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24 milestones in the Mac's 30-year history

Ryan Faas | Jan. 27, 2014
Today marks the 30th anniversary of the arrival of the now-iconic Apple Macintosh computer. Columnist Ryan Faas looks back over the past three decades at some of the highlights and lowlights of the Mac's -- and Apple's -- evolution.

The iMac G3 arrived in 1998 in "Bondi" blue.

The digital hub strategy and iLife (1999): In addition to announcing the Blue and White Power Mac G3, the next-generation iMacs and the original iBook in 1999, Jobs also articulated a new concept of everyday computing that he called the digital hub. The concept involved having the Mac serve as a centralized way for users to incorporate all of the digital content and media in their life — including photos, home movies, music, and data. This strategy remains a guiding principle for Apple. In the years since Jobs first coined the phrase, Apple has pushed it forward with apps like iPhoto and iMovie as well as other products like the iPod. The digital hub is still a core part of the Apple experience and one that has transcended the Mac. The iPhone, iPad, Apple TV and iCloud features such as Photostream still align around the digital hub concept.

Mac OS X (2001): If the iMac represented a commitment to the future of the Mac as a piece of hardware, OS X represented that commitment to progress and innovation as a platform. Looking back to the initial release of OS X in 2001 (following a Public Beta in 2000), is to look at a very raw work in progress. It wasn't until Jaguar was released in 2002 that OS X became the polished product we know today and it wasn't until Leopard's release five years later that many of the features we take for granted now were introduced. It's also worth remembering that OS X isn't just an operating system that runs on Macs. When Apple developed the iPhone and the original Apple TV, the company developed variants of OS X to power those devices, which gave rise to today's iOS.

Apple retail (2001): Before Apple opened its own retail stores beginning in 2001, the experience of shopping for a Mac, finding answers to questions, or troubleshooting problems was often a very different and difficult one. Unless you lived near an independent Apple reseller, finding hardware and getting answers was hard. Many retailers didn't carry Apple products, those that had them rarely showcased them in a positive light and most salespersons didn't have the knowledge to answer questions. (In fact, many would steer a buyer to PCs if you asked about Mac hardware.) Apple retail gave the company a way to change that dynamic and although it started as something of a quirky experiment, it has been successful beyond anyone's predictions.

Apple's stylish Xserve arrived in 2003.

The Xserve (2003): Alongside OS X, Apple introduced a server platform called OS X Server (the initial version of which actually shipped before OS X). In 2003, Apple set its sights on the server room and data center by introducing the Xserve, its first rackmount system designed for use in enterprise environments. Ultimately, Apple altered its approach to the enterprise and discontinued the Xserve with a focus on selling products not to IT departments, but to end users and making certain that its products can interoperate with little or no effort in major enterprise systems.


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