upgrades and stock certificates. Gimmicky? Sure. But it helps create a bond and a religious following.
Status: Loyalty intact and growing
Looking back, "we" really shouldn't have stuck around. Apple has done very little to thank its customers unless you count the improvements to its management team, operating system, applications, hardware, and retail sales since the 1990s as incentives to remain a customer. (I do.)
The iPhone has brought a lot of people into the collective "we".
The great irony of the iPhone is that I am now in the inverse situation of what I experienced in high school: I'm surrounded by people who love Apple products and carry them everywhere, but I have nothing in common with them since they have no history with Apple and I couldn't care less about cell phones.
Wired, June 1997: Give the first Apple made exclusively for Windows a cheeky name (like The Big Apple) and an irresistible industrial design like the 20th-anniversary Macintosh. Introduce it with a mammoth ad campaign that shows the makers of other Windows PCs running for cover, as if they've been fearing Apple's monstrous entry into their market for decades.
Status: Not done, thankfully
Apple as a Wintel clone vendor? I'm glad this didn't happen. As Guy Kawasaki points out, Apple should continue to focus on the positive things that set it apart from other computer manufacturers rather than trying to satisfy the boring requirements of your average PHB.
Wired, June 1997: Develop proprietary programs that run only on Macs. Crow about them.
Status: Done (1999-present)
iMovie, iTunes and iPhoto are featured regularly during Apple presentations. Apart from Final Cut, Apple hasn't crowed very loudly about its other high-end applications.
Wired, June 1997: Effectively communicate your game plan to employees, customers, and developers. People need a strong presentation of what's going to happen.
Status: not while Steve is around!
the world's largest vertically-oriented marketing company a marketing company that occasionally ships products a company that develops and markets products for consumers. Silence builds mystery and hype, so Apple does its best to keep quiet. In the meantime, we have AppleInsider and MacRumors to help us guess what's next.
Wired, June 1997: Organize a very large bake sale—look what cookie sales have done for the Girl Scouts.
This is in part the most flippant and the most brilliant suggestion on the list. At 99 cents, a garden variety iPhone application is actually cheaper than a box of Girl Scout cookies. The iTunes App Store and iOS software developer's kit have garnered a lot of attention from customers, developers, and organizations who would probably never have written applications for Apple products.
Wired, June 1997: Acknowledge that there are people with repetitive stress injuries. Why do loyal customers have to go to a weird third-party vendor to get a split keyboard?
Status: Already done.
Actually, there was a brief period where Apple was the weird vendor from which you could buy a split keyboard.
I'll leave the question of whether the iPhone's multi-touch gestures help or hurt RSI up to you to answer.
Wired, June 1997: Create a chemical that cleans the Mac's pale gray plastic—they look cruddy after a year, and normal solutions either don't work or seem like they'll corrode the machine.
Status: Amiga makes it possible.
A recent advancement in case cleaning technology: retr0bright. Thank you, equally rabid and fanatic Amiga community. We can also thank Apple for using more and more aluminum in their latest products.
Wired, June 1997: Design a desktop model—call it La Dolce Vita—with a built-in cappuccino maker (featuring anything but Starbuck's—Washington's other great homogenizer).
Status: Not funny but definitely more useful than the Jerry Lewis suggestion.
Silicon Graphics engineers beat Apple to this one: witness the Espressigo. [more information]
Wired, June 1997: Start a new special projects group led by either Jobs or another passionate and creative designer to create the next "insanely great" technology. This time, focus on rolling the technology into the existing Mac line; make sure developers are inspired and in the loop.
Status: They're always up to something. Done.
Side note: Apple has been known to keep its own employees out of the loop in order to maintain secrecy.
Wired, June 1997: Develop a way to program that requires no scripting or coding.
Status: Better than it was in 1997. Modern programming environments from major vendors = less boilerplate code.
In some sense, Apple did the opposite by killing HyperCard, though Runtime Revolution and SuperCard live on.
The NeXTSTEP (and now XCode) development environment still required you to do some programming, but you were no longer required to write the hundreds of lines of boilerplate code that the classic Mac OS demanded.
There are other "code-free" application development environments, but they are not necessarily suitable for developing traditional, full-fledged desktop applications.
Automator is nice, but it's not really an application-building environment.
Wired, June 1997: Maintain differentiation between Wintel and Apple. Cross-platform means Apple OS on Intel boxes, not just add-ins to Windows. Making the Mac more like Windows, or making all technologies "cross-platform," is a going-out-of business strategy. Extend and improve the Mac's capabilities to handle Wintel data and emulate Wintel for those applications that require it.
Status: Already done.
Ah, one of many suggestions over the years that clearly comes from somebody who cannot differentiate between operating systems, processor families and applications. "Handling Wintel data" means having applications on the Mac side that are ready to read popular Windows application file types. Since the most popular applications on Windows all come from the Microsoft Office suite, I'd say this was already covered at the time of publication with the exception of Access and SQL Server databases.
Another recent improvement in cross-platform compatibility: AutoCAD is now back on the Mac after a brief 19 year hiatus.
If you've read this far, you shouldn't miss the story explaining why the original port was a terribly awkward but brilliant hack. [background]
Wired, June 1997: Fight back. Stand up for yourself with ads that respond to the negative press. Dispute, in particular, reports that Apple's PC market share has fallen. While this is true, overall Mac OS sales have risen.
Status: Still fighting.
Desktop computer market share numbers are difficult to pinpoint, but needless to say the Mac's share is still small. However, I'm happy to report that Apple's software, hardware and customers are all in much better shape than they were in the 1990s.
Wired, June 1997: Partner with Oracle, using its technology for a backend database with your friendly face.
Status: Already done, now defunct.
In the early 1990s, Oracle developed, then killed, some independent projects to do this: a HyperCard XCMD for talking to Oracle database systems, Oracle Card, and Oracle Media Objects.
These days, Oracle is a little closer to Apple now that Apple's primary operating system is a flavour of UNIX.
Wired, June 1997: Have Pixar make 3001, A Space Odyssey, with HAL replaced by a Mac.
Status: Done, sort of.
Another filler suggestion in my opinion, but this time around there is a vague connection to actual events. Apple parodied HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey at the Macworld San Francisco 1999 keynote (clip 1; clip 2) and the WWDC 1999 keynote (clip 3).
Another movie connection: EVE from WALL-e was designed in part by Jonathan Ive.
Wired, June 1997: Reincorporate as a nonprofit research foundation. Instead of buying computers, customers would buy memberships, just as they do in the National Geographic Society. They'd receive an Apple computer as part of their membership perks. Dues would be tax-deductible. Your (eventual) profits would also be tax-exempt, and the foundation could continue its noble battle to keep Microsoft on its toes.
Status: No profits while doing lots of research projects in the 1990s? Done. Keeping Microsoft on its toes? Done.
I used to hear a similar suggestion from Wintel people: "Apple should move its web site to apple.org because they're a non-profit company now." Wocka wocka wocka!
The closest we've come: now that there's money everywhere for things that are supposedly green, Apple has highlighted its product recycling programs, use of recyclable materials, and slightly less destructive manufacturing processes.
Almost not worth mentioning: product(RED) iPods. Hint: donating time and money for relief efforts need not happen only when you purchase throwaway electronic gear for yourself.
Wired, June 1997: Build a second graphics/video product based on the connection with Pixar (and therefore with Disney). Steve Jobs and Michael Eisner should define it.
Status: More video products? Done.
A second product? Hmmm. Obviously there was a first product that the author of this suggestion had in mind, but I have no idea what that is. I know that Pixar ported RenderMan to the Macintosh and sold it as a retail product in the early 1990s. Check your local Macworld archives.
Steve's move back to Apple meant even stronger ties to Pixar, and even stronger ties to Disney after Disney acquired Pixar in 2006. No special Pixar/Apple products have resulted from either of these changes.
Closest match: 1998 saw the purchase of what became the Final Cut Pro team. Apple has taken a great deal of the non-linear video editing market away from Avid as a result, so I would call this a successful followup even if it was partly accidental and doesn't involve Pixar.
Second-closest match: Apple's prototype non-linear editing system ca. 1997 known as the PowerExpress.
Wired, June 1997: Don't worry. You'll survive. It's Netscape we should really worry about.
Status: We worried. Apple survived. Netscape didn't, though Mozilla lives on in the form of Firefox.
Personal computer history buffs should watch "Code Rush", a documentary that follows the lives Netscape employees as they navigate their way through the company's most tumultuous period. Major events covered: the rush to meet the release date of the Mozilla (Netscape) source code, AOL's purchase of Netscape Communications, and the subsequent exodus of programmers.
This is the source code that eventually wound up in Firefox.
Did you know that Apple almost wound up using Mozilla rather than KHTML for Safari/WebKit? [Watch Mike Pinkerton of the Camino project tell you himself at 22m20s of this Google TechTalk.
Written by Derek Warren with extensive quotations from Wired. You should really buy a subscription to Wired.
If you enjoyed this article, I welcome donations to the Parkinson's Society of British Columbia.