Apple is the largest, most profitable technology company in the world. Each year, Apple sells hundreds of millions of its popular iMacs, MacBooks, iPods, iPads, and iPhones. Apple’s products—and the technology that supports them—have influenced the way people behave and interact. Think how waiting in line at the grocery store or waiting for the next train is more productive, or at least no longer tedious, when you get to check your inbox or watch a video on YouTube. Now remember how insecure you felt the last time you left your smartphone sitting on your living room sofa. Whichever way you look at it, Apple has enjoyed a long streak of successful product launches, with people camping out for days to get their hands on the latest Apple gadgets.
Over the course of its history, Apple had its ups and downs, with Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, the company’s founders, leaving Apple in the 1980s. After Steve Jobs’s return to Apple in 1997, Apple has had an impressive run of successful products, including the iMac, the PowerBook, the iPod, and iTunes. Building on its success with the iPod, Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007 and, shortly thereafter, the “App Store,” revolutionizing the way we purchase and use applications on mobile devices. The era of iPhones continued as successive updates to the iPhone line were introduced year after year, each garnering wider adoption than the last. In 2010, Apple introduced the revolutionary iPad, touted as a “third-category” device between smartphones and laptop personal computers (PCs). Clearly, innovations fueled by Apple have changed the lives of many people all over the world.
However, Apple has also seen a number of high-profile product failures. In January 2008, to help celebrate 24 years of the Mac, first introduced to consumers in 1984, Wired magazine recalled some of Apple’s more infamous failures. One of Apple’s most visible flops was the Newton, actually the name of a newly conceived operating system that stuck to the product as a whole. The Newton, which Apple promised would “reinvent personal computing,” fell far short of its hype when it was introduced in 1993 as a not-sorevolutionary personal digital assistant (PDA). The Newton was on the market for 6 years—a relatively long time for an unsuccessful product—but one of Steve Jobs’s first acts when he returned to Apple’s helm in 1997 was to cut the Newton Systems Group. Other Apple product failures include: the Pippin (1993), a gaming device that couldn’t compete with Nintendo’s 64 or Sony’s PlayStation; the Macintosh television (1993), which only sold 10,000 units; the PowerMac G4 Cube (2000), an 8″ × 8″ × 8″ designer machine that was widely regarded as overpriced; the puck mouse included with the iMac G3 (1998), a too-small, awkwardto-control device that users often mistakenly used upside down; and the Lisa (1983),
whose whopping US$9,995 price tag (more than US$20,000 in current dollars) made it too expensive for most businesses.
In recent years, Apple has introduced a large variety of new products, all with remarkable success. Innovative products that consumers stand in line to get include the MacBook Air, as well as a line of iPods, iPhones, and iPads. After the death of Steve Jobs in 2011, time will tell if Apple’s current success streak continues or if, at some point, Apple will yet again introduce a product that is “too innovative” for the consumers. Introduced in 2015, the Apple Watch may be one such product, with many questioning the usefulness of this wearable technology turned fashion statement.
With its increasing focus on personal devices, Apple has become not only a hardware vendor but also a keeper of people’s (often private) information. As it is being stored in the cloud, personal information can easily be (ab)used to predict future behavior, potential trends, music tastes, and more. Connected as we may be to the rest of the world, salient concerns are warranted regarding issues of privacy and information property—that is, who has access to what and how private information is being used. Certainly, there are potential risks associated with being an active participant in the digital world, so the next time you purchase an app, think about how much you reveal about yourself with the swipe of your finger.

1. Given the pace at which technology is converging (e.g., phones, music players, cameras, and so on), what do you think will be Apple’s next revolutionary innovation?

2. How have Apple’s products influenced the way we work and socialize?

3. What are the ethical concerns associated with storing and analyzing user data?

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