What set Apple and the Mac apart from the IBM PC and other mid-’80s contemporaries was not so much the GUI or the mouse, but what was beneath those technologies.
“They were taking a significant portion of computing horsepower and focusing it on making the computer easy to use,” said Larry Zelch, co-founder of Mac Zealots., a Macintosh development tools firm based in Orinda, Calif.
Dantz Development was founded in 1984, the year Apple introduced the Macintosh. “It changed the mind-set from just making it real fast to making it easier to use,” Zelch said.
Since Jan. 24, 1984, Apple has shipped more than 13 million Macs. Currently, there is an installed base of 5.9 million Macs in the United States, with about 4.9 million running in businesses, or educational or government institutions, according to analysts at InfoCorp, a market-research firm in Santa Clara, Calif.
That’s a truly impressive feat. But the corporate market is a target that remains difficult for Apple to hit — mainly because the PCs on the majority of U.S. corporate desktops use Microsoft Corp.’s Windows, analysts said. Microsoft officials claim to have sold 40 million copies of Windows to date.
The size of the Windows market is leaving software developers little choice but to emphasize Windows applications ahead of developing for the Mac.
“People are developing for the mainstream PC-Windows market, then they’re developing for the Mac later,” said Kimball Brown, an analyst with Dataquest Inc., a market-research firm based in San Jose, Calif. “For Apple to grow the corporate market, they have to open the Mac OS up to licensing and spread it around.”
Despite Apple’s server products unveiled in 1993, the introduction last fall of a comprehensive support program called Apple Support Professional, and the Apple Business Systems Division to address LAN-based products for enterprise environments, some analysts believe corporate customers are uncomfortable with the Cupertino, Calif., company’s role in that arena.
“I think they’re perceived in the corporate marketplace as not knowing what they’re doing, and their approach has been in fits and starts,” said Jeff Henning, an analyst with BIS Strategic Decisions, a market-research firm in Norwell, Mass. “Corporate accounts like stability.”
One systems analyst with a Fortune 500 company said his company has several hundred Macs, but they are all within the scientific R&D department. The rest of the corporation runs Windows-based PCs.
“Apple hasn’t been marketing to large corporations,” the systems analyst said. “They haven’t been real forthcoming with information to my company — I have millions of dollars to spend on systems, and I still can’t get them to talk to me.”
The last two years of the Mac decade have also seen the Mac’s key differentiator, the GUI, diminished by Windows.
Some analysts believe that with Microsoft’s pending release of Windows 4.0, code-named Chicago — with its integrated file management and messaging — Windows may eclipse the Mac.
“I think 1994 will be the year that Windows actually becomes a better product than the Mac [GUI],” said Henning.
One thing, however, is undisputable about the Macintosh: It was the system that made computing accessible to millions of people, in business and out.
“Never mind the business issues and the `could-have-beens,’ you can’t take away that Apple’s reputation for innovation was light years ahead of [the rest of] the PC business,” said Bill Bluestein, director of computing strategies research for Forrester Research Inc., a market-research and consulting firm based in Cambridge, Mass. “The Mac introduced the PC to the popular mind-set.”
Besides launching the desktop-publishing industry and the fact that there are countless companies making Macintosh products, the Mac did have a big impact on the corporate world, users said.
“I think the Mac has raised the issue of communications within corporations,” said Brian Comnes, information center manager at DHL Airways Inc.’s Redwood City, Calif., facility. “In communicating ideas, there is the content and the presentation. … I think the Mac really raised the overall quality of communications within the corporation.”