From the beginning, Apple liked to proclaim it was inventing the future with products that would change the world. That visionary impulse often comes across as stubbornness, with Apple ignoring what the pundits say -- as well as overwrought, when Apple puts on its "it's all amazing and revolutionary" dog-and-pony shows. Even when co-founder Steve Jobs wasn't at Apple, that attitude has prevailed. Yet no tech company in the past 35 years has done as much user-facing innovation as Apple. Never mind that most people don't use Macs or iPads. Even when it doesn't win the market, Apple defines the market time and again. Here are the 10 most significant products Apple has created, ones that really have changed the world.
September 11, 2014
4. iPod: The music world, reinvented
After Steve Jobs' 12-year journey in the wilderness of Next and Pixar, he returned to a near-dead Apple -- and came up with the iPod. MP3 players already existed, but none really mattered. Portable CD players and the industry's portability granddaddy, the Sony Walkman, still ruled.
In 2001, the iPod changed all that, thanks to a better user experience. It also changed the music industry: Songs now mattered, not albums, and with the iTunes Store, Apple shifted the distribution of music from physical stores to downloads. The music business -- and music listening -- in 2014 bears little resemblance to the experience in 2001.
The iPod also changed Apple, converting the computer company into a consumer technology company, which is the source of its strength today
5. iPhone: The end of the mobile phone, the beginning of mobile computing
When the iPhone debuted in 2007, InfoWorld's Tom Yager derided it as a $1,975 iPod, due to its required data plan. A year later, Apple debuted the App Store, and the iPhone was no longer an iPod that could make calls.
Apple smartly created several rich apps -- iMovie, GarageBand, Pages, Keynote, Numbers -- that to this day are unrivaled as mobile apps and show that a smartphone isn't a cellphone that supports email, as the once-dominant BlackBerry had been, but a computer in its own right. Apple had this vision back in 1993 with its Newton MessagePad, which clearly presages the iPhone of 2007.
Today, Android rules much of the smartphone world; like Windows used the Mac as inspiration, Android used the iPhone.
7. iPad: The PC, reinvented - and the TV, reinvented
There were tablets, or at least slates, on the original "Star Trek" TV series in the 1960s. In the modern PC era, there've been Windows tablets since at least the XP days, but all were flops.
The iPad changed that, becoming the first tablet that people wanted, and spawning a copycat industry (some copies predated the iPad itself, based on rumours). But no one does it as well as the iPad.
Tablets now sell as many units as PCs do, and the iPad was the fastest-adopted mass technology in human history. Tablets can be your mobile PC, but they're as likely to (also) be your personal TV, among other items. Amazing.
8. Touch: The gestures we all use came from Apple
It doesn't matter what devices or operating systems you run, when it comes to touch gestures, they all work very much the same way - at core, Apple's way. Apple has vigorously protected some gestures through patents, but the basic gestures it introduced on the iPhone are practically universal. They've become like mouse movements, used by everyone.
That universality has quickly let the gesture approach to computing take off, as both developers and users can focus less on learning the UI and more on, well, using it. Most of Apple's impact has been on mobile devices, but its adaption of touch to computers via touch-enabled mice and trackpads probably means when touch PCs finally get popular, they'll use Apple's gestures, too.
11. Apple TV, take 2: Streaming is just the beginning
Basically a media server appliance, the first (white) Apple TV in 2006 was not very good. PC makers have been pushing media servers for years, as unsuccessfully as they had been pushing tablets. Apple needed to rethink the problem, which the second (black) Apple TV did.
It wasn't a media server, but rather, a new kind of set-top box that draws programming from on-demand services (first iTunes; later Hulu and many TV networks). Plus, unlike competing devices, it acts as a relay point for all sorts of entertainment from users' devices: Macs, PCs, iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches.
The Apple TV is a content nexus, and that notion fits nicely in the mix of personal and connection that other Apple technologies simultaneously proffer.