Apple’s greatest hits led by Steve

Macworld Australia Staff
29 August, 2011
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Steve Jobs

Memorable products from a memorable CEO

Apple is more than just Steve Jobs, but that doesn’t change the fact that the company did great things when he was at the helm. Here are a few memorable products that Apple produced during Jobs’s tenure as both co-founder and CEO of Apple.

Apple II

Introduced in 1977 at the West Coast Computer Faire in San Francisco, the Apple II was the follow-up to its less successful predecessor. Unlike the Apple I, the Apple II featured a colour display, 8-bit processing, expandable memory, game controller ports and a floppy drive. It was the company’s first mass-produced computer, and was a long-term success – Apple sold the Apple II series for more than 15 years, until it was discontinued in 1993.

While Steve Wozniak engineered the computer, Steve Jobs’s design influence was evident. Jobs wanted the Apple II to be sleek and appeal to everyday consumers. The plastic enclosure did just that, setting the Apple II apart from the sheet-metal look of early PCs.


The first LaserWriter marked Apple’s entry into the laser printer marketplace in 1985. With a resolution of 300 dpi, a printing speed of 8 ppm and implementation of Adobe’s PostScript language, the LaserWriter sparked the desktop publishing revolution of the late 1980s.

Apple’s graphic design dominance can be attributed to the LaserWriter, which made it possible for designers to quickly and cheaply print out accurate, professional-looking copies of their work. The LaserWriter was also the first networked printer; 30 to 40 Macs could share a single printer. It effectively changed the way publishers and designers worked, making it possible to condense dozens of hours of work into minutes.


When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in the late 1990s, he needed a product that made a statement. That product was the iMac, which debuted in 1998. It set standards for industrial design, as well as triggered a copycat trend in other consumer products. It also introduced the Apple branding trend of the ‘i’ prefix in the names of other products. Its lack of a floppy drive forced users to rely on the internet, which sent a message that Apple is willing to eschew aging technologies for the cutting edge.

Most importantly, the iMac was the Mac that saved Apple; it not only helped Apple turn a profit for the first time in three years, it also stood as a symbol of Apple’s newfound commitment to consumer-friendly innovation.

Mac OS X

Though Apple’s original Mac OS trumped its contemporaries in ease of use, it became apparent in the 1990s that it was falling behind on technology. Features of competing operating systems, like pre-emptive multitasking and protected memory, were the envy of many Mac users. Apple began numerous projects to modernise the Mac OS, but those projects were eventually cancelled as Apple’s leadership looked to the outside for a successor to the Mac OS.

In 1996, the company purchased Jobs’s Next Computer and used its NextStep operating system as the basis for what would become Mac OS X. Released in March 2001, Mac OS X’s underpinnings were based on the venerable BSD open-source operating system and finally brought those modern features to the Mac. It would go on to become the foundation not only for the Mac OS we all use today, but also, eventually, for the iOS mobile platform that powers Apple’s iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.


If you had to pick a single Apple product that jumpstarted the enormous success the company enjoys today, the original iPod is a solid bet. While the reinvention of the Mac line after Jobs’s return started the company on the track to stability, it was the iPod that turned Apple into something quite different.

As with so many of Apple’s products, the iPod didn’t pioneer a field, but it did become the exemplar. With a 5GB internal hard drive (most competitors were using flash memory measured in megabytes), a simple user interface, and integration with iTunes, the iPod was the first ‘must-have’ Apple product coveted by consumers at large. Successive revisions and additional models like the iPod mini, iPod nano and iPod shuffle only stoked the flames, and it’s a testament to the device’s popularity that only a decade after its release are its sales even beginning to decline.


Technology has made it easier than ever to take pictures; folks are no longer restricted to the 24 or 36 shots in a canister of film. Before you know it, your digital photo library has hundreds, even thousands of pics. Without iPhoto, managing all those pictures would be practically impossible. Since its release in 2002, iPhoto keeps improving, with the ability to recognise faces, to sort based on location, to create books and other crafts, to share with others through social networks, to retouch and edit pictures and a lot more.


Something eventually had to unseat the iPod, so why not a product from Apple itself? But the company didn’t simply produce a better media player, it aimed for a whole new market: The smartphone. And in doing so, it redefined the smartphone category to appeal not just to business users but to the average consumer.

With its by-now typical marriage of software and hardware, Apple produced the device that would launch a thousand competitors. Not only did it do media playback, it also handled email with aplomb, sported the best web browser arguably ever seen on a mobile device, and, eventually, kicked off an app development spree that is still going to this day.

iTunes store

These days, most of us take the purchase of digital goods for granted. But there was a time not so long ago that, when you wanted the latest album from your favourite band you had to go to the record store and see if they had it in stock, or order it from Amazon and wait three days for it to show up. Like so many of Apple’s products, the iTunes Store wasn’t the first online music store, but it did end up being the best. It eventually expanded to include TV shows, movies, books and iOS apps, and served as the model for the Mac App Store.


Some will say that the tablet market existed before Apple introduced the iPad, but the devices that pre-dated it were really just PC laptops shoehorned into a tablet form factor. By contrast, the iPad brought the power and simplicity of iPhone to a larger form factor, opening up the possibility for all sorts of additional apps and uses.

While many criticised the iPad as being a device for consumption rather than production, the millions of sales Apple managed to rack up showed that customers obviously didn’t buy the argument. More than a year after the iPad’s introduction, the competitors are still rushing to catch up, and Apple has defined yet another category.

MacBook Air

Most people accept that compromises need to be made with an ultra lightweight laptop, but with the first 13in MacBook Air released in 2008, the compromises were too great, especially performance-wise. However, Apple and Steve Jobs had a vision for the MacBook Air, and with the release of the 11in model in 2010 and the Core i5 models released this year, that vision because clear to the general public. It’s the ideal ultra-portable Mac.

The misses

Not every product from Apple has been a winner. The G4 Cube is often stated as an example of an overly-designed product. Fortune reported that Steve Jobs gathered the MobileMe team for a severe tongue-lashing after the service went live in 2008. Apple thought a buttonless iPod shuffle was a good idea, but a year after it was released, Jobs admitted that, “people clearly missed the buttons.” And the first Apple TV carries the stigma of being called a “hobby” product by Jobs.

Have a thought on Apple’s greatest hits and misses under Jobs? Post it in the comments section below.


10 people were compelled to have their say. We encourage you to do the same..

  1. AM says:

    Okay list, but where is the original Macintosh, where is the original Mac OS, where is iMovie. I know for the original Macintosh and the Original Mac OS, Steve Jobs was not fully in charge of Apple but he was in charge of the teams (Mac OS evolved from the Lisa OS).

  2. Ben says:

    The 1998 iMac was LEGENDARY!!! I loved that little thing that just kept going. The iPod was THE GADGET to have. Everyone wanted to copy it. Pity about the Microsoft Zune… LOL!!!

  3. Brandt Hardin says:

    Jobs is done but left his mark on every corner of wireless technology. It only leaves us asking who won the war between the two titans of modern computer technology? Steve Jobs vs. Bill Gates / Apple vs. Microsoft– check out my rendering of an epic match-up of their cyborg selves on my artist’s blog at

  4. Paul says:

    My first introduction to the Mac was when I was working with Optus. Since then I have owned Macs. A lot of my friends use Windows PC’s and think the Mac is a toy and can’t do the things they can on their Windows machines. The fact is I can do everything they can plus more. They keep saying they would never use a Mac but they are the ones having all the problems. A week doesn’t go by without hear they have a problem with their computers. My Mac just keep running everyday. Straight out of the box my Mac will do everything I need it to do, from editing photos to editing videos. Nothing extra to buy. Ripping DVD’s I even get asked to do them because my Windows friends can’t on their machines but my Mac can.

    Job’s has done so much for the computer industry and for the Apple brand name. I’m sure Apple won’t close up shop because he’s no longer CEO.

    If there is one person in the world I would want to meet it would be Steve Jobs.

  5. Christopher Deeble says:

    I thought the cube was beautiful. I was on the verge of ordering one when it was discontinued and would buy one today if I could.

  6. tom says:

    bring back the cube, much nicer than the mac mini…

  7. moldor says:

    Apple TV a “hobby product” ?? Must have been on one of his weed-smoking days.

    The CURRENT AppleTV is all but useless without a high=-speed connection, while the first generation with inbuilt storage is brilliant.

  8. Graham Taylor says:

    Somewhat to my astonishment you appear to have missed the most important Jobs/Apple hit of them all!

    Sure the products mentioned were/are all great but the blockbusting gamechanger was the original Macintosh! Discounting the superb but too expensive Lisa that is. The 128k original changed the face of computing quite literally, introducing a one piece device with a WYSIWYG interface (so good it was promptly copied by You Know Who) and a mouse in a consumer computer. It would certainly be arguable that, with the exception of the venerable Apple 11, none of the other hits would have happened without the Mac. Even the Laserwriter achieved the DTP revolution hand in hand with the Mac, it was not much use by itself, it was the combination that was so powerful.

  9. Ken Foster says:

    I loved my ‘cube’, it worked beautifully and looked great. I reluctantly sold it this year after storing it in its box for 5 years.

    In my opinion one of the biggest contributions Steve Jobs & Apple made was the revolutionising of the print & publishing industry. The Macintosh & Pagemaker and later Photoshop gave designers the ability to quickly typeset layout and manipulate their work like they had never been able to do previously.

    In the late 80′s the humble little Mac wiped-out the expensive and slow typesetting industry, the expensive photo manipulating and processing industry followed a few years later and the printing industry has never been the same.

    Over the last 22 years my design company has owned dozens of Apple Macs in various configurations and only one machine every gave us trouble and had to be returned to Apple. Our XServe ran for 7 years continuously without a hitch. We are devoted Apple fans and Steve Jobs deserves all the praise for his single-minded commitment to design, innovation and quality products that work beautifully.

    I can only wish him all the best and good health in his new role.

  10. Paul Drew says:

    I note that one of Apples’ so called misses is the first Apple TV. I beg to differ on this because although the new Apple TV is a great bit of kit and a lot cheaper than the original, it is not at all mobile and is required to be anchored to a TV and within streaming distance of an operating Mac.
    With my original Apple TV, I can unplug it and take it anywhere there is a TV and play my music or movies. In my opinion, Apple made a big mistake by removing the hard drive from it’s latest model.
    I think instead of treating the original Apple TV as a hobby, Apple should have concentrated in marketing it in the way that has led to it’s other products being so successful and sought after.

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