On April 1, 1976, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne founded Apple Computer Inc. to sell a personal computer kit. 40 years later, the company, now called Apple, is the largest IT company by revenue in the world. How did it happen?
In 1975, Wozniak attended the first meeting of Homebrew Computer Club, which inspired him to build what would later become Apple I. After Wozniak’s “project” was turned down by his then-employer HP five times, as revealed during his 2013 lecture at Georgia State University, he was encouraged by Jobs to join him and build a company. Result – Apple Computer was founded. While Wayne drew their first logo and wrote the original partnership agreement, he ended up leaving the company two weeks later.
In 1977, Apple II – one of the first highly successful mass-produced microcomputer products – was manufactured. With greater features, expandability and ease of use, this became a huge commercial success and helped launch the company as a successful computer business.
On December 12, 1980, Apple Computer went public at $22 per share, generating more capital than any IPO since Ford in 1956 and instantly created about 300 millionaires – more than any company in history. This was swiftly followed by Jobs’ appointment as the chairman while Michael Scott became the first CEO of this IT giant.
By August ’81, Apple was possibly the largest microcomputer company when IBM entered the personal computer market with IBM PC. Being “unimpressed” by their product, Apple confidently placed a full-page advertisement in the Wall Street Journal with “Welcome, IBM. Seriously” as the headline. Of course, the move backfired as the PC surpassed Apple II to become the bestselling personal computer by 1983, making IBM’s annual PC revenue two times that of Apple.
1983 proved to be even more dismal for the company as their product Apple Lisa, the first PC with a GUI – one which took four years and $50 million to build – became a commercial failure due to its outrageous price. It was the same year when John Sculley was appointed as the CEO. He would eventually be the reason for both Wozniak’s and Jobs’ departure from the company.
The year 1984 witnessed the launch of the Macintosh 128k announced by the historic $1.5 million “1984” television commercial aired during the third quarter of the Super Bowl on January 22. The computer was an instant hit and garnered a rather enthusiastic following, but was labelled as a mere ‘toy’ by many users.
Steve Wozniak, dissatisfied by the company’s direction, left in February 1985, selling most of his stock. Following this, the Macintosh’s failure to overtake the PC led the Board to strip Jobs of all his duties. He eventually resigned in September and, as a show of defiance, sold all but one of his 6.5 million shares of the company for $70 million.
Under Sculley’s leadership, Apple experienced the first stock split in 1987, acquired several companies and registered its dot-com address, becoming one of the first 100 companies to do so. In 1988, the company sued Microsoft, alleging that Windows 2.03 infringed upon Lisa/Mac’s GUI elements. Apple lost this case in the US Supreme Court.
It was 1989 when the company experienced its first decline – a fall of 20 percent in stock price. In October 1991, Apple launched its first laptop – the PowerBook in three models. While the series was successful, the original team responsible for it left to work at Compaq, which set back updates.
In 1993, Sculley was replaced by Michael Splinder, who was then replaced by Gil Amelio in less than a year. Newton, Apple’s first PDA and an inspiration for the Palm Pilot and Pocket PC, was released the same year. In 1994, IBM offered to buy out Apple. They initially refused, but later sought another offer from them, albeit unsuccessfully. Later, in 1996, Apple was almost acquired by Sun Microsystems.
Wondering where Jobs was over the past decade? Fret not, for in his time away from Apple he founded NeXT Computer which was acquired by Apple in 1995, paving a way back for Jobs. He was hired as the interim CEO of Apple in 1997 after Amelio was ousted by the board.
In 1997, the company was on the brink of bankruptcy and Jobs announced a partnership with Microsoft, which invested $150 million as a part of the deal. Later, in an interview with Bloomberg TV, the then-CEO of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer described it as the “craziest thing” they’d ever done.
In 2000, Steve Jobs was officially appointed as the CEO of Apple, followed by one of the most productive decades for the company. iTunes was released in January 2001 and a line of Apple retail stores was opened across the U.S. in May. The first iPod, which was later called iPod Classic, was also released this year.
In 2003, iTunes Store, a goldmine for Apple currently, was launched. It experienced 2 million downloads in 16 days and is now the largest music retail store of the world.
In 2005, at the Worldwide Developers Conference keynote, Jobs announced the decision to produce Mac computers with Intel CPUs. In 2006, the first Intel-based Macbook Pro and iMac were launched.
The year 2007 proved to be a game changer with the release of the first iPhone with the first iOS and the first Apple TV. The company renamed itself from Apple Computer Inc. to just Apple Inc. this year.
In 2008, Apple launched the App Store for third-party apps on iOS and sold 60 million apps with a daily revenue of $1 billion. It was this year that the company rose to become the world’s third largest mobile handset supplier.
In 2010, the iPad was launched and Siri Inc. was acquired by Apple for the exclusive usage of Siri on its mobile devices. June 2011 marked Jobs’ last product launch – iCloud – before he resigned in August, leading to the appointment of Tim Cook as the new CEO.
It was in the year 2011 that Apple first became the largest publicly traded company by market cap at $354 billion. While it has been dethroned by Exxon twice since then, it has been unbeatable since the third quarter of 2013.
The rest is history – the launch of Apple Watch in 2014 followed by Apple crossing the $700 billion mark. This year also witnessed the launch of the two most successful iPhones, 6 and 6 Plus, which sold 100 million units together.
In 2016, Apple locked horns with the FBI over a court order to unlock the iPhone of a San Bernardino shooter. The company refused to comply on grounds of privacy and was supported by the tech community. Currently valued at $618 billion, Apple is the largest IT company and recently launched its 13th iPhone, the iPhone SE in March.