Evolution of the Apple Macintosh vs. IBM-Compatible Essay

Pages: 5 (1575 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Education - Computers

Evolution of the Apple Macintosh vs. IBM-Compatible PCs and Microsoft Windows

The origination of the Apple Macintosh vs. The first IBM Personal Computer couldn't be more divergent than each other. For Apple, the Macintosh was the culmination of a vision Steve Jobs first began thinking through while taking calligraphy courses at Reed College. Jobs, in his commencement address to Stanford University (2005) discusses how he never knew the calligraphy and drawing courses would eventually lead to building an entire computer platform that would eventually revolutionize computer graphics. He final words of the commencement however best typify the creativity and passion that went into the first designs of the Macintosh. "Stay Hungry Stay Foolish" says in four words what the Apple culture was like during those formative years of the company's existence. Passion over reason, vision over plan, and a near-messianic vision of how PCs could unleash creativity and transform society is what Steve Jobs and John Wozniak saw as the future of the Macintosh.

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In contrast, IBM's approach to defining their Personal Computer came in response to the need on the part of enterprise mainframe customers to interact with mainframes, minicomputers and larger systems on the one hand, yet capitalize on what Apple had also sensed in the broader computing community, which was a strong trend towards information democracy. The very first smaller systems that IBM produced, still aimed at Chief Information Officers (CIOs), were priced at $15,000 or above, aimed primarily at accounting and finance functions. IBM's announcement in August 1981 launched what would eventually become an entire industry of IBM-compatible computers, accessories and integration products. While IBM had taken a different route to enter the PC market, it found itself in 1984 in an embryonic industry it helped create.

Product Specifications Quickly Fade as Differentiators

Essay on Evolution of the Apple Macintosh vs. IBM-Compatible Assignment

The first Apple Macintosh was by today's standards not that much more powerful than standard calculators. Based on the Motorola 68000 processor with a system bus speed of 8 MHz system bus speed, with 128K Standard RAM, an additional 128K Motherboard RAM, 3.5" diskette drive, and a 9" monochrome screen all packaged in a beige case the first Apple Macintosh looked revolutionary. Selling for $2,500 however the Mac quickly began to gain interest from software programmers interested in the new computer's approach to graphics. The Motorola 68000 processor was specifically chosen for its ability to be programmed at the Assembler level for greater control of graphics. The Motorola microprocessors were also slated to increase their support for more complex graphics commands as well. For these reasons in addition to many others, Steve Jobs chose the Motorola microprocessor for the first Macintosh.

IBM launched the Model 5150 with 64K of RAM, a single-side floppy diskette capable of storing 160K in a 5.25" form factor, all packaged in an oblong heavy metal case. The IBM Model 5150 was powered by a 4.77MHz Intel 8088 processor. The base price at time of introduction was $2,880, and that didn't include any hard drive. Adding in a hard disk drive would increase the price significantly.

The battle over product specifications and the resulting performance levels was hotly contested by many PC enthusiasts and corporate PC buyers alike, yet the design of the Apple Macintosh was one of the strongest differentiators of all. Within six months of each systems' introduction software applications available for each system were more of a differentiator than the product specifications, and for Apple, the design of the Macintosh brought an identity no amount of advertising could deliver.

Design as a Differentiator

Clearly IBM thought along functional lines when the first IBM PC cabinets and overall industrial design was completed. Long, oblong, and made from formed metal, the first IBM PCs were designed more as tre IT systems rather than systems that were personal. Steve Jobs however approached the design of the first Macintosh as a car designer would approach the design of a new car. Programmers working at Apple during the development of the Macintosh recall hearing Steve Jobs arguing with Creative Services that the first Macintosh should be more like a classic car than a lunchbox design where the keyboard collapses into the overall system unit. Jobs said "We need it to have a classic look, that won't go out of style, like the Volkswagen Beetle" Andy Hertzfeld (2004) reports in his book, Revolution in the Valley. Andy Hertzfeld was one of the lead programmers on the Apple Macintosh and said that Jobs said that the first Mac must be sleek, powerful looking, "like a Porsche!" Hertzfeld says Jobs yelled out one evening while everyone worked through the nights at Apple.

What Matters Most: The Operating Systems

IBM's on-again and off-again negotiations with Digital Research (DRI) and the resulting fall-out with this company that Microsoft saw coming due to DRIs' inability to deliver prototype operating systems on time lead to catalyst for what would become the highest growth industry of the 20th century. Microsoft quickly created an entire operating system for the "Acorn" system that the Model 5150 had been code-named inside IBM. Showing the ingenuity and resourcefulness that would become their hallmark in the coming years, Microsoft completed their prototype in a small, windowless room in their Bellevue, Washington headquarters. Using a minicomputer to emulate IBM's PC BIOS that resided only on a few prototypes at that time. Microsoft bought what QDOS (stood for quick and dirty operating system) and made the commands more intuitive. The result was the first version of PC-DOS. When it became evident that IBM would not be moving forward with DRI, Microsoft's Bill gates flew to Armonk, New York and demonstrated QDOS for IBM executives, who licensed the operating system for the IBM PC. Microsoft negotiated the rights for its own version of MS-DOS, which would be the turning point in the formation of an entirely new industry of IBM PC-compatible systems.

Software Rules

Apple's approaches to evangelism, or the efforts to persuade software companies to write applications for the Apple Macintosh were unconventional and again, marked with passion and a vision of revolutionizing the computing world. Guy Kawasaki, the Chief Evangelist for Apple Computer, was given the immense task of getting software companies to write applications for the new platform. Kawasaki (1990) discusses how Jobs, Wozniak and others would often visit directly with each software company founder and talk about how easily the Motorola 68000 processor could easily handle the development of graphics and was faster in core routines than the Intel 8-bit processor. Kawasaki's innate ability to communicate why Apple would make a software company successful with applications written for the Macintosh lead to dozens of companies and tens of hundreds of applications being available on the platform. With market share hovering in the 5% to 10% range of all PCs at the time according to InfoCorp, Kawasaki's challenge was in defining the value of supporting a computing platform with a stabilizing yet powerful customer base.

As Kawasaki and Apple began to gain critical mass in the area of applications development, Microsoft began the development of their Windows environment, which originally ran on top of MS-DOS. The first versions of Microsoft Windows were slow, often crashed, and had massive amounts of incompatibility with applications written for MS-DOS. Microsoft however had specifically created the MS-DOS and later Windows operating system to make them more open to other applications, application programmer interfaces, and third party products - a practice Apple did not pursue nearly as much according to Linzmeyer (2004)..

As a result of the open architecture of both the IBM PC and the Windows operating system, the growth of IBM-compatible laptops and computers continued to grow rapidly, while Apple's market share stabilized and stayed constant near 10% of the total PC market. Microsoft's approach to evangelism stressed the ease of integration into their many software applications,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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