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The Macintosh, or Mac, is a series of several lines of personal computers designed, developed, and marketed by Apple Inc.marker The first Macintosh was introduced on January 24, 1984; it was the first commercially successful personal computer to feature a mouse and a graphical user interface rather than a command-line interface.

Through the second half of the 1980s, the company built market share only to see it dissipate in the 1990s as the personal computer market shifted towards IBM PC compatible machines running MS-DOS and Microsoft Windows. Apple consolidated multiple consumer-level desktop models into the 1998 iMac all-in-one, which was a sales success and saw the Macintosh brand revitalized. Current Mac systems are mainly targeted at the home, education, and creative professional markets. They are: the aforementioned (though upgraded) iMac and the entry-level Mac mini desktop models, the workstation-level Mac Pro tower, the MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro laptops, and the Xserve server.

Production of the Mac is based on a vertical integration model in that Apple facilitates all aspects of its hardware and creates its own operating system that is pre-installed on all Mac computers. This is in contrast to most IBM PC compatibles, where multiple sellers create hardware intended to run another company's operating software. Apple exclusively produces Mac hardware, choosing internal systems, designs, and prices. Apple does use third party components, however. Current Mac CPU use Intelmarker's x86 architecture; models from 1994-2006 used the AIM alliance's PowerPC and models from 1984-1994 used Motorola's 68k. Apple also develops the operating system for the Mac, currently Mac OS X version 10.6 "Snow Leopard". The modern Mac, like other personal computers, is capable of running alternative operating systems such as Linux, FreeBSD, and, in the case of Intel-based Macs, Microsoft Windows. However, Apple does not license Mac OS X for use on non-Apple computers.


1979 to 1984: Development

The Macintosh project started in the late 1970s with Jef Raskin, an Apple employee, who envisioned an easy-to-use, low-cost computer for the average consumer. He wanted to name the computer after his favorite type of apple, the McIntosh, but the name had to be changed for legal reasons. In September 1979, Raskin was authorized to start hiring for the project, and he began to look for an engineer who could put together a prototype. Bill Atkinson, a member of Apple's Lisa team (which was developing a similar but higher-end computer), introduced him to Burrell Smith, a service technician who had been hired earlier that year. Over the years, Raskin assembled a large development team that designed and built the original Macintosh hardware and software; besides Raskin, Atkinson and Smith, the team included Chris Espinosa, Joanna Hoffman, George Crow, Bruce Horn, Jerry Manock, Susan Kare, Andy Hertzfeld, and Daniel Kottke.

Smith’s first Macintosh board was built to Raskin’s design specifications: it had 64 kilobytes (KB) of RAM, used the Motorola 6809E microprocessor, and was capable of supporting a 256×256 pixel black-and-white bitmap display. Bud Tribble, a Macintosh programmer, was interested in running the Lisa’s graphical programs on the Macintosh, and asked Smith whether he could incorporate the Lisa’s Motorola 68000 microprocessor into the Mac while still keeping the production cost up. By December 1980, Smith had succeeded in designing a board that not only used the 68000, but bumped its speed from 5 to 8 megahertz (MHz); this board also had the capacity to support a 384×256 pixel display. Smith’s design used fewer RAM chips than the Lisa, which made production of the board significantly more cost-efficient. The final Mac design was self-contained and had the complete QuickDraw picture language and interpreter in 64 Kb of ROM - far more than most other computers; it had 128 KB of RAM, in the form of sixteen 64 kilobit (Kb) RAM chips soldered to the logicboard. Though there were no memory slots, its RAM was expandable to 512 KB by means of soldering sixteen chip sockets to accept 256 Kb RAM chips in place of the factory-installed chips. The final product's screen was a 9-inch, 512x342 pixel monochrome display, exceeding the prototypes.

The design caught the attention of Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple. Realizing that the Macintosh was more marketable than the Lisa, he began to focus his attention on the project. Raskin finally left the Macintosh project in 1981 over a personality conflict with Jobs, and the final Macintosh design is said to be closer to Jobs’ ideas than Raskin’s. After hearing of the pioneering GUI technology being developed at Xerox PARCmarker, Jobs had negotiated a visit to see the Xerox Alto computer and Smalltalk development tools in exchange for Apple stock options. The Lisa and Macintosh user interfaces were partially influenced by technology seen at Xerox PARC and were combined with the Macintosh group's own ideas. Jobs also commissioned industrial designer Hartmut Esslinger to work on the Macintosh line, resulting in the "Snow White" design language; although it came too late for the earliest Macs, it was implemented in most other mid- to late-1980s Apple computers. However, Jobs’ leadership at the Macintosh project didn't last; after an internal power struggle with new CEO John Sculley, Jobs angrily resigned from Apple in 1985, went on to found NeXT, another computer company, and did not return until 1997.

1984: Introduction

The Macintosh 128k was announced to the press in October 1983, followed by an 18-page brochure included with various magazines in December. The Macintosh was introduced by the now famous US$1.5 million Ridley Scott television commercial, "1984". The commercial most notably aired during the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII on 22 January 1984 and is now considered a "watershed event" and a "masterpiece." 1984 used an unnamed heroine to represent the coming of the Macintosh (indicated by a Picasso-style picture of Applemarker’s Macintosh computer on her white tank top) as a means of saving humanity from "conformity" (Big Brother). These images were an allusion to George Orwell's noted novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, which described a dystopian future ruled by a televised "Big Brother."

Two days after the 1984 ad aired, the Macintosh went on sale. It came bundled with two applications designed to show off its interface: MacWrite and MacPaint. When it was first demonstrated by Steve Jobs in the first of his famous Mac Keynote speeches the computer drew the phrase "Macintosh, insanely great!" and told a joke using text-to-speech. Although the Mac garnered an immediate, enthusiastic following, some labeled it a mere "toy." Because the machine was entirely designed around the GUI, existing text-mode and command-driven applications had to be redesigned and the programming code rewritten; this was a time consuming task that many software developers chose not to undertake, and resulted in an initial lack of software for the new system. In April 1984 Microsoft's MultiPlan migrated over from MS-DOS, followed by Microsoft Word in January 1985. In 1985, Lotus Software introduced Lotus Jazz after the success of Lotus 1-2-3 for the IBM PC, although it was largely a flop. Apple introduced Macintosh Office the same year with the lemmings ad. Infamous for insulting its own potential customers, it was not successful.

For a special post-election edition of Newsweek in November 1984, Apple spent more than US$2.5 million to buy all 39 of the advertising pages in the issue. Apple also ran a “Test Drive a Macintosh” promotion, in which potential buyers with a credit card could take home a Macintosh for 24 hours and return it to a dealer afterwards. While 200,000 people participated, dealers disliked the promotion, the supply of computers was insufficient for demand, and many were returned in such a bad shape that they could no longer be sold. This marketing campaign caused CEO John Sculley to raise the price from US$1,995 to US$2,495 (adjusting for inflation, about $5,000 in 2007).

1985 to 1989: Desktop publishing era

In 1985, the combination of the Mac, Apple’s LaserWriter printer, and Mac-specific software like Boston Software’s MacPublisher and Aldus PageMaker enabled users to design, preview, and print page layouts complete with text and graphics—an activity to become known as desktop publishing. Initially, desktop publishing was unique to the Macintosh, but eventually became available for IBM PC users as well. Later, applications such as Macromedia FreeHand, QuarkXPress, Adobe Photoshop, and Adobe Illustrator strengthened the Mac’s position as a graphics computer and helped to expand the emerging desktop publishing market.

The limitations of the first Mac soon became clear: it had very little memory, even compared with other personal computers in 1984, and could not be expanded easily; and it lacked a hard disk drive or the means to attach one easily. In October 1985, Apple increased the Mac’s memory to 512 KB, but it was inconvenient and difficult to expand the memory of a 128 KB Mac. In an attempt to improve connectivity, Apple released the Macintosh Plus on January 10, 1986 for US$2,600. It offered one megabyte of RAM, expandable to four, and a then-revolutionary SCSI parallel interface, allowing up to seven peripherals—such as hard drives and scanners—to be attached to the machine. Its floppy drive was increased to an 800 KB capacity. The Mac Plus was an immediate success and remained in production, unchanged, until October 15, 1990; on sale for just over four years and ten months, it was the longest-lived Macintosh in Apple's history.

The primary improvement in the Macintosh II was Color QuickDraw in ROM, a color version of the graphics language which was the heart of the machine. Among the many innovations in Color QuickDraw were an ability to handle any display size, any color depth, and multiple monitors. Other issues remained, particularly the low processor speed and limited graphics ability, which had hobbled the Mac’s ability to make inroads into the business computing market. Updated Motorola CPUs made a faster machine possible, and in 1987 Apple took advantage of the new Motorola technology and introduced the Macintosh II, which used a Motorola 68020 processor.

The Macintosh II marked the start of a new direction for the Macintosh, as now, for the first time, it had an open architecture, with several expansion slots, support for color graphics, and a modular break-out design similar to that of the IBM PC and inspired by Apple’s other line, the expandable Apple II series. It had an internal hard drive and a power supply with a fan, which was initially fairly loud. One third-party developer sold a device to regulate fan speed based on a heat sensor, but it voided the warranty. Later Macintosh computers had quieter power supplies and hard drives.

In September 1986 Apple introduced the Macintosh Programmer's Workshop, or MPW that allowed software developers to create software for Macintosh on Macintosh, rather than cross-developing from a Lisa. In August 1987 Apple unveiled HyperCard, and introduced MultiFinder, which added cooperative multitasking to the Macintosh. In the Fall Apple bundled both with every Macintosh.

The Macintosh SE was released at the same time as the Macintosh II, as the first compact Mac with a 20 MB internal hard drive and one expansion slot. The SE also updated Jerry Manock and Terry Oyama's original design and shared the Macintosh II's Snow White design language, as well as the new Apple Desktop Bus (ADB) mouse and keyboard that had first appeared on the Apple IIGS some months earlier.

In 1987, Apple spun off its software business as Claris. It was given the code and rights to several applications that had been written within Apple, notably MacWrite, MacPaint, and MacProject. In the late 1980s, Claris released a number of revamped software titles; the result was the “Pro” series, including MacPaint Pro, MacDraw Pro, MacWrite Pro, and FileMaker Pro. To provide a complete office suite, Claris purchased the rights to the Informix Wingz spreadsheet on the Mac, renaming it Claris Resolve, and added the new presentation software Claris Impact. By the early 1990s, Claris applications were shipping with the majority of consumer-level Macintoshes and were extremely popular. In 1991, Claris released ClarisWorks, which soon became their second best-selling application. When Claris was reincorporated back into Apple in 1998, ClarisWorks was renamed AppleWorks beginning with version 5.0.

In 1988, Apple sued Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard on the grounds that they infringed Apple’s copyrighted GUI, citing (among other things) the use of rectangular, overlapping, and resizable windows. After four years, the case was decided against Apple, as were later appeals. Apple’s actions were criticized by some in the software community, including the Free Software Foundation (FSF), who felt Apple was trying to monopolize on GUIs in general, and boycotted GNU software for the Macintosh platform for seven years.

With the new Motorola 68030 processor came the Macintosh IIx in 1988, which had benefited from internal improvements, including an on-board MMU. It was followed in 1989 by a more compact version with fewer slots (the Macintosh IIcx) and a version of the Mac SE powered by the 68030 (the Macintosh SE/30, breaking the existing naming convention to avoid the name "SEx"). Later that year, the Macintosh IIci, running at , was the first Mac to be “32-bit clean,” allowing it to natively support more than 8 MB of RAM, unlike its predecessors, which had “32-bit dirty” ROMs (8 of the 32 bits available for addressing were used for OS-level flags). System 7 was the first Macintosh operating system to support 32-bit addressing. Apple also introduced the Macintosh Portable, a 68000 machine with an active matrix flat panel display that was backlit on some models. The following year the Macintosh IIfx, starting at US$9,900, was unveiled. Apart from its fast 68030 processor, it had significant internal architectural improvements, including faster memory and two Apple II-era CPU dedicated to I/O processing.

1990 to 1998: Growth and decline

Microsoft Windows 3.0, which began to approach the Macintosh operating system in both performance and feature set, was released in May 1990 and was a usable, less expensive alternative to the Macintosh platform. Apple's response was to introduce a range of relatively inexpensive Macs in October 1990. The Macintosh Classic, essentially a less expensive version of the Macintosh Plus, sold for US$999, making it the least expensive Mac until early 2001. The 68020-powered Macintosh LC, in its distinctive “pizza box” case, was available for US$1800; it offered color graphics and was accompanied by a new, low-cost 512 × 384 pixel monitor. The Macintosh IIsi, essentially a IIci with only one expansion slot, cost US$2500. All three machines sold well, although Apple’s profit margin was considerably lower than on earlier machines.

The year 1991 saw the much-anticipated release of System 7, a 32-bit rewrite of the Macintosh operating system that improved its handling of color graphics, memory addressing, networking, and co-operative multitasking, and introduced virtual memory. Later that year, Apple introduced the Macintosh Quadra 700 and 900, the first Macs to employ the faster Motorola 68040 processor. They were joined by improved versions of the previous year’s top sellers, the Macintosh Classic II and Macintosh LC II, which used a 68030 CPU. Also during this time, the Macintosh began to shed the "Snow White" design language, along with the expensive consulting fees they were paying to Frogdesign, in favor of bringing the work in-house by establishing the Apple Industrial Design Group to establish a new fresh look to go with the new operating system.

In October 1991, the Macintosh Portable was replaced by the first three models in Apple’s enduring PowerBook range—the PowerBook 100, a miniaturized Portable; the 68030 PowerBook 140; and the 68030 PowerBook 170. They were the first portable computers with the keyboard behind a palm rest, and with a built-in pointing device (a trackball) in front of the keyboard.

In 1992, Apple started to sell a low-end Mac, the Performa, through nontraditional dealers. At Apple dealers, a mid-range version of the Quadra series called the Macintosh Centris was offered, only to be quickly renamed Quadra when buyers became confused by the range of Classics, LCs, IIs, Quadras, Performas, and Centrises. Apple also unveiled the miniaturized PowerBook Duo range. It was intended to be docked to a base station for desktop-like functionality in the workplace, and was sold until early 1997. In May 1994, Apple released the second-generation PowerBook models, the PowerBook 500 series, which introduced the novel trackpad.

Also in 1994, Apple abandoned Motorola CPUs for the RISC PowerPC architecture developed by the AIM alliance of Apple Computer, IBM, and Motorola. The Power Macintosh line, the first to use the new chips, proved to be highly successful, with over a million PowerPC units sold in nine months.

Despite these technical and commercial successes, Microsoft and Intelmarker began to rapidly lower Apple's market share with the Windows 95 operating system and Pentium processors respectively. These significantly enhanced the multimedia capability and performance of IBM PC compatible computers, and brought Windows still closer to the Mac GUI. In response, Apple started the Macintosh clone program, by which third-parties manufactured hardware to run Apple's System 7. This succeeded in increasing the Macintosh's market share somewhat and provided cheaper hardware for consumers, but hurt Apple financially. As a result, when Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, he ordered that the OS that had been previewed as version 7.7 be branded Mac OS 8 (in place of the never-to-appear Copland OS). Since Apple had licensed only System 7 to third-parties, this move effectively ended the clone line. The decision caused significant financial losses for companies like Motorola, who produced the StarMax, Umax, who produced the SuperMac and Power Computing Corporation, which offered several lines Mac clones, including PowerWave, PowerTower, and PowerTower Pro . These companies had invested substantial resources in creating their own Mac-compatible hardware.

1998 to 2005: New beginnings

In 1998, a year after Steve Jobs had returned to the company, Apple introduced an all-in-one Macintosh called the iMac. Its translucent plastic case, originally Bondi blue and later many other colors, is considered an industrial design hallmark of the late 1990s. The iMac did away with most of Apple's standard (and usually proprietary) connections, such as SCSI and ADB, in favor of two USB ports. It also had no internal floppy disk drive and instead used compact disks for removable storage. It proved to be phenomenally successful, with 800,000 units sold in 139 days, making the company an annual profit of US$309 million—Apple's first profitable year since Michael Spindler took over as CEO in 1995. The "blue and white" aesthetic was applied to the Power Macintosh, and then to a new product: the iBook. Introduced in July 1999, the iBook was Apple's first consumer-level laptop computer. More than 140,000 pre-orders were placed before it started shipping in September, and by October it was as much a sales hit as the iMac. Apple continued to add new products to their lineup, such as the Power Mac G4 Cube, the eMac for the education market and PowerBook G4 laptop for professionals. The original iMac used a G3 processor, but the upgrades to G4 and then to G5 chips were accompanied by a new design, dropping the array of colors in favor of white plastic. Current iMacs use aluminum enclosures. On January 11, 2005, Apple announced the release of the Mac Mini priced at US$499, the least expensive Mac to date.

Mac OS continued to evolve up to version 9.2.2, including retrofits such as the addition of a nanokernel and support for Multiprocessing Services 2.0 in Mac OS 8.6. Ultimately its dated architecture made replacement necessary. As such, Apple introduced Mac OS X, a fully overhauled Unix-based successor to Mac OS 9, using Darwin, XNU, and Mach as foundations, and based on NEXTSTEP. Mac OS X was not released to the public until September 2000, as the Mac OS X Public Beta, with an Aqua interface. At US$29.99, it allowed adventurous Mac users to sample Apple’s new operating system and provide feedback for the actual release. The initial release of Mac OS X, 10.0 (nicknamed Cheetah), was released on March 24, 2001. Older Mac OS applications could still run under early Mac OS X versions, using an environment called Classic (which was removed in version 10.5 "Leopard"). Subsequent releases of Mac OS X were 10.1 "Puma" (September 25, 2001), 10.2 "Jaguar" (August 24, 2002), 10.3 "Panther" (October 24, 2003), 10.4 "Tiger" (April 29, 2005), 10.5 "Leopard" (October 26, 2007), and 10.6 "Snow Leopard" (August 28, 2009). Leopard received certification as a Unix implementation by The Open Group.

2006 onward: Intel era

Partially because of a failure to produce laptop-ready G5 chips, Apple discontinued the use of PowerPC microprocessors in 2006. At WWDC 2005, Steve Jobs revealed this transition and also noted that Mac OS X was in development to run both on Intel and PowerPC architecture from the very beginning. All new Macs now use x86 processors made by Intelmarker, and some Macs were given new names to signify the switch. Intel-based Macs can run pre-existing software developed for PowerPC using an emulator called Rosetta, although at noticeably slower speeds than native programs, but the Classic environment is unavailable. With the release of Intel-based Mac computers, the potential to natively run Windows-based operating systems on Apple hardware without the need for emulation software such as Virtual PC was introduced. In March 2006, a group of hackers announced that they were able to run Windows XP on an Intel-based Mac. The group has released their software as open source and has posted it for download on their website. On April 5, 2006 Apple announced the public beta availability of their own Boot Camp software which allows owners of Intel-based Macs to install Windows XP on their machines; later versions added support for Windows Vista. Starting with Mac OS X 10.5, Boot Camp is now a standard feature.

In recent years, Apple has seen a significant boost in sales of Macs. Many claim that this is due, in part, to the success of the iPod, a halo effect whereby satisfied iPod owners purchase more Apple equipment. The inclusion of the Intel chips is also a factor. The iPod digital audio players have recaptured a brand awareness of the Mac line that had not been seen since its original release in 1984. From 2001 to 2008, Mac sales increased continuously on an annual basis. Apple reported shipment of over 2.5 million Macs for the 2008 holiday season.

Product line

Compact Consumer Professional
Desktop Mac mini

Entry-level; ships without keyboard, mouse, or monitor; uses Intel Core 2 Duo processor


All-in-one; available in 21.5" and 27" screen sizes; uses Intel Core 2 Duo processor, Intel Core i5, or Intel Core i7

Mac Pro

Workstation desktop; highly customizable; uses up to two Intel Xeon Xeon 5500 "Gainestown" or Xeon 3500 "Bloomfield" quad-core processors

MacBook Air

13.3" ultraportable with aluminum casing; uses Intel Core 2 Duo processor


13.3" laptop with white polycarbonate casing; uses Intel Core 2 Duo processor

MacBook Pro

13.3", 15.4" or 17" models with aluminum casing; uses Intel Core 2 Duo processor

Server Mac mini

An additional Mac mini configuration without an internal optical drive.

Ships with Mac OS X Server installed and two internal 500 GB

n/a Xserve

1U rack-mount; uses dual quad-core Intel Xeon processors for up to 8 cores

Hardware and software


Apple directly sub-contracts hardware production to Asian manufacturers, maintaining a high degree of control over the end product. By contrast, most other companies (including Microsoft) create software that can be run on a variety of third-party hardware. The current Mac product family uses Intelmarker x86-64 processors. All current Mac models ship with at least 2 GB RAM as standard. Current Mac computers use ATI Radeon or nVidia GeForce graphics cards. All current Macs (except for the MacBook Air) ship with an optical media drive that includes a dual-function DVD and CD burner, called the SuperDrive. Macs include two standard data transfer ports: USB and FireWire (except for the MacBook Air and MacBook, which don't have FireWire built in). USB was introduced in the 1998 iMac G3 and is ubiquitous today; FireWire is mainly reserved for high-performance devices such as hard drives or video cameras. Starting with a new iMac G5 released in October 2005, Apple started to include built-in iSight cameras to appropriate models, and a media center interface called Front Row that can be operated by an Apple Remote or keyboard for accessing media stored on the computer.

Until 2005, Mac computers have shipped with a single-button mouse. Apple released the four-button Mighty Mouse in August 2005, and a wireless version in July 2006, and began to ship it with new desktop Macs.As of September 20, 2009 Apple's wireless Bluetooth Magic Mouse is now shipping with all new iMacs and is the first mouse to have multi-touch support.


The original Macintosh was the first successful personal computer to use a graphical user interface devoid of a command line. It used a desktop metaphor, depicting real-world objects like documents and a trashcan as icon onscreen. The System software introduced in 1984 with the first Macintosh and renamed Mac OS in 1997, continued to evolve until version 9.2.2. In 2001, Apple introduced Mac OS X, based on Darwin and NEXTSTEP; its new features included the Dock and the Aqua user interface. The most recent version is Mac OS X v10.6 "Snow Leopard." In addition to Snow Leopard, all new Macs are bundled with assorted Apple-produced applications, including iLife, the Safari web browser and the iTunes media player.

Mac OS X enjoys a near-absence of the types of malware and spyware that affect Microsoft Windows users. Worms as well as potential vulnerabilities were noted in February 2006, which led some industry analysts and anti-virus companies to issue warnings that Apple's Mac OS X is not immune to malware However, there has not yet been a major outbreak of Mac malware, and Apple routinely issues security updates for its software.

Following the release of the Intel-based Mac, third-party platform virtualization software such as Parallels Desktop, VMware Fusion, and VirtualBox began to emerge. these programs allow users to run Microsoft Windows or previously Windows-only software on Macs at near native speed. A BIOS compatibility module for Intel-based Macs allows users to run Windows natively. Apple also released Boot Camp and Mac-specific Windows drivers, which help users to install Windows XP or Vista and dual boot between Mac OS X and Windows. Because Mac OS X is a *nix system, and borrows heavily from FreeBSD, many applications written for Linux or BSD run on Mac OS X, often using X11. Also, many popular applications such as are cross-platform and run natively.


Macintosh advertisements have usually attacked the established market leader, directly or indirectly. They tend to portray the Mac as an alternative to overly complex or unreliable PCs. Apple hyped the introduction of the original Mac with the now-famous 1984 commercial, which aired during the Super Bowl. It was supplemented by a number of printed pamphlets and other TV ads demonstrating the new interface and emphasizing the mouse. Many more brochures for new models like the Macintosh Plus and the Performa followed. In the 1990s, Apple started the “What's on your PowerBook?” campaign, with print ads and television commercials featuring celebrities describing how the PowerBook helps them in their businesses and everyday lives. In 1995, Apple responded to the introduction of Windows 95 with several print ads and a television commercial demonstrating its disadvantages and lack of innovation. In 1997 the Think Different campaign introduced Apple’s new slogan, and in 2002 the Switch campaign followed. The most recent advertising strategy by Apple is the Get a Mac campaign, with North American, UK and Japanese variants.

Today, Apple introduces new products at “special events” at the Apple Town Hall auditorium, and keynotes at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference. It has scaled back its reliance on trade shows like the Apple Expo and the MacWorld Expo, and has recently abandoned the practice of giving keynotes at them. The events typically draw a large gathering of media representatives and spectators. In the past, special events have been used to unveil its desktop and notebook computers such as the iMac and MacBook, and other consumer electronic devices like the iPod, Apple TV, and iPhone, as well as provide updates on sales and market share statistics. Apple has begun to focus its advertising on its retail stores instead of these trade shows.

Advantages, disadvantages and criticisms

The Macintosh differs in several ways from other x86-based personal computers, especially those that run the Windows operating system. Apple directly sub-contracts hardware production to Asian OEM laptop manufacturers such as Asus, maintaining a high degree of control over the end product. In contrast, Microsoft supplies its software to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), including Dell, HP/Compaq, and Lenovo, who make the hardware using a wider range of components. Apple's less-common operating system means that a much smaller range of third-party software is available, although applications, such as Microsoft Office for Mac, are available in most areas. However, following the release of Intel-based Mac, third-party platform virtualization software such as Parallels Desktop, VMware Fusion, and VirtualBox began to emerge, allowing users to run much of the previously Windows-only software on a Mac. Apple also released a public beta version of Boot Camp, which allows users to run alternative operating systems natively on any Intel-based Mac.

The Macintosh operating system is considered to targeted by malware far less than that of Microsoft Windows operating system. This is largely due to both the UNIX roots of Mac OS X and the smaller usage share of desktop operating systems of Apple Operating systems of roughly 5% in contrast to Microsoft Windows 92%. Both of these factors drive malware creators to develop for Microsoft Windows. However, worms as well as potential vulnerabilities were noted in February 2006, which led some industry analysts and anti-virus companies to issue warnings that Apple's Mac OS X is not immune to viruses, as is commonly misconceived.

Apple has a history of innovation demonstrated, in part, by strong development of software upgrades, which would often leave older programs obsolete. Rather than waiting for developers to upgrade their applications, Apple included interim provisions for older applications. When Apple switched from the Motorola 68000 series of processors to PowerPC processors, they included an emulator, so that 68000 code could run on PowerPC. Likewise, when Apple switched from Mac OS 9 to Mac OS X, Classic allowed users to run Mac OS 9 applications under Mac OS X. Again, during the Apple Intel transition, Apple introduced Rosetta, an emulator which allows Intel based Macs to run PowerPC code.

Early in its history, up until the PCI-based Power Macs, Macintosh hardware was notoriously closed. Connectors were often proprietary, requiring specialized peripherals or adapter cables. However, since the introduction of the original iMac in 1998, Apple computers have used standard USB and FireWire connections (among others), which allow users a greatly expanded choice of peripherals.

Originally, the hardware architecture was so closely tied to the Mac OS operating system that it was impossible to boot an alternative operating system; the most common workaround, used even by Apple for A/UX, was to boot into Mac OS and then to hand over control to a program that took over the system and acted as a boot loader. This technique was no longer necessary with the introduction of Open Firmware-based PCI Macs, though it was formerly used for convenience on many Old World ROM systems due to bugs in the firmware implementation. Now, Mac hardware boots directly from Open Firmware or EFI, and Macs are no longer limited to running just the Mac OS. Intel-based Macs are capable of running Windows XP, Windows Vista, Linux, and other x86 based operating systems.

Apple was initially reluctant to embrace mice with multiple buttons and scroll wheels. Although Microsoft's IntelliMouse, featuring two buttons and a scroll wheel, was introduced in 1995 to great success, Macs did not natively support multiple buttons until Mac OS X arrived in 2001. In 2005, Apple capitulated and introduced the Mighty Mouse, which looked like a traditional one-button mouse, but actually had four buttons and a scroll ball. The wireless Mighty Mouse was introduced in 2006. In October 2009, Apple introduced the Magic Mouse which uses multi-touch gesture recognition similar to the iPhone. It allows scrolling and swiping, with multiple fingers, with no physical scroll wheel or ball.

Market share and user demographics

Since the introduction of the Macintosh, Apple has struggled to gain a significant share of the personal computer market. At first, the Macintosh 128K suffered from a dearth of available software compared to IBM's PC, resulting in disappointing sales in 1984 and 1985. It took 74 days for 50,000 units to sell.

Three ways of measuring market share are: i) by browser hits, ii) by sales, and iii) by installed base. If using the browser metric, Mac market share has increased substantially in 2007. However, results for market share measured as a percentage of current sales provides different results than when market share is measured by installed base.

By 1997, there were more than 20 million Mac users, compared to an installed base of around 340 million Windows PCs. Statistics from late 2003 indicate that Apple had 2.06 percent of the desktop share in the United States, which had increased to 2.88 percent by Q4 2004. As of October 2006, research firms IDC and Gartner reported that Apple's market share in the U.S. had increased to about 6 percent. Figures from December 2006, showing a market share around 6 percent (IDC) and 6.1 percent (Gartner) are based on a more than 30 percent increase in unit sale from 2005 to 2006. The installed base of Mac computers is hard to determine, with numbers ranging from 5 percent (estimated in 2009) to 16 percent (estimated in 2005).. Mac OS X’s share of the OS market increased from 7.31% in Dec 2007 to 9.63% in Dec 2008, which is a 32% increase in market share during 2008, compared to a 22% increase during 2007.

Whether the size of the Mac’s market share and installed base is actually relevant, and to whom, is a hotly debated issue. Industry pundits have often called attention to the Mac’s relatively small market share to predict Apple's impending doom, particularly in the early and mid 1990s when the company’s future seemed bleakest. Others argue that market share is the wrong way to judge the Mac’s success. Apple has positioned the Mac as a higher-end personal computer, and so it may be misleading to compare it to a low-budget PC. Because the overall market for personal computers has grown rapidly, the Mac’s increasing sales numbers are effectively swallowed by the industry’s numbers as a whole. Apple’s small market share, then, gives the false impression that fewer people are using Macs than did (for example) ten years ago. Others try to de-emphasize market share, citing that it's rarely brought up in other industries. Regardless of the Mac’s market share, Apple has remained profitable since Steve Jobs’ return and the company’s subsequent reorganization. Notably, a report published in the first quarter of 2008 found that Apple had a 14% market share in the personal computer market in the US, including 66% of all computers over $1,000.

Market research indicates that Apple draws its customer base from a higher-income demographic than the mainstream personal computer market.

See also




  1. See May 3, 1984.
  2. Apple's '1984' Super Bowl commercial still stands as watershed event
  3. Mac SE at LowEndMac
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