Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Apple's Focus is Still Software

Zonk posted more than 9 years ago | from the coulda-fooled-me dept.

Apple 146

bonch writes "Via a Forbes interview, Steve Jobs reassures Apple faithful that despite the runaway success of products like the iPod they are still a committed software company. He also talks about the real motivations behind negotiating Microsoft's 1997 $150 million investment in Apple, the development that went into the original iTunes (only four months!), their future expected revenues, and much more. MacObserver provides an overview, and Fortune has excerpts here."

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Gee (2, Insightful)

wizbit (122290) | more than 9 years ago | (#11611687)

the development that went into the original iTunes (only four months!)

That couldn't be because they cannibalized another product and its development staff, and pretty much produced a half-baked "brushed steel" version of the same, now could it?

I remember the original iTunes, and I far preferred the product they'd based it on, Casady & Greene's SoundJam MP.

Re:Gee (4, Insightful)

wizbit (122290) | more than 9 years ago | (#11611850)

Wow, record time. Mods got an itchy trigger finger today?

Listen, the original iTunes was crap - I'm sorry. I'm a long-time Mac user and today's iTunes is worlds ahead of the original incarnation they put out.

Here's an old review [macworld.com] . They didn't even add an equalizer (standard on MP) until the second release! Everything that makes the program useful today was lacking when they first released it. The only thing this had going for it was the fact that it was free - and, thankfully, that it got a lot better.

Re:Gee (3, Interesting)

Gob Blesh It (847837) | more than 9 years ago | (#11612056)

I remember C&G's SoundJam too, and the article actually mentions it and Apple's "cannibalization," as you put it, of its development staff. The details don't really seem to jibe with what I remember, though--did Fortune magazine get it wrong?

One was a company called SoundStep, founded by a then 28-year-old software engineer with an MBA named Jeff Robbin, who had left Apple literally the month Jobs returned. His program, SoundJam, wasn't ready for market, but Jobs bought the company anyway, primarily because Robbin had impressed people while at Apple before.

The alacrity and breadth of what transpired over the next 13 months are hard to believe in hindsight. Robbin and a couple of other programmers started over from scratch and pounded out the first version of iTunes in less than four months. That was just in time for Steve to show it off at the annual Macworld trade show.

Re:Gee (4, Informative)

Dephex Twin (416238) | more than 9 years ago | (#11612173)

Hmm, the way I remember it was different too. I had registered my copy of SoundJam on OS 9 and absolutely loved it. Then when OS X first came out, a carbon beta of SoundJam quickly came out for it. Then it mysteriously disappeared from downloading, with some vague explanation from C&G. When iTunes was released, it was very obvious that it was made from SoundJam, but with a number of features stripped out. Also, I remember that you didn't have the same player that you could skin, and that really annoyed me.

I don't know what SoundStep is, and certainly SoundJam was ready for market long ago... it was reviewed in MacWorld, it was a popular product.

Who knows.

Re:Gee (2, Informative)

mmkkbb (816035) | more than 9 years ago | (#11612358)

soundstep is the company that made soundjam. c&g was just the publisher.

Re:Gee (1)

Dephex Twin (416238) | more than 9 years ago | (#11615251)

Well, that clarifies the company mismatch, but do you know what they might have meant with regards to the product not being ready for primetime?

Re:Gee (1)

mmkkbb (816035) | more than 9 years ago | (#11615280)

maybe it wasn't ready for market BY APPLE? i had a registered copy of soundjam, mostly for the shoutcast streamer, but i remember it being crashy and SLOW

Re:Gee (1)

Golias (176380) | more than 9 years ago | (#11615979)

I'll second that. I also used SoundJam back in the day, and found it to even be inferior in many ways to various Windows-based MP3 players of the time.

iTunes, while not very feature-rich at first, was a big step up in terms of performance and stability, and I've been cheerfully using it pretty much since the day it was released.

Now, a few revisions down the road, it's flat-out the best jukebox-type program out there (IMHO.) I even use the Windows version of it on my company's PC when I'm at work.

Re:Gee (3, Informative)

thejoelpatrol (764408) | more than 9 years ago | (#11612944)

Yep, they got that one wrong. I don't know how--any idiot can tell you that SoundJam went through several full versions before being bought by Apple. For a truly facinating read on the history of SoundJam, Audion (its competitor) and iTunes, read this history of Audion [panic.com]

Re:Gee - Audion for Mac OS Classic and OS X (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11611999)

as and when it became the basis of iTunes, SoundJam has bcome a thing of the past, and so has C & G.

on the other hand, SoundJam's competitor, Audion, is still around, available for Mac OS Classic as well as Mac OS X for free:

http://www.panic.com/audion/ [panic.com]

Here's a comparison chart (slightly biased, perhaps) of Audion vs. the early version of iTunes:

http://www.panic.com/audion/chart.html/ [panic.com]

Regards,

Walter.

Why not RTFA? (3, Interesting)

rjung2k (576317) | more than 9 years ago | (#11612532)

That couldn't be because they cannibalized another product and its development staff, and pretty much produced a half-baked "brushed steel" version of the same, now could it?

Actually, according to the article, Jeff Robbin (SoundJam's developer) and his team started over from scratch and "pounded out the first version of iTunes in less than four months."

Not sure why they didn't just take SoundJam and re-skinned it, but if it needed to be rewritten from the ground up, there may have been a need for future expandability somewhere...

Re:Gee (1)

Trillan (597339) | more than 9 years ago | (#11615147)

Yes, SoundJam was better than iTunes. And iTunes 1 was based on SoundJam.

However, the rest of your post is sketchy at best. C&G never owned SoundJam. SoundJam was owned by the developers who wrote it, including Jeff Robbins. Jeff Robbins also worked at Apple at the time.

Apple purchased the publishing rights to SoundJam, purchased the source code from Jeff & co, and transferred the developers (who they already employed) to the new iTunes division.

By iTunes 2, Apple had reached feature parity with SoundJam (except for skins). Since then, iTunes has just gotten better and better.

So I'm not entirely sure where the bile comes from. Who was hard done by here? Was it C&G, who Jeff & co could have pulled the product from at any time? Was it Jeff & co, who not only got a nice payment, but got full time jobs working on the product he loved? Was it the users, who got the best MP3 player on any platform free? Who was it?

That's what I thought (5, Interesting)

Knights who say 'INT (708612) | more than 9 years ago | (#11611700)

I watched Steve's kenyote speech, and he spent fiteen times as much time demo'ing software than talking about the Mac mini -- which I thought was the big event of the night. Some totally noncharismatic VP demo'ed Pages for ages, a band was called to demo GarageBand, and Steve generally spent a lot of time clicking around.

I ended up thinking "wow, Apple is really a software company that happens to make hardware".

Re:That's what I thought (4, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | more than 9 years ago | (#11611995)

I watched Steve's kenyote speech, and he spent fiteen times as much time demo'ing software than talking about the Mac mini -- which I thought was the big event of the night....I ended up thinking "wow, Apple is really a software company that happens to make hardware".

The Mac mini is kinda neat, in that it's so small and all, but it's not really selling as well as it is just because of its small size. In general, Apple hardware is impressively engineered, but people often aren't buying Apple hardware for the Apple hardware. They buy Apple hardware for the Apple software. The real reason the mini was the "big event of the night" is that it was a sub-$500 way to get OSX.

Exactly!! (4, Interesting)

kajoob (62237) | more than 9 years ago | (#11613182)

I think you hit the nail on the head. I am seeing a lot of slashdot articles and discussion about "Oh my god, look how small it is! People will line up to buy this!", but for a windows user my entire life like myself my thought was "I've heard so much about OSX I'd like to give it a whirl, now I can finally afford a machine to run it." OSX is by no means perfect, there are some annoyances, but I am so much happier with my new mac mini than my windows box. So much so that I haven't booted my windows box since the day I got my mini.

And to anyone else in my same position who hasn't even tried OSX, the learning curve is surprisingly small. I recommend David Pogue's OSX: The Missing Manual Book which helped translate windows fuctionality to the mac equivalants. Also check out The Top 100 OSX Applications [creationrobot.com] , it has helped me determine what the mac equivalant of my favorite windows software is.

Re:Exactly!! (1)

vilms (106676) | more than 9 years ago | (#11616604)

And to anyone else in my same position who hasn't even tried OSX, the learning curve is surprisingly small.

Last night, after a bit of prep, I talked a Mac novice through the process of hooking up a firewire drive, containing a Mac OS X build that I'd created (that's the bit of prep), with the object intention of backing up 9, wiping the G4's disk and cloning my build to his Mac. Fully expecting everything to go wrong that could go wrong, I was gratified to find him happily clicking through his first Mac OS X experience an hour later. From that point on, hooking up his iPod (which is the reason this whole project came about) was simple enough for him to work out himself. Along with printing. And setting up his email/web etc.
after 20 years of using and supporting Macs, I still get a sad thrill out of "it all just working".

Re:That's what I thought (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 9 years ago | (#11616581)

Well, how much is there to say about the Mini? It's a Mac, at an unprecedented price-point. That's great, but it's not an hour's worth of material for a Keynote speech.

-jcr

Re:That's what I thought (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11616982)

Non-charismatic VP?

Looks like someone has yet to catch SCHILLER MANIA!!!!!!! [schiller-mania.com]

Anyone else notice a software/hardware cycle? (2, Interesting)

TeeJS (618313) | more than 9 years ago | (#11611716)

I buy a good deal of macs for my school district (we're about 1/5 Mac) and I've noticed Apple seems to go in a cycle with HW/SW quality. Namely, when their hardware is on, their software is full of bugs, and when their software is on, the hardware comes with 5-10% DOA? I've been a big Apple fan for 10+ years, but haven't seen a time they have everything together at once. Maybe it's just because I tend to buy their cheapest pricepoint hardware most of the time (school budget...), but it's been very consistent over the last 10 years.

Re:Anyone else notice a software/hardware cycle? (1)

b17bmbr (608864) | more than 9 years ago | (#11612049)

I buy a good deal of macs for my school district

what's your secret. i've been trying to get my district to go with some macs for a while, especially for my AP comp sci class. they're still stuck in the OS9 mentality. they say it's cost, but when you figure in anti-virus, security software, lockremote control, etc., it adds hundreds plus when you talk about maintanence and upkeep...

apple has traditionally been a hardware company. that is their forte. when they do software, they have the advantage of a singular platform (hw and sw), and can focus on a narrow audience. the only noticable problem, at least that i saw in the old mac lab was appletalk. it was slow and inconsistent.

Re:Anyone else notice a software/hardware cycle? (2, Interesting)

bluGill (862) | more than 9 years ago | (#11612401)

I'd consider it a disservice to students to not make them use at least Linux/BSD/Unix, Ms Windows and OSX. You need to prepare studnets for the real world, and in the real world there is more than Windows. Particularly in computer science where embedded systems that don't run Ms Windows are big. Not to mention artists who generally don't run MS Windows.

I don't know how you can apply this, but it should be a part of your argument somehow. Good luck.

Re:Anyone else notice a software/hardware cycle? (1)

dn15 (735502) | more than 9 years ago | (#11615392)

You need to prepare studnets for the real world, and in the real world there is more than Windows. Particularly in computer science where embedded systems that don't run Ms Windows are big. Not to mention artists who generally don't run MS Windows.
This is a valid argument. But be prepared for some potentially strong disagreement. Remember, the for most people the "real world" is Compaq and Dell running Windows XP. There are people out there who don't know that Apple is still in business (though as of late that would be hard to miss considering the popularity of the iPod.) Likewise there are people who think Linux is no longer free because they saw a copy of Mandrake on the shelf at the local computer shop.

Re:Anyone else notice a software/hardware cycle? (1)

TeeJS (618313) | more than 9 years ago | (#11612610)

I have to admit - in my 10 years I've taken them from 100% mac to 1/5 mac. However, we did most of the transition pre-OS X, when apple was really floundering financially and in performance of product. We'd have a bid for 100-300 machines and Apple would consistently quote list price, while other vendors were seriously undercutting each other to get our business. We have made a decision to keep two grades Mac, in order to give the students some diveristy, so my purchases are mainly replacing 1/5 of them each year (we have a 5 year replacement cycle).

Re:Anyone else notice a software/hardware cycle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11614391)

In a word, no.

Full article (4, Informative)

Gob Blesh It (847837) | more than 9 years ago | (#11611746)

If you want to read the full article [fortune.com] , you need a subscription to FORTUNE magazine. Specifically, you need to enter the mailing address where your subscription is delivered.

By the way, I have it on good authority that NYU's Bobst Library [nyu.edu] , at 70 Washington Square South, New York, NY 10012, subscribes to a whole bunch of periodicals.

Re:Full article without entering anything (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11612048)

"My God, there really has been a genie locked in that bottle! Apple's innovation and creativity have been unleashed in a way that they haven't been in 20 years. Look at the results. This isn't a company about 5% market share; this is a company that is capable of competing with world-class competitors and achieving market shares of 65%, 70%, and even 90%."

Steve Jobs, the silver-tongued king of Apple Computer, is explaining how the world's opinion of his company has risen with the triumph of the iPod. We're in our third phone conversation, following up on a 2 1/2-hour interview in the Apple boardroom a few days before. Jobs is obviously feeling good, and with good reason. Overnight, it seems, Apple has broken out of its box as a boutique computer maker and emerged as a force to be reckoned with in consumer electronics, music, and who knows what else. "The great thing is that Apple's DNA hasn't changed," he says. "The place where Apple has been standing for the last two decades is exactly where computer technology and the consumer electronics markets are converging. So it's not like we're having to cross the river to go somewhere else; the other side of the river is coming to us."

Apple's recent achievements, in fact, make it look as if it is walking on water. Its stock price, which languished during and after the dot-com crash, suddenly more than tripled last year. (It recently hit an all-time high of nearly $80 a share.) In January, Jobs crowed that Apple had posted the highest revenues and profits in its 28-year history for its fiscal first quarter ending Christmas Day. Propelled by sales of 4.6 million iPod portable digital music players, revenues zoomed by 74%, to $3.5 billion for the quarter, putting the company on track, by analysts' estimates, for a $13 billion 2005. Meanwhile profits more than tripled.

The DNA may not have changed, but the external transformation is dramatic. No longer is Apple's business limited to computers--though it did sell more than a million Macs last quarter for the first time in four years. Today the company's ever-expanding products encompass multimedia applications for creative professionals and consumers, the thriving .Mac (pronounced dot-mac) Internet subscription service, and a popular line of easy-to-use wireless networking gizmos to link computers and stereos and other devices in the home and office. And, of course, the iPod. The company has even become a player in retail with its 100 Apple Stores: chic glass and anodized aluminum temples that fuse fashion, technology, and reverence for personal creativity into something Jobs likes to call the "Apple user experience."

In his first extended interview since undergoing surgery for pancreatic cancer last summer, Jobs eagerly explains how Apple has pulled all this off and drops hints about where the company is going and how big he expects it to get. (For excerpts from the interview, see 'Our DNA Hasn't Changed'.) But as the conversation unfolds, Steve doesn't talk about the next gotta-have-it gizmo or ultracool ad campaign or trendsetting industrial design. None of those, he says, is Apple's core strength or primary competitive advantage. Instead he's going to talk about software--the central strand that runs through all of Apple's success.

Steve being Steve, he's doing this partly because he's selling something. This spring, Apple will unveil Tiger, an update of its OS X operating system that, at $129 a pop, will generate hundreds of millions of dollars of high-profit sales. (More about Tiger later.) Even so, for Steve to credit software for Apple's success sounds so hopelessly dweeby, so Bill Gates, that it seems hardly worth muting your iPod for--until you consider the new business model it has helped Apple spawn. Indeed, the whole iPod phenomenon is, underneath it all, one big interwoven software creation. The iTunes jukebox that coordinates the mind-meld between your iPod and your Mac or PC is just the most obvious chunk of code. The iTunes Music Store, which accounts for 62% of all music download sales on the web, is likewise a software machine, purring away in both Apple's corporate IT systems and your computer. And the iPod itself, like the Macintosh, is a marvel of software engineering.

It's that prowess in software that is Apple's greatest hope for sustained growth as it dives into markets dominated by leviathans like Sony and Microsoft, and that could propel it into other realms of consumer electronics. As we'll see, software wizardry is how Steve brought Apple back from oblivion and even breathed new life into the Mac, which turned 20 years old the day we sat down to talk. Software, in a word, is the genie in Apple's multibillion-dollar hardware business.

Steve Helps Himself

Your typical corporate CIO must be wondering, "Why aren't there some nice new exciting applications for me?" Nothing has really changed in his world, while on the consumer side there's all this cool new stuff like iTunes and the iPod and iPhoto and iMovie. That's where the real innovation is now, and Apple is driving it.
-- Bill Joy, co-founder and former chief scientist at Sun Microsystems

Think back about just how irrelevant Apple seemed even two years ago. Its share of the personal-computing market had shrunk inexorably throughout the 1990s to a tiny 2%. It had slogged through nearly a decade of dwindling influence and financial pain. The consumer-oriented Mac couldn't run many of the programs that PC users--especially those in business settings--needed. Corporations, which buy the bulk of computers, were at best keeping a few Macs around to handle creative tasks like photo editing and document design.

By the late 1990s, Apple was making even its most loyal users doubt the point of sticking with the company. Its operating system was an unstable patchwork, and programmers were growing ever more reluctant to write for Macs or adapt their PC programs to run on the machines. Apple knew it needed help. It turned to a man who had started it all: Steve Jobs. Since being pushed out in 1986 of the company he had co-founded, Jobs had gone on to start another computer company, Next, and to take over what would become the animation powerhouse Pixar. Apple bought Next in 1997, and in came Jobs with a plan to remake the company with software.

But software takes a long time to build, and at first he had to scramble just to keep the place afloat. He pruned the product line in his first full year as CEO, causing revenues to sink some 15%, to $5.9 billion--little more than half of Apple's peak sales in 1995. One of his first moves surprised Apple partisans--he turned for help to his longtime rival Bill Gates. The two struck a deal under which Microsoft bought $150 million of Apple stock and promised to keep supplying Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer for the Mac, programs that made Apple's computers at least somewhat compatible with the PC world. (Microsoft's stake in Apple is now worth well over $1 billion.) At the same time, Jobs used hardware to create buzz. In 1998, Apple launched the iMac, a fun, jellybean-colored machine that--while little different internally from its predecessors--quickly became a fashion statement.

But in truth, he was using the Microsoft deal and the iMac to buy time. Jobs' big bet was on Mac OS X, a new operating system based on his work at Next. Unlike the old Mac OS, this one would be based on Unix, an operating system that had been poked, prodded, tested, and improved over decades by some of the largest companies and universities. He told Avie Tevanian, who led software development, and Bertrand Serlet, the head of the OS X team, to treat it as a moon shot. In 2001, after three years of labor by nearly 1,000 geeks, Apple delivered the software equivalent of a cross between a Porsche and an Abrams tank: an operating system with sleek, animated graphics and an abundance of useful and novel features built on top of industrial-strength code. OS X made it easier to write applications, made programs run better, and allowed for much easier plug-and-play of camcorders and other consumer products.

OS X gave Apple the foundation it needed to build new generations of machines. But to get most of its 25 million or so Mac customers to upgrade, Jobs needed sexy applications. As part of his deal with Gates, Microsoft had agreed to adapt Office and Explorer for OS X. Jobs had assumed that this vote of confidence would inspire third-party developers to come up with software for, say, editing home videos on a computer or managing photos or digital music. But a 1998 meeting in which Jobs asked Adobe Systems executives to develop a Mac version of their consumer video-editing program changed his mind. "They said flat-out no," Jobs recalls. "We were shocked, because they had been a big supporter in the early days of the Mac. But we said, 'Okay, if nobody wants to help us, we're just going to have to do this ourselves.' "

So Apple plunged into the OS X applications business. It bought a languishing project from web software company Macromedia, and in less than a year turned out two programs that capitalized on the iMac's ability to connect to digital camcorders: a video-editing program for professionals called Final Cut Pro and a simplified version for consumers called iMovie. Apple's Applications Software Division, which sprang from the project to become what is now a 1,000-engineer-strong group, has been on a roll ever since.

Consider iLife, a bundle of programs that comes free on every new Mac or can be purchased separately for $79. Its five applications turn the computer into a home studio: iMovie, iDVD (for recording movies, digital photo slide shows, and music onto TV-playable DVDs), iPhoto (for managing and touching up digital pictures and making slide shows), GarageBand (for making and mixing your own music), and the iTunes digital-music jukebox. iWork, aimed at people who like to make presentations and put out newsletters, is equally slick: It consists of a PowerPoint-like program called Keynote and a flashy word-processor/page-layout program called Pages.

The steady stream of software not only kept the buzz alive but also helped Apple create a tidy new line of business. Gradually users began to notice that the company was delivering truly innovative programs and continuously improving them. Today Apple gets people hooked with free online updates and then, every year or so, offers to sell them a full overhaul loaded with new features--and more and more users are willing to pay. OS X has already gone through four versions, named Cheetah, Puma, Jaguar, and Panther. It's a tactic that Microsoft and other software makers have tried with much less success--Windows users in particular have grown leery of the chronic computer crashes and conflicts between programs that its upgrades cause. Apple engineered ways to minimize such problems.

The upgrades also fuel Apple's computer hardware business, which still accounts for 60% of annual sales. Jobs sees applications like iLife as the centerpiece of his marketing strategy, which is to differentiate the Macintosh from Windows PCs by positioning it as a complete multimedia machine. Right out of the box, the Mac with iLife gives users (especially the creative types) everything they need for creating, editing, managing, and playing digital content. While comparable applications are available for Windows machines, matching what Apple initially throws in free costs hundreds of dollars, and the various Windows programs don't interact easily with one another. "Everyone in every corner of the software business could learn a lot from iLife," says Bill Joy, the legendary computer scientist, now a Silicon Valley venture capitalist.

Triumph of the iPod

I remember sitting with Steve and some other people night after night from nine until one, working out the user interface for the first iPod. It evolved by trial and error into something a little simpler every day. We knew we had reached the end when we looked at each other and said, "Well, of course. Why would we want to do it any other way?"
-- Jeff Robbin, lead software designer for iTunes and the iPod

The best example of how clever software plays the pivotal role in unlocking huge hardware opportunities for Apple is the saga of iTunes and its progeny--the iPod and the iTunes Music Store. Their lightning evolution demonstrates how, when the coders really get rolling and follow their noses, one technological breakthrough leads to another in a virtuous cycle that Jobs, the marketing whiz, can exploit to create "user experiences." It's how the iPod coalesced into the hottest product the media and electronics world has seen in years. And the delicious irony is that Apple's enormous success in digital music came out of nearly missing the boat.

"I felt like a dope," says Jobs, thinking back to summer 2000, when his fixation on perfecting video editing on the Mac distracted him from noticing that millions of kids were using computers and CD burners to make audio CDs and to download digital songs called MP3s from illegal online services like Napster. Yes, even Jobs, the technological visionary of his generation, occasionally gets caught looking in the wrong direction. "I thought we had missed it. We had to work hard to catch up."

He moved fast, ordering Mac hardware designers to incorporate CD-ROM burners as standard equipment in all Macs. But what about the "jukebox" software necessary to manage what could conceivably be thousands of songs on the computer? Windows PC users already had several jukebox programs to choose from, but only a handful of Mac developers were tinkering with them. One was a company called SoundStep, founded by a then 28-year-old software engineer with an MBA named Jeff Robbin, who had left Apple literally the month Jobs returned. His program, SoundJam, wasn't ready for market, but Jobs bought the company anyway, primarily because Robbin had impressed people while at Apple before.

The alacrity and breadth of what transpired over the next 13 months are hard to believe in hindsight. Robbin and a couple of other programmers started over from scratch and pounded out the first version of iTunes in less than four months. That was just in time for Steve to show it off at the annual Macworld trade show. The application simplified the importing and compression of songs, but more important, iTunes was a powerful and ingenious database that could quickly sort tens of thousands of songs in a multitude of ways, and find particular tracks in a trice.

Even before iTunes was out the door, Jobs, a music nut himself (he favors Dylan and the Beatles), recognized that although storing and playing music on a computer was pretty cool, wouldn't it be even cooler if there was a portable, Walkman-like player that could hold all your digital music so that you could listen to it anywhere? He asked Robbin to pitch in on the portable-player project, a much more complex undertaking that required not only modifying iTunes but also building a tiny new operating system for what was basically a miniature computer, and designing a user interface that could sort and navigate music files on it with the same sophistication as iTunes on the Mac. It was another crash project that yielded the iPod just nine months later, in November 2001.

Only after playing with iPod prototypes did Jobs and his geeks realize that the whole iPod "platform" was still missing something, namely an online store for buying downloadable songs. They knew there had to be an easier way to get music for your iPod and your computer than by laboriously "ripping" audio CDs into your computer. But talk about a software challenge: An online store would require building an e-business infrastructure that could automatically both serve up the songs and take care of billing and accounting for conceivably millions of purchases. Plus, they'd have to construct a "storefront," either as a website or preferably by modifying iTunes yet again so that the store was incorporated right in its screen. And then they'd have to persuade big record companies--firms like Sony and Universal Music were paranoid about downloads--to buy in to make the concept work.

Still, less than 18 months after the rollout of the iPod, Apple's iTunes Music Store opened for business in April 2003. "We had hoped to sell a million songs in the first six months, but we did that in the first six days," says Eddy Cue, the corporate IT specialist who led the project and is now a vice president for applications. In the meantime, Robbin's crew developed a version of iTunes for Windows PCs, expanding the potential market for iPods and the iTunes Music Store to, well, the entire world--as well as delivering a huge, huge ego boost. The company that had once begged to get PC software adapted to the Mac now found itself supplying some of the hottest software in the PC world. By the time Apple announced its financial results in January 2005, it noted that to date it had sold more than ten million iPods and 250 million songs.

Apple Casts a Shadow

Software is the user experience. As the iPod and iTunes prove, it has become the driving technology not just of computers but of consumer electronics.
-- Steve Jobs

The crudest way to measure the impact of Jobs' software factory is by the numbers. He estimates that this year Apple will generate $1 billion in revenue from selling applications and updates, plus other software-related revenue generated by the iTunes Music Store and its .Mac online subscription service, which has 600,000 members. That's almost double last year's take and doesn't count the boost software provides by helping sell iPods and Macs.

More important than direct software sales are the growth opportunities Apple's "user experience" prowess might open up. Owning a 62% market share of the online music market, for instance, augurs serious sales growth. Even though that market is still in its infancy--downloads accounted for less than 2% of U.S. music sales in 2004--the iPod platform, for example, kicked in revenues of $1.4 billion in Apple's first fiscal quarter, nearly as much as it did in the previous four quarters combined. Merrill Lynch analyst Steve Milunovich predicts that the iPod business alone will hit $6.2 billion in fiscal 2006, roughly as big as all of Apple when Jobs took over. (Of course, the iPod's growth will eventually flatten as the devices lose their fad status. Yet the gadgets are so useful that it's easy to imagine them becoming as ubiquitous as the Walkman--of which Sony has sold 340 million.)

With the iPod and iTunes Music Store, Apple has changed the rules of the game for three industries--PCs, consumer electronics, and music. And as new as its influence is, Apple appears to have nothing to fear from major rivals. Its software skills have consumer electronics companies at a major disadvantage that could take years to overcome (see "Saving Face at Sony"). Says Nathan Myhrvold, former chief of Microsoft Research: "Once audio and visual experiences become a combined hardware-software-network thing, the consumer electronics guys are fish out of water."

Apple has cast a shadow over Microsoft too. Jobs likes to say that the upcoming Tiger version of OS X will have everything that Bill Gates and Microsoft are promising in Longhorn, the often delayed major upgrade of Windows, now due in mid-2006. "They copied the original Mac with Windows 95," Jobs gloats, "and now they're going to be copying us again." (Microsoft declined comment.)

We promised earlier to tell you about Tiger. The software's most notable feature is Spotlight (that's a Spotlight icon at the top of this page). It's Apple's entry in the race to deliver a hot new capability called "desktop search." The idea is to be able to automatically scan your computer's hard drive to find files, e-mail, documents, pictures, music, and the like, much as Google scours the Internet. Desktop search promises to free users from a major headache: having to remember how files and folders are organized and particular pieces of information are stashed. Google is at work on a similar product, as an add-on piece of software; Microsoft plans to integrate desktop search in Longhorn.

Tiger is also loaded with features that Apple has included just because they're cool. An icon called Dashboard unlocks a bevy of handy Internet-enabled applications called widgets--windows that pop up at the touch of a key to display movie listings, the weather outlook, stock prices, a dictionary, a currency converter, a language translator, and the like, and then melt away just as quickly so you can get back to your work.

When you look at the brief history of OS X, and hear software experts like Bill Joy call it the best operating system in the world, you begin to realize what a remarkable accomplishment it has been for Apple--not only to build it but also to migrate millions of users to something so radically different with relatively little pain, and to improve it so dramatically and with such regularity that it has turned the endless nuisance of software support into a profit machine. The technology is so solid that Apple is beginning to sell Macs into markets that never before would even consider them, like the military and university supercomputer centers. Most tantalizing of all is scuttlebutt that three of the biggest PC makers are wooing Jobs to let them license OS X and adapt it to computers built around standard Intel chips. Why? They want to offer customers, many of whom are sick of the security problems that go with Windows and tired of waiting for Longhorn, an alternative. And besides, Apple has buzz now, and Microsoft does not.

Regardless of whether OS X starts showing up in PCs, it looks like Apple, a company that has had its share of ups and downs over the years, has finally mapped out a durable growth path. Sales will likely reach the $13 billion mark this year, thanks largely to the updraft from the iPod and the new $99 iPod shuffle. But there also appears to be a swelling of demand for the Mac product line, helped by the new budget-priced Mac Mini. If Apple can double its personal-computer market share in, say, the next two years (which still wouldn't put much of a dent in the sales of other PC makers), it would be well on its way to becoming a $20 billion company. And that doesn't even take into account what else Steve might have up his sleeve. Apple now has more than $6.5 billion in cash, ample to fund R&D, which last year consumed about $500 million.

Jobs is always coy about where Apple technology might pop up next, but occasionally he'll drop hints. At the recent Macworld trade show, he declared 2005 to be the year that high-definition video hits the mainstream, and touted the HD editing capabilities of a new version of iMovie. He also notes that a new generation of Wi-Fi networking gear is in the offing next year, which will offer enough bandwidth to finally make it possible to stream high-quality video from Macs to TVs. (In the short term, look for Apple to use its wireless technology to let HDTV owners display slideshows of digital photos stored on their Macs.)

Jobs also talks about alliances that will expand Apple's influence. "We're partnering with Motorola for doing things on cellphones, partnering with HP on the iPod, partnering with car companies and with the record companies. And we definitely will be partnering more and more."

There is one immense uncertainty hanging over Apple, however. Last July, Jobs was diagnosed with a rare islet-cell neuroendocrine tumor on his pancreas. In most cases, pancreatic cancer quickly turns lethal. Fortunately, this particular type can sometimes be treated with surgery, and experts say the procedure has a relatively good five-year survival rate--approaching 50%. [After presstime, FORTUNE spoke with the chief of surgical oncology at the Stanford University Medical Center, where Jobs was treated, who stated that in their experience the "cure rate" (instances in which the cancer is successfully removed, never to return) for the type of procedure Jobs had is between 80% and 90%. The "survival rate" cited in the previous sentence is for a broader set of procedures, and hence is overly pessimistic. FORTUNE regrets the error.] Jobs had part of his pancreas removed in late July, returned to work six weeks later, and has been cancer-free ever since. He says he's feeling better than ever.

That illness only serves to remind investors and fans how crucial Jobs is to Apple. Jim Collins, the management guru who wrote the bestseller Built to Last, calls him the "Beethoven of business." Jobs may not be a programmer or a designer or an engineer or an MBA, but he has matured into a shrewd business strategist. And his perfectionist's penchant for the aesthetics of the user experience is the DNA that makes Apple such a distinctive and creative enterprise. Apple has to hope this particular genie won't disappear.

Beethoven of Business==Jobs (2, Insightful)

ElitistWhiner (79961) | more than 9 years ago | (#11615647)

... shrewd business strategist ... Job's is positioning Apple as an entire Industry (ie. airlines) where a hub & spoke architecture enables Apple to gateway user services, products and partnership opportunities...

Re:Full article without entering anything (3, Interesting)

yardbird (165009) | more than 9 years ago | (#11617879)

I remember sitting with Steve and some other people night after night from nine until one, working out the user interface for the first iPod. It evolved by trial and error into something a little simpler every day. We knew we had reached the end when we looked at each other and said, "Well, of course. Why would we want to do it any other way?"

-- Jeff Robbin, lead software designer for iTunes and the iPod


What a great quote. If I were an interface designer, that would go in a frame on my desk.

Re:Full article (1)

Paradise Pete (33184) | more than 9 years ago | (#11612181)

I have it on good authority that NYU's Bobst Library...

Thanks. Clever.

BugMeNot (1)

rjung2k (576317) | more than 9 years ago | (#11612571)

Bugmenot.com worked for me!

Re:Full article (1)

Have Blue (616) | more than 9 years ago | (#11618306)

Um... I can understand doing this for *free* registration pages, but it shouldn't be done for premium content. Even BugMeNot doesn't accept this, why should Slashdot? Someone mod parent down.

OS X on Intel (3, Interesting)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 9 years ago | (#11611767)

The most interesting part of the Fortune article is where they reveal that three leading PC manufacturers have been attempting to license OS X for the Intel platform. I'm of two minds about it personally. Choice is good for the consumers, but, Apple being undercut badly in the commodity PC market could kill the goose who lays the golden OS eggs. They don't have the volume to compete with Dell, nor the willingness to use really cheap components from whoever is the low-bidder this week.

Re:OS X on Intel (2, Interesting)

I_Love_Pocky! (751171) | more than 9 years ago | (#11612104)

Apple being undercut badly in the commodity PC market could kill the goose who lays the golden OS eggs.

Jobs keeps claiming Apple is a software company. I think this would be the perfect thing to do to prove that. Microsoft seems to be doing just fine living off of the OS market, why couldn't Apple?

Re:OS X on Intel (4, Interesting)

piecewise (169377) | more than 9 years ago | (#11612200)

Because Apple has nothing to prove to you.

Jobs is right when he says Apple is a software company, you just don't understand what he means by that. A Mac is nothing without OS X. An iPod is nothing without iTunes. Cameras are nothing without iLife. Software is the center, the key to the success of everything else.

But quite smartly, Apple makes money off both. Now why would Apple give up billions of dollars just so they can win a bet you seem to have with them?

Re:OS X on Intel (3, Insightful)

artifex2004 (766107) | more than 9 years ago | (#11612916)

Cameras are nothing without iLife.


I was with you until this point. I've never seen an Apple-branded camera, and I've certainly never used my digital still or digital video cameras with iLife or any other Apple product. I might in the future, if Apple supports them (they're getting old), but they're certainly quite capable without Apple's software.

Re:OS X on Intel (1)

mccoma (64578) | more than 9 years ago | (#11614182)

"I've never seen an Apple-branded camera

quicktake 100 - not bad for its day

Re:OS X on Intel (1)

John Harrison (223649) | more than 9 years ago | (#11615564)

Ugggh! My dorm had that beast when I was in college. It took crappy pictures, was heavy, and ran out of batteries quickly. Of course it was the first digital camera that I ever used, so maybe I am judging it too harshly. Even so, at the time I thought that it just wasn't quite ready for prime-time.

Re:OS X on Intel (1)

Johnny Mnemonic (176043) | more than 9 years ago | (#11614221)


I've never seen an Apple-branded camera

Well, now you have. [epi-centre.com] That was 1994, btw.

Re:OS X on Intel (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 9 years ago | (#11613091)

*Now why would Apple give up billions of dollars just so they can win a bet you seem to have with them?*

well, they would "give up" the business for a risk leap at getting hold of tens of billions of dollars.

but apple isn't a software company, nor a hardware. they're turning into lifestyle / digital experience company - they make desirable stuff(desktops, laptops, some gadgets) for a niche of people who are paying a premium to get it and think it's worth it(who because of functionality, who because of it's shiny).

(yes, they are paying a premium, if it's worth it or not is up to debate - some people think that mercedes-benz makes affordable cars because it's good quality/prestige for the price, but that doesn't make them cheap or the most popular brand on earth)

btw.. i'm quite happy with my camera without iLife, and I'm quite happy with my mp3 player without iTunes - and wouldn't use it even if I had an ipod.

Re:OS X on Intel (1)

littlerubberfeet (453565) | more than 9 years ago | (#11613599)

On the consumer level, you might be right. Apple is selling an experience. But, as an audio engineer, there is a huge benefit in using a unified platform. The CoreAudio API/interface lets me do things stabley that a PC could never do decently. I pay the premium for the platform just like a limo driver gets a stretch Benz or Cadillac instead of a Yugo.

Then there is the whole issue of RISC vs. CISC architecture, but I digress.

Re:OS X on Intel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11615183)

You shouldn't have digressed, it just made you look like an completely ignorant mac zealot.

Re:OS X on Intel (1)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 9 years ago | (#11616568)

I think that's the GP's point: To those who can't afford anything better than a Yugo, everyone else is paying a premium. To someone who can't afford a car at all and must take public transportation, all car buyers are paying a premium.

However, for those who can come up with $500 bones, which I don't think anyone can argue is a very high premium, you can get the equivalent of what Fortune magazine calls a cross between a Porsche and an M1 Abrams Tank.

Apple is a hardware company (1)

AHumbleOpinion (546848) | more than 9 years ago | (#11613166)

Jobs is right when he says Apple is a software company, you just don't understand what he means by that.

Neither do you, that is spin from a marketting/sales person, Jobs' specialty. Apple is a hardware company. Software, including Mac OS X, merely exists to get people to buy Apple hardware. That Mac hardware is pointless without Mac OS X is irrelevant. Follow the money, where does it come from. More importantly look at history, the Mac clones. If Apple were a software company Mac clones would have benefitted Apple. The fact that Apple terminated Mac clone hardware demonstrates that Apple is a hardware company.

Re:Apple is a hardware company (1)

littlerubberfeet (453565) | more than 9 years ago | (#11613669)

Apple might be a hardware company, but it should be noted that the software is still top-notch.

Re:Apple is a hardware company (1)

AHumbleOpinion (546848) | more than 9 years ago | (#11616168)

Apple might be a hardware company, but it should be noted that the software is still top-notch

It had to be to justify the relatively expensive hardware, at least until the Mac Mini came along. Only few and highly specialized applications really benefitted from PowerPC with respect to performance. For the majority the "user experience" had to justify the hardware sale.

"It's a floor wax!", "NO! It's a dessert topping!" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11613685)

Apple is BOTH a hardware AND a software company, and its success (as the article points out) is due to how good they are at integrating its two sides. For those who don't get the subject title (god, I'm getting old) here is the old Saturday Night Live script [jt.org] that explains it.

Re:"It's a floor wax!", "NO! It's a dessert toppin (1)

AHumbleOpinion (546848) | more than 9 years ago | (#11616228)

Apple is BOTH a hardware AND a software company

Not really, you are confusing what they are famous for and what they make money from. Their software is bundled with their hardware, it does not really stand alone. Retail MacOS X packages are merely upgrades.

I'm a geezer too so I get the title, but the analogy is off. Mac OS X has no secondary /alternative use, it's pure dessert topping. :-)

Re:OS X on Intel (4, Insightful)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 9 years ago | (#11612270)

Jobs keeps claiming Apple is a software company.

He does?

Microsoft seems to be doing just fine living off of the OS market, why couldn't Apple?

Apple currently makes 95% of its money on hardware. They use that money to fund software development, including OS X. If Apple made a version for Intel, they would be competing head to head with MS's monopoly. MS has partnerships with all the hardware vendors, software developers, and peripheral manufacturer's. All of those companies and the PC manufacturers are completely dependent upon MS's goodwill to survive. How many do you think will agree to ship OS X by default when it means they are suddenly paying double or triple the software cost to their competitors not only on those boxes, but also on the rest of their boxes? Do you know how small the margins are right now?

They could sell independent of the PC manufacturers, but really how many boxed OS's are sold? Almost all OS sales are pre-installs. Basically, you can't fight an established monopoly with more money than god. Especially while destroying what is currently your main revenue stream.

Re:OS X on Intel (1)

I_Love_Pocky! (751171) | more than 9 years ago | (#11613359)

but really how many boxed OS's are sold?

In the current Windows pre-install dominated market there is no need for boxed OS sales. I think the primary market for a boxed OSX is to current users of Windows who want a better OS for the computer they already own.

Almost all OS sales are pre-installs.

Granted that is the current state of affairs. However, don't underestimate the "coolness" factor Apple has going for them right now thanks to the iPod. I think you would have a lot of people who would switch to OSX, if only for aesthetic reasons.

How many do you think will agree to ship OS X by default when it means they are suddenly paying double or triple the software cost to their competitors not only on those boxes, but also on the rest of their boxes?

You assume the Windows monopoly will never be broken (if it is, your whole argument becomes rather irrelevant). Apple has a good shot of doing just that with their current mass market appeal. I hope the Mac-mini can do it, but I fear that without an x86 port of OSX, Windows will continue to dominate the field.

Re:OS X on Intel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11614232)

There's a very important difference between revenue and profit you seem to have missed.

But part of the whole Apple culture includes the computer hardware itself, so it's probably a moot point.

Re:OS X on Intel (1)

blurryrunner (524305) | more than 9 years ago | (#11615726)

Actually, if you RTFA, you would see the statement:

...Apple's computer hardware business, which still accounts for 60% of annual sales.

Its 60% and not 95%. That's a bigger deal.

-blurry

Re:OS X on Intel (1)

Scudsucker (17617) | more than 9 years ago | (#11616759)

Yeah, but most of the difference is made up of iPods. No, iPods aren't computers, but they are hardware.

Re:OS X on Intel (2, Interesting)

John Newman (444192) | more than 9 years ago | (#11616137)

Apple currently makes 95% of its money on hardware. They use that money to fund software development, including OS X.
This is true. The dogma is that Apple makes money selling computers, and the OS is just a way to push the hardware. That's why cloning was such a brickbrained idea, and why it almost killed Apple.

But, as another poster pointed out, Apple may still make 95% of its revenue from hardware, but only 60% from computer hardware. The iPod may be changing the equation a bit. For the first time, Apple has a reliable cash cow that's not a computer. If, and it's a big if, they were ever interested in trying to make the transition to being a software company, there would be no better time than now. They can afford to let Mac sales slow or drop, and let clones/licensees pick up some of their market share, while the iPod continues to pay the bills.

That said, I don't see any motivation to actually do this. The downsides are plenty (commoditization, random hardware support, variable hardware quality, loss of computer revenue, incompatibility between PPC and x86), and could seriously dent Apple's reputation. While the upside - market share - may or may not actually happen. And Apple might be able to double their market share on their own, anyway. Aside from the CPUs, there shouldn't be any problems scaling up production, since every PC maker uses the same parts and the same Taiwanese assemblers. I don't see the appeal of outsourcing hardware sales. If Apple's even thinking about it, I imagine they'll change their minds when the Mini's sales figures start coming in.

Re:OS X on Intel (2, Interesting)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 9 years ago | (#11616656)

That said, I don't see any motivation to actually do this. The downsides are plenty (commoditization, random hardware support, variable hardware quality, loss of computer revenue, incompatibility between PPC and x86), and could seriously dent Apple's reputation.

The only possible motivation would be to exploit untapped markets, and the biggest untapped market segment for Apple is what is called "The Enterprise". Apple could partner with IBM, HP, or even Dell to open up this market for OS X Server.

Another way to look at untapped markets is by geography. Apple's presence outside of the US, Europe, and Japan (I'm including Canada as part of the US, but not Mexico, heh heh) is virtually nil. With the right licensing partner (Sony? Samsung? Lenovo?) Apple could gain a foothold in the fast growing Asian markets.

I'm not sure who they could partner with in Latin America. I do know that there are mac users in Latin America, but during a fact finding trip to Mexico (to check out the titty bars) I found very few Macs, most of them in Video Production businesses, a few graphic designers, and one really cool all Mac cyber cafe. Mexico's middle class is growing, and more people can afford Macs, especially boxes like the mini.

Your other points about why this won't happen are excellent.

Re:OS X on Cell (1)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 9 years ago | (#11616691)

And one more thing . . .

I think that if any of these licensing partnerships ever come to pass, it will be on Cell hardware, not Intel. Especially if the partners are IBM or Sony.

Re:OS X on Intel (1)

Scudsucker (17617) | more than 9 years ago | (#11616772)

I think this would be the perfect thing to do to prove that. Microsoft seems to be doing just fine living off of the OS market, why couldn't Apple?

Because Apple is not a monopoly and Microsoft is? You can't come into a market that's been commoditized to the extreme, and compete against a player in that market that made about $10 billion last quarter alone. It's just not going to happen.

Re:OS X on Intel (1)

mbbac (568880) | more than 9 years ago | (#11618120)

Microsoft seems to be doing just fine living off of the OS market, why couldn't Apple?
Because they've tried it twice and it never works. Apple licensed Mac OS to clone manufacturers. Next licensed NextStep (what came to be OS X) to IBM (IBM never used it) and to other manufacturers and end users.

Face it, Microsoft got very lucky with their business model.

Re:OS X on Intel (2, Informative)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 9 years ago | (#11612126)

I doubt they'd agree to do this. They have resisted it since the late 90s. Oddly enough the threat then that made them stop licensing the OS to other hardware manufacturers was not that there would be Macs made from cheap components but that there would be Macs made that were better than what Apple was producing. I should know; I still have my Power Computing Power Tower Pro. Apple stopped licensing just in time to block sales of the G3 version of this computer, which would have been faster than anything Apple was offering (with much better hardware in terms of sheer expandability). And don't forget the 4-processor Daystar Millennium. Even MacTell was making cases that whipped Apple's butt. Remember this is before blue computers, before the cube, etc., this was a time when Apple's brilliance in designing boxes was by and large a thing of the past. Bland beige boxes with little creativity and no room for expansion. It's no wonder hardware manufacturers moved in to fill the gap with bland beige boxes with lots of room for expansion (and, in some cases, faster or more processors).

Re:OS X on Intel (2, Interesting)

Gob Blesh It (847837) | more than 9 years ago | (#11612168)

I used to think it would be a bad idea too. But software seems to be a pretty reliable "golden egg" for Microsoft, and I don't see why it wouldn't work just as well for Apple?

I mean, Apple could continue, as always, to manufacture and sell hardware for people who care about both functionality and style, usability and good taste. They could keep using the PowerPC and supporting its development. I mean, there's nothing that says an OS can't run and be sold on two architectures--it's just never been tried in the consumer market on such a large scale, as far as I know. Third-party programs (binaries) would have to be packaged and sold according to the architecture, or maybe they could be "fat" apps like we had for a while transitioning from 68k to PowerPC.

So what am I missing here?

Re:OS X on Intel (3, Funny)

Gob Blesh It (847837) | more than 9 years ago | (#11612202)

This has to be the most incoherent thing I've ever written. Dear Slashdot, please accept my apology.

Re:OS X on Intel (2, Insightful)

nuggetman (242645) | more than 9 years ago | (#11612276)

So then we have an operating system which has zero programs, save misc Linux apps that run under OS X. But even those would have to be recompiled for x86(-64) OS X vs PPC OS X.

Re:OS X on Intel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11613716)

Also, all the pro-level apps (FCPHD, Shake, Logic, etc.) were programmed for a RISC architecture, so they would suck on X86

Re:OS X on Intel (1)

ElitistWhiner (79961) | more than 9 years ago | (#11615429)

"Cheap components" is bogus bullshit. PC hardware mfg'rs were more than capable of ramping up their specifications and quality when Jobs did Intel versions of OPENSTEP.

PC versions of OS X will be faster, better and cheaper than Apple branded hardware because of expertise, volume and margins.

PC hardware is notoriously promiscious whereas Apple hardware will be locked down with few bits to twiddle. There is a market for PC based hardware which requires set-up, assembly and mods to run OS X. For those who aren't Geeks, or care to fiddle with the bits, Apple will be a natural choice.

Job's knows Apple's hardware penetration is only 5% so he'll cut OS X loose to have 10X marketshare in the future, gladly. Apple has a life beyond computers and isn't dependent anymore on CPU sales.

Re:OS X on Intel (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 9 years ago | (#11618366)

"Cheap components" is bogus bullshit.

Most components used in macs are compatible with the ones used in PCs (barring boards, CPUs, and some misc.). There are good quality components and cheap components. One major PC manufacturer made a profit on PC sales in 04. That manufacturer was Dell. They did so by buying in volume, buying really cheap components, having little stored inventory, and selling with smaller margins than the competition. To make money selling PCs you have to compete with Dell. If you don't sell as cheap of components as Dell, you will lose on volume and price.

PC versions of OS X will be faster, better and cheaper than Apple branded hardware because of expertise, volume and margins.

It is highly unlikely there will ever be PC versions of OS X (assuming you mean OS X on x86 commercially). If they were to exist, I doubt they would be faster (the system has some optimization for PPC), better (whatever that means), or cheaper (try to spec out something like the mac mini in the PC world). They would have more options, and there would be more hardware incompatibilities.

There is a market for PC based hardware which requires set-up, assembly and mods to run OS X.

Yes there is, a very, very small and inconsequential market. Percentage of boxed, not pre-installed OSs is very small. The percentage that are not stuck on windows, even smaller. You want it to happen for yourself, but the business case is shaky, and that is being generous.

Job's knows Apple's hardware penetration is only 5% so he'll cut OS X loose to have 10X marketshare in the future, gladly. Apple has a life beyond computers and isn't dependent anymore on CPU sales.

Jobs knows 95% of Apple's profit comes from hardware, the other platform is dominated by a monopoly who has "influenced" the government to allow it to break the law with no real punishment, and that the only two companies that made money selling personal computers in 04 were Apple and Dell. I suspect the risk is far too great.

vanilla (3, Interesting)

AdmiralWeirdbeard (832807) | more than 9 years ago | (#11611785)

whole thing seemed pretty bubble-gum to me... unless someone noticed something revolutionary i didnt.

Tho I did like the part where he said that the audio market today was people getting ipods and the bose ipod speakers instead of a real shelf system... Dont know about the rest of you, but i like my ipod hooked up to my Technics receiver/floor speakers just fine. Though it is just crushing to know that I dont have an apple-styled bose gizmo the size of a shoebox in which to stick my ipod...

Re:vanilla (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11612191)

unless someone noticed something revolutionary

You must have missed when Steve pulled off his shoe and started banging the podium shouting "We will bury you!" It was about that moment that the Woz burst in the room and threw a hammer at the screen....

Re:vanilla (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11612886)

You probably already had the stereo when you bought the iPod. I think SJ was talking about teenagers who don't own stereo equipment yet. Instead of buying a CD player, and an amp, and a set of speakers, they just get an iPod and the speakers.

It does work the other way, too. When my CD player died, I never bothered to buy a new one. Now I just have a Mac Mini that has access to all of my music through iTunes. It's also become my DVD player because it has a DVI output for the video and 5.1 audio (via the MAudio Transit), and plays DVDs better than my old DVD player.

Focus on Software? (-1, Redundant)

rmohr02 (208447) | more than 9 years ago | (#11611833)

If they're so focused on software they should release OS X for the x86.

Re:Focus on Software? (5, Informative)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 9 years ago | (#11612059)

Why? Because you want to use OS X?

You're trolling, but it's worth pointing out that Apple would die a death if they ported OS X to x86.

Several things would happen:

* People would either pirate it or buy it for their PCs
* It wouldn't work as well on the non-vertically-controlled hardware, so people would believe it was crap.
* Microsoft would work it's typical magic with PC vendors and make it financially painful for them to buy Windows licences for their PCs if they also sold PCs with OS X on them, or with no OS. Microsoft do this already, which is why PC vendors only ship Windows-pre-installed machines.
* The market share for Apple computers would decrease.

Re:Focus on Software? (2, Insightful)

wtmcgee (113309) | more than 9 years ago | (#11612435)

I think that while marketshare may go up a few percentage points (maybe nearing 10% at best), profits would actually shrink.

Moreover, companies like Macromedia, Adobe, etc would have to port their Mac software BACK to the x86 platform and provide updates for the ppc and x86 versions of their software.

I just don't see it happening. If OS X ever goes to the x86 platform, Apple will be switching over full force as well. But you're not going to ever be able to just pick up a copy of OS X for your Dell PC.

Re:Focus on Software? (1)

rmohr02 (208447) | more than 9 years ago | (#11615184)

I was actually trying to be funny--looking at it like you just did, you'd have to be crazy to think Apple would release OS X for x86. Part of me wants them to, but I know they won't.

Re:Focus on Software? (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 9 years ago | (#11616718)

You have to add the (/sarcasm) to the end of your post, or people take you seriously.

Given what people really are serious about on /. even the most outlandish opinions tend to be genuine!

Re:Focus on Software? (1)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 9 years ago | (#11616722)

You might have been joking/trolling, but this is brought up often enough by people who are completely serious.

I've got one more reason why not. Why should they go to the trouble of porting to a cpu that is archaic and on it's last legs? Apple is probably working on a port to Cell as we speak. Er, as we type. x86 has shot it's wad. When we see new cpu technology from Intel, it might have x86 extensions for compatibility at best, a la AMD. And if AMD is smart, they'll be trying to license Cell technology or trying to join the Cell Consortium.

Re:Focus on Software? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11615300)

What about if they released an unsupported full source distro of OSX on the x86 (any licenced elements would be "replaced")? That would endear them to the OSS community and have it picked up as an actively developed distro, which apple could take advantage of in the main supported PPC branch. I can see how this would lead to new hardware & support sales for apple - in mainstream markets. I can't see any current customers settling for unsupported, compile-your-own (binary distribution not allowed) on x86, or any potential customers either.

Re:Focus on Software? (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 9 years ago | (#11616726)

That would mean releasing the source for Aqua, which Apple just won't do. Maybe if they supplied that as a binary with the rest of the OS open (which it already is, to be honest).

Darwin already exists for x86, so all that would really be necessary is the release of Aqua/Quartz for the x86 version of Darwin. It just won't happen. There are too many risks and not enough to gain (in Apple's opinion) for them to do this.

Re:Focus on Software? (4, Insightful)

GaryPatterson (852699) | more than 9 years ago | (#11612347)

"If they're so focused on software they should release OS X for the x86."

I see this argument based in two points.
* PC hardware is so much cheaper than Mac hardware that users can't afford to buy a Mac to try it
* PC users want the operating system (and maybe iLife apps) from Apple because it's so good.

The first point is rebutted nicely by the Mac Mini. Now it's relatively cheap to buy a new Mac. Sure, it's not the most powerful Apple available, but if I wanted to try out something to see if I like it, I wouldn't buy the top of the line and hope that I *really* like it a lot; I'd buy a cheap model and test it.

So Mac hardware isn't that expensive for users wanting to try out the Mac Mini. With resale values being reasonably good, a user could buy a Mac Mini, use it for three months and sell it at a total loss of maybe US$100.

The second point is a 'grass is greener' point. Although I happen to believe that the grass actually is greener on the Mac side, I wonder how users will go when they realise that not a single application they own or use will be available for OS X on x86 for some time.

That's right - even if Apple release OS X for PC hardware tomorrow, you won't be able to run anything with it. There's no software at all for it. Every single app will have to be recompiled to x86 binaries.

Sure, we might have a 'fat' binary like we used to with 680X0/PPC and now do with PPC32/PPC64, but there'd be precious few of them around. Adobe took over a year (from memory) to get Photoshop to OS X. Carbonising was a process a single engineer did in a weekend, but the company waited until they had a full release before they moved.

Over time, apps would be released. Apple would include a full development IDE with the OS to increase uptake. That's all fine, but it doesn't change the fact that it'd be a long wait for commercial software.

And then - why should a company like Adobe release PhotoShop for OS X PPC, OS X x86 and Windows? If a user already has the PC hardware, why code up a new version for the same hardware? Every version costs money to develop and maintain, and what would be the return? The new platform would be a new thing, and it's success would be entirely unknown. Any developer looking to make money from it might conclude that there's no market there. After all - business users already buy the hardware that runs the software they want. Wouldn't the customers of Adobe already be happy with the hardware?

And would Apple put this out for x86, or for AMD64 only? Why worry about an old technology? I suspect they'd just go for 64-bit on the PC and not even try to support 32-bit x86. The PC industry will move from 32-bit to 64-bit completely over the next few years, so why bother supporting technology that is being obseleted (rhymes with 'deleted')?

What about the average users? They're sold on the idea that Windows has everything they need. It's got Office, games, just about anything they want. Why should they buy into OS X on PC hardware? It gives them nothing new. They won't have Office or any games. They'll have Apple's iLife, Mail, Safari and Chess, but what else? Why should non-hobbyists (ie the vast majority) buy this?

I don't know who would buy OS X for PC hardware. I don't know what software developers would sell software for that platform, and I don't know why the average user should switch. I see lots of questions, but no answers. I don't believe this idea will work very well at all.

Re:Focus on Software? (1)

rmohr02 (208447) | more than 9 years ago | (#11615211)

That's an awfully long response for a comment I intended as a joke.

Still a SOFTWARE company?? (3, Informative)

TrippTDF (513419) | more than 9 years ago | (#11611965)

I remember Jobs saying that we would never see an OS X port to x86 because Apple was a hardware company first, and then software...

if he's changing his tune, maybe that's a sign that OS X could make an x86 debut?? (doubtful, but hopeful)

Re:Still a SOFTWARE company?? (1)

Aggamemnon (809791) | more than 9 years ago | (#11612033)

No, if Apple port OSX to x86, it would kill them

Re:Still a SOFTWARE company?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11612050)

Or maybe I can buy OS X to run on Mac compatible hardware. Nope? Then they are still a hardware company that uses great software to sell the hardware.

Re:Still a SOFTWARE company?? (2, Interesting)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 9 years ago | (#11612090)

if he's changing his tune, maybe that's a sign that OS X could make an x86 debut?

This is very, very doubtful. I think their current strategy is to clone the strengths of the Intel platform with their own product line. Intel has really cheap systems, very fast systems, and an enormous number of different offerings. The mini-mac is an attempt to cater to the really cheap crowd. The G5 is the current best shot at speed (and it is pretty damn fast). Apple will never be able to offer as wide a range of products as is available on Intel, but they try with customization.

I think you will see Windows on commodity PPC before you see OS X on Intel. If anything, I can see Apple licensing OS X on the PPC. This would still cut into their hardware sales drastically, but it would be "home turf" and the architecture is at least open for any and all comers. The Intel platform is open to Intel and anyone with the millions it costs to reverse engineer it, which so far is pretty much AMD and sort of Transmeta. Even so, I don't see Apple trying to fight it out in a commodity hardware market. The competition would be good, but what happens if Apple loses? Suddenly everyone is screwed since OS X development slows or grinds to a halt. Alternately, Apple could become a software company, like MS. It is possible, but as you said, doubtful.

Re:Still a SOFTWARE company?? (1)

HAKdragon (193605) | more than 9 years ago | (#11613722)

I think you will see Windows on commodity PPC before you see OS X on Intel

We already did. There were versions of NT released for PPC back in the day.

Re:Still a SOFTWARE company?? (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 9 years ago | (#11614328)

We already did. There were versions of NT released for PPC back in the day.

True enough. I think you will see Windows back on commodity PPC before you see OS X on Intel.

Re:Still a SOFTWARE company?? (1)

ivano (584883) | more than 9 years ago | (#11618326)

yep. xbox2

ciao

Re:Still a SOFTWARE company?? (2, Insightful)

Johnny Mnemonic (176043) | more than 9 years ago | (#11614164)


maybe that's a sign that OS X could make an x86 debut?? (doubtful, but hopeful)

And what apps would you run on it? Think there's a lot of "OS X on Intel" developers just waiting for their chance? If there's any at all, there'd be fewer than OS X-developers-on-PPC, which are already pretty scarce.

OS X (4, Interesting)

elecngnr (843285) | more than 9 years ago | (#11612097)

Jobs was "buying time" with the Microsoft deal and the original iMac to maintain interest in Apple and its perceived viability while software engineers furiously worked to bring Mac OS X to market, which Jobs saw as Apple's biggest bet on the future.

I am personally glad they made the bet. OS X is what brought me back to Mac after over 10 years. I know some older Mac enthusiasts who swear by the older OS's, but those OS's were losing ground. I had to use PC's for the lack of software. They were great if you did graphical layout or things like that. The problem for me was the unavailability of Matlab. I simply had to be able to use Matlab. I needed the fastest way to do that and throughout the 90's that meant using a PC. Once OS X came in, Apple courted The Mathworks to port it to OS X. From my memory, The Mathworks said no, so Apple did the port themselves using X11. Once I saw that Matlab worked on Macs with OS X via X11--and it was both stable and fast, I immediately began shopping for a Mac....and have never regretted that decision.

Re:OS X (1)

X43B (577258) | more than 9 years ago | (#11615497)

I agree completely. I had absolutely no interest in Apple pre OS X. If I remember correctly it was a considerable amount of time after OS X was released that Matlab was available. It wasn't until then that I considered OS X worth getting a second look. People may think I'm a Mac zealot but I guess more accuraltely I'm an OS X fan.

To be fair I think the Mathworks have done an excellent job supporting Linux, including the very affordable educational version ($100).

Apple software is dedicated to apple hardware... (1)

generalleoff (760847) | more than 9 years ago | (#11612308)

Ya know if apple is such a dedicated software company then I have yet to figure out why they havent botherd to make an OS to run on x86 based systems rather then there mostly proprietary hardware. If apple botherd to try and spread out into the larger PC market they would slaughter MS rather quick and I woudlent mind seeing it happen. Apples software is limited mostly to apple branded hardware and that limits how well the company can compete. Not to mention that doing stuff like that is FAR worse then anything MS had done or has ever done and probly ever will do. But cuz there so small they get away with it and come off looking like rebels :) Maybie apple will make a move to break into the mainstream if CELL processors manage to catch on.

Re:Apple software is dedicated to apple hardware.. (5, Interesting)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 9 years ago | (#11612409)

I have yet to figure out why they havent botherd to make an OS to run on x86 based systems rather then there mostly proprietary hardware

Heh, x86 is proprietary and closed. Intel reverse engineered it. AMD reverse engineered it. Transmeta has an implementation. Contrast this with the PowerPC platform. IBM wrote most of the specs. It is completely open and documented. IBM and Motorola sell large numbers of systems and their is no barrier for any other company to enter.

In Bizarro world "closed but popular" means "open" and "open, but not as popular" means "proprietary."

If apple botherd to try and spread out into the larger PC market they would slaughter MS rather quick and I woudlent mind seeing it happen. Apples software is limited mostly to apple branded hardware and that limits how well the company can compete.

Yeah because so many companies have done well competing with a company convicted of abusing their monopoly to stifle competition. That is why OS2 and BeOS are so popular. It is especially a good idea to destroy 95% of your income by entering into an overpopulated commodity market where all but one player is losing money at the same time as trying to compete with said monopoly. Brilliant!

Re:Apple software is dedicated to apple hardware.. (2, Informative)

I_Love_Pocky! (751171) | more than 9 years ago | (#11613494)

Intel reverse engineered it.

I believe Intel engineered it.

Re:Apple software is dedicated to apple hardware.. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11614081)

No. They made it little endian, which has the bytes turned around, so they had to reverse engineer it.

Re:Apple software is dedicated to apple hardware.. (1)

Guy Harris (3803) | more than 9 years ago | (#11613521)

Heh, x86 is proprietary and closed. Intel reverse engineered it.

Yeah, it must've taken them a lot of effort to reverse-engineer their own instruction set....

In Bizarro world "closed but popular" means "open" and "open, but not as popular" means "proprietary."

In the normal world, "x86-based systems" are "open" in the sense that anybody can build them (even if the x86 instruction set isn't explicitly licensed to anybody who wants it by the vendor), and Apple systems are "proprietary" in that there aren't multiple vendors of OS X-compatible systems. I suspect that by "there[sic] mostly proprietary hardware" the person to whom you're responding meant Apple's systems, not Motorola and IBM's microprocessors.

Re:Apple software is dedicated to apple hardware.. (2, Insightful)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 9 years ago | (#11614392)

In the normal world, "x86-based systems" are "open" in the sense that anybody can build them

Umm, anyone can buy them from Intel or AMD and resell them. With PPC anyone can build them and sell them.

Apple systems are "proprietary" in that there aren't multiple vendors of OS X-compatible systems

Gee that's great, but we weren't talking about OS X systems, we were talking about PPC and x86. Your statement is like saying x86 is proprietary because MS is the only vendor of Windows.

Re:Apple software is dedicated to apple hardware.. (1)

Guy Harris (3803) | more than 9 years ago | (#11614594)

In the normal world, "x86-based systems" are "open" in the sense that anybody can build them

Umm, anyone can buy them from Intel or AMD and resell them.

"Them" here, of course, referring to Intel's x86-based systems, such as their blade servers [intel.com] , rather than to their chips, as "x86-based systems" refers not to x86 chips, but to systems based on those chips (as per the use of the words "based" and "systems").

Yes, one could do that, but one could also design and build one's own systems based on x86 chips, and a number of companies do that.

With PPC anyone can build them and sell them.

Yes, anyone could license PowerPC or Power Architecture or whatever IBM's calling the instruction set architecture these days, but I suspect most people building general-purpose computer systems based on PowerPC processors aren't building their own chips, so it's not clear that the fact that they could, in theory, do that is particularly relevant to the discussion that the original poster started.

Gee that's great, but we weren't talking about OS X systems, we were talking about PPC and x86.

Perhaps you were, but the original poster was talking about "Apple hardware", which isn't "PPC", it's systems one or two of the components of which are PowerPC processors and the other components of which are other chips, some custom from Apple and some from various vendors, and about "x86-based systems", which are't "x86", they're systems one or more of the components of which are x86 processors and the other components of which are other chips, custom or from various vendors.

Re:Apple software is dedicated to apple hardware.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11614254)

Intel reverse engineered it.

You're a troll, aren't you? Two posts that ridiculous in the same Slashdot article? (I just replied to the other...)

Ah well.

Re:Apple software is dedicated to apple hardware.. (1)

zangdesign (462534) | more than 9 years ago | (#11612596)

Another reason to avoid the x86 platform is the large base of commercial software. They would be forced to make too many compromises to allow Windows software to run on their system in order to maintain market viability.

This is not something Linux suffers from, although there are sterling efforts in place to get Windows programs to run on Linux. AFAIK, Linux is not about commercial viability, but rather about producing a solid open operating system.

By retaining a half-open, half-closed operating system on a closed platform, they get the best of all world: they don't have to bend to fit a Window-centric world and open source software is easily modified to fit onto the system. The gaps in commercial software availability will begin to be filled over time.

And the best part, they are seen as innovative in a world of dull, boring PCs running Windows and Linux.

Propagating the myth (4, Informative)

Erik K. Veland (574016) | more than 9 years ago | (#11613579)

The two struck a deal under which Microsoft bought $150 million of Apple stock and promised to keep supplying Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer for the Mac, programs that made Apple's computers at least somewhat compatible with the PC world. (Microsoft's stake in Apple is now worth well over $1 billion.)

Yes, their non-voting stock would be worth well over $1 billion if they hadn't sold it years ago (for a decent profit even then). Without mentioning this people might still believe that "Microsoft owns (a part of) Apple". Duh.

Nice article other than that though.

Microsoft stake (1)

Johnny Mnemonic (176043) | more than 9 years ago | (#11614074)


(Microsoft's stake in Apple is now worth well over $1 billion.)

I was pretty sure that Microsoft had since converted this stake back to cash. If it really is worth $1B, that's a sizable portion of the company. Can anyone confirm? If I'm correct, it throws a lot of the rest of the article into factual doubt.

SoundJam (2, Informative)

NEOtaku17 (679902) | more than 9 years ago | (#11615123)

I heard once that iTunes is actually built on top of SoundJam MP [mp3machine.com] code.

SoundJam MP converts music quickly into high quality MP3s from CD, AIFF, QuickTime(TM), and WAV formats, and allows you to play MP3 streams over the internet. SoundJam MP takes full advantage of the 10:1 compression of the MP3 format allowing you to compress your music collection to a fraction of its size, while maintaining near CD quality. You can quickly and easily create customizable play-lists, and organize your music by artist, track, song, and music style. It also includes a 10 band graphic equalizer that allows you to control the quality and tone of your music manually or by using preset music styles: Jazz, Rock, Classical and more. Includes a selection skins to change the look and plug-ins for cool visual effects.

# Play music streams over the Internet

# Play MP2, MP3, AIFF, Q-Design AIFF, QuickTime, WAV, Sound Designer, MOD and 'snd' music files.

# Manage your playlists

# Use CDDB lookup

# Use CDDB submission

# ID3 Tag support

# Apple Script support

OS X is Job's Trojan Horse for Microsoft (4, Interesting)

ElitistWhiner (79961) | more than 9 years ago | (#11615526)

...PC user's will have *choice*... they could even have Windows+OS X on the same desktop. And it is *choice* where Apple will dismantle the Microsoft monopoly.

OS X is _NOT_ a monolithic OS, like Windows. Once Apple have OS X prepped and prepared on its modular foundations (no its not all there yet), Jobs will be able to rev OSX thrice for each new release of Windows. In a sideXside environment, OS X is going to look more modern, capable and powerful than Microsoft's aging sibling in the adjoining *window*... developer's will have a choice, user's will have a choice and Microsoft will have no choice... does anybody get it?
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?