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Apple executives on the Mac at 30: 'The Mac keeps going forever.'

Jason Snell | Jan. 24, 2014
Thirty years ago, Apple introduced the Macintosh, and we all learned why 1984 wasn't going to be like 1984. A lot has changed in 30 years, and yet even in as fast-moving a field as technology, Apple and the Mac are still here. A time traveler from 1984, fresh from Steve Jobs's introduction of the original Mac, would probably be able to point at one of today's iMacs and identify it as the logical evolution of the original.

One piece of the puzzle
What's clear when you talk to Apple's executives is that the company believes that people don't have to choose between a laptop, a tablet, or a smartphone. Instead, Apple believes that every one of its products has particular strengths for particular tasks, and that people should be able to switch among them with ease. This is why the Mac is still relevant, 30 years on — because sometimes a device with a keyboard and a trackpad is the best tool for the job.

"It's not an either/or," Schiller said. "It's a world where you're going to have a phone, a tablet, a computer, you don't have to choose. And so what's more important is how you seamlessly move between them all ... it's not like this is a laptop person and that's a tablet person. It doesn't have to be that way."

When I walked into Apple's offices for my conversation with the three executives, they noticed that I had brought a phone, tablet, and laptop, and had ultimately selected my MacBook Air as my tool of choice for the interview. (To write about the 30th anniversary of the Mac on an iPad would have felt like a betrayal.)

"You had a bunch of tools," Federighi said, pointing at my bag. "And you pulled out the one that felt right for the job that you were doing. It wasn't because it had more computing power ... you pulled it out because it was the most natural device to accomplish a task." Sometimes you want a large display, with many different windows open, and sometimes you just want to lay back on the couch or are standing at the bus stop. "There's a natural form factor that drives the optimal experience for each of those things. And I think what we are focused on is delivering the tailored, optimal experience for those kinds of ways that you work, without trying to take a one-size-fits-all solution to it."

Where next, Mac?
Ten years ago I interviewed Steve Jobs on the occasion of the Mac's 20th anniversary and I asked him about the Mac's long-term future as an important part of what Apple was doing. The iPod had been selling like crazy and everyone was starting to wonder if Apple was going to leave the Mac behind.

So I asked Jobs if the Mac was still going to be an important part of Apple's future. His response was, "Of course!" He was kind enough not to just say "duh!"

Ten years on, it was worth revisiting the question even though I had a very good idea what the answer would be. When Schiller, Federighi, and Tribble talk about the Mac, they're referring to an important part of Apple's strategy. In fact, as Schiller pointed out, in some ways the success of the iPhone and iPad takes some of the pressure off and "gives us the freedom to go even further on the Mac." Now the Mac doesn't have to be all things to all people.


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