Over the past 30 years, many great things came out of Cupertino and most of them were introduced with fanfare by Steve Jobs. But which announcements were the most important? Which ones shook the world?
I did my research and created a video showing Apple’s Top 10 keynote announcements in all their glory. I couldn’t decide which one was more important, so I’ve listed them in chronological order.
Can you guess which they are?
Watch Apple’s 10 most important keynote announcements
…continue reading as I elaborate on each choices and list a few runners-up who didn’t crack the top 10.
1. Macintosh introduction (1984)
It’s worth mentioning that aside from revolutionising personal computing, thank you Xerox PARC, the Macintosh established Apple as a different kind of company. One that valued human interaction more than specifications. One that pushed the limits of innovation to create products easy and pleasant to use.
The Macintosh truly helped put computers in every home – although it’s Microsoft that succeeded at that. But that’s another story…
2. iMac introduction (1998)
The cute transparant computer took the industry by surprise. It’s the first product of the “new” Apple Era envisioned by Steve Jobs. It was a smashing success. Sales went through the roof and for some time, iMac was the #1 computer sold in the USA.
The birth of the iMac signalled the death of the boring beige boxes and positioned Apple as a trendsetter. Major computer manufacturers like Dell, Compaq and HP took the cues of Apple’s new design and started offering systems in different flavors.
iMac made computers fun.
3. OS X Strategy (1998)
At the time, the relationship between Apple and the developer community was at its lowest. Many had left the Macintosh platform because of dwindling sales and an uncertain future. Others were bemused at the demise of Rhapsody, Apple’s touted future OS. Steve Jobs killed it not long after taking over from Gil Amelio.
The Mac OS was old, buggy and lived in the shadow casted by Windows 95. The future of the Mac was bleak even when iMacs were selling like hot cakes.
All this changed on May 11th 1998. Steve Jobs unveiled the foundation of Mac OS X and demonstrated why Apple had acquire NeXT and its Unix based operating system. The transition to OS X was bold and looked painful for developers. Many needed to recode part, if not all, of their applications to make use of the new powerful OS.
But Apple was totally committed to OS X and Steve Jobs made it clear that it was the only way to go forward.
And it paid out.
Mac OS X brought a strong foundation to the Mac and is still being used 15 years later in every Macs. It’s also at the hearth of iOS, the operating system of the iPhone and the iPad. As it turned out, OS X was instrumental in creating the Post-PC era. How ironic.
4. Steve Jobs becomes Apple’s CEO (2000)
During the early years of his second stint at Apple, Steve Jobs shared duties at two companies. He was CEO at Pixar and interim CEO (iCEO) at Apple.
When asked if he’d drop the interim title, Steve never gave a straight answer. Pixar was highly successful and Steve loved his job.
Most believed he would eventually become Apple’s new CEO. But there was always a possibility that Steve decided to leave Apple once he judged Apple strong enough to continue without him.
Then during a Macworld New York keynote, Steve Jobs had One More Thing to say. He surprised the audience by announcing he would drop the iCEO title. The place went completely ballistic!!!
Apple finally had their leader. They would be unstoppable for the following 10 years.
5. iPod introduction (2001)
The launch of the tiny music player changed the world of consumer electronics and reshaped Apple. It can by argued that it’s the most important product Apple ever introduced!
That’s amazing because when iPod was announced, the tech industry wasn’t impressed. Rumors were that Apple would release a revolutionary PDA. Instead they ‘just’ unveiled a music player… Most were disappointed, me included.
Boy were we wrong and was Steve right!
Before the iPod, Apple was a niche computer maker with 3% market share and cool looking iMacs and iBooks.
iPod changed all that in the following years (it didn’t happen all at once!). With iPod:
- Apple became mainstream: Cool people, artists, influencers started to use the iPod in public places, displaying the iconic white earbuds. Soon, all wanted to have an iPod – even Windows users. In 2003, the award winning silhouette ad campaign would strengthen Apple’s position as one of the coolest lifestyle brand on the planet.
- Apple became dominant: With ±70% market share in the digital music player market, Apple wasn’t the joke of the industry anymore. They had a successful product. The tech industry, the media and consumers would start to respect them again.
- Halo effect: Many iPod owners didn’t own a Mac but bought one down the way. It helped increase Apple’s computer market share.
- Profit maker: The iPod quickly became Apple’s most profitable business unit. It allowed Apple to increase it’s R&D investments and create amazing new products. It’s safe to say that a lot of iPod’s money went into the development of the iPhone and more products down this list :)
All that because of the iPod!
So yes, this tiny music plater really achieved BIG THINGS!
6. iTunes Music Store introduction (2003)
The shift to digital music was already started, but no existing solutions was compelling enough for users to drop their music CD in favor of mp3s. It was a complex world of Digital Right Management and small online music portfolios. It sucked.
With the launch of the iTunes Music Store, Apple single handedly changed the business landscape of the music industry.
It brought tons of music (200,000 songs) of the biggest artists under a single and easy to use platform for just ¢99.
At launch it only worked on the Mac but a few years later a Windows version was released. With millions of songs in its catalog, it quickly became the best place to find music and overtook WallMart as the #1 music store in the world.
The iTunes Music Store helped Apple sell more iPods and brought the Apple brand in contact with even more people. One didn’t need to own an Apple product to purchase songs.
The lessons learned with the iTunes Music Store served Apple to start many other online activities and products. It’s responsible for the creation of the Apple TV. But more importantly, the creation of the App Store (more on this later…)
7. Switch to Intel (2005)
But back in 2005, everyone knew Apple didn’t run the ‘standard’ Intel chip and that wasn’t a good thing.
In the mid 00’s, the PowerPC lost a bit of its edge, especially in mobile computing. Steve Jobs made a fool of himself when promising a PowerBook G5 that never came.
That all changed when Steve Jobs surprised many by announcing the Mac would adopt the Intel chip. It installed made Apple’s product roadmap more appealing since Apple would get chips as fast as their competitors. Developers were happier because it made porting their Windows app to the Mac easier.
But more importantly, in the mind of consumers, Macs were now as powerful as PCs. It made it easier for them to make the switch to the Mac. All that because of a chip…
8. iPhone introduction (2007)
Just before Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone he said “Today Apple is reinventing the iPhone“. He was halfway right.
iPhone did more than redefining what the future of phone would be. It created a truly personal computer. One that someone could carry on him/her at all time.
The iPhone became the most successful electronic product of all time (gross revenue & profits). It made Apple the most valuable company in the world – within a few years, the iPhone business was generating more profit than the whole Microsoft.
The influence of the iPhone is however more profound. It kicked started the mobile computing era which was rather stagnant for a few years.
- Suddenly, smartphones became the most wanted piece of electronic;
- Smartphone makers adopted/copied the look of the iPhone (Goodbye tiny keyboards);
- Mobile operators were forced to increase bandwidth to keep up with iPhone’s users mobile surfing habits;
- Websites started to offer better web browsing experience to their mobile visitors.
The iPhone also led Apple to create the iPad which ignited the Post PC era (more down the list). The iPhone is in my opinion, Apple’s most impactful product ever made.
9. iPhone App Store introduction (2008)
If you remember back in 2008, most software innovation came from the web. Groundbreaking services like YouTube, facebook and Twitter were all online based. Little was happening on the desktop and most programmers were shifting their efforts to the web.
Not surprisingly, Apple decided to emulate that trend by allowing only online apps to be installed on the iPhone. That didn’t work really well…
A year after releasing the iPhone, realising their mistake, Apple announced the iOS SDK. It allowed developers to create iPhone Apps. The tech world welcomed the news with open arms.
But during the same keynote, Apple introduced something more important that didn’t get as much coverage: the App Store.
Now, iPhone users had an easy place to find and buy all kind of apps. Developers had a easy way to bring their apps to millions of customers. This was a game changer.
Thousands of free and paid apps were created for the iPhone – making it the most vibrant computing platform. These apps added tremendous value to the iPhone because it could be used to do many amazing things.
The App Store helped Apple sell millions more iPhone. It also differentiated iPhone from it’s competitors that didn’t have as many apps.
Overall, the App Store generated billions of profits for Apple and its developers.
It also paved the way to the release of Apple’s next blockbuster product, the iPad. With thousands of compatible apps already available at launch, the iPad had a major advantage.
10. iPad introduction (2010)
Steve Jobs apparently said to some of his close friends that the iPad was the most important thing he’s ever done. It’s in fact the culminating effort of more than 30 years of his career.
He most certainly envisioned it a long time ago, although back then, he didn’t know what shape it would take.
If we look closely at the iPad, we can see fingerprints of Apple’s 10 most important keynote announcements all over it. It’s not a coincidence.
- Macintosh: Ease of use and intuitiveness
- iMac: Cool factor
- OS X: Uses a variant of it i.e. iOS
- iPod: Built-in
- iTMS: Built-in
- iPhone: In a sense, it’s a larger iPhone
- App Store: Built around it
The iPad is Steve Jobs’ legacy. It’s his gift to all of us.
- Watch the iPad introduction keynote
- Watch Steve Jobs talking to Walt Mossberg after the iPad unveiling
Runner up: Apple Store unveiling (2001)
However, there’s no denying the importance of the Apple Store in Apple’s history. The stores are responsible for putting iMacs, MacBooks, iPods, iPhones, iPads and more iThings in the hands of millions of people – small, big, old, young, Apple fans and Microsoft fans.
Apple’s products look great on a screen, but they feel even better once you hold them. And that’s the magic of the Apple Store.
It created the best product experience potential buyers could get. You know the saying: “Once you go Mac, you never go back…”
Runner up: Think Different Campaign
It’s Apple’s soul. It’s his identity, what it stands for.
The Think Different Campaign brought back pride in the heart of Apple employees and fans at a time they needed the most. It was a rallying cry, a reminder of why we loved the brand (after all, why should we care about a computers?). Think Different made it clear.
Steve Jobs joined Apple in 1997, but it’s the Think Campaign that marked the beginning of a new era at Apple. One that saw the company rise to unprecedented heights and make a dent in the Universe.
The only reason it didn’t make the top 10 is that its reach was too narrow to compete with the other keynote announcements. It only targeted Apple employees and it’s fans.
- Watch the unveiling of the Think Different campaign
- Watch the original Think Different ad
- Watch the Think Different ad narrated by Steve Jobs