An iMac Birthday Story
How the iMac Recaptured "Mindshare" for Apple
by David Lang (Posted: 8/16/01)
Lest we forget the significance of the now venerable--and, hopefully, soon to be new and improved--iMac, allow me to reminisce about the dark days just before its release, and the almost overnight transformation which it seemed to have brought about. This story is told not just from the perspective of a Mac fan who was tired of hearing about how Apple was going out of business, but from the perspective of a Mac-only software developer who was literally saved from slipping over to the "dark side."
Flirting with the Dark Side
Yet in the days immediately before the unveiling of the iMac, these arguments were beginning to sound increasingly hollow, even to our own ears. Apple truly did appear to be dying. Every quarter we'd hear about more staggering losses, more layoffs, and more boardroom politics. Where it had once been common for people to buy Macs just to use our software, it now seemed foolish to buy a Mac for any reason. Worst of all, many of our own customers started begging us to port to Windows, simply because they felt they would soon have no choice but to buy a Wintel PC.
So in the Spring of 1998, we reluctantly began looking into the possibility of porting to Windows. That may not sound like such a big deal to many of you, but for us, it was tantamount to an admission of defeat. We knew that developing for Windows would require us to compromise the standards of excellence we had come to pride ourselves on, and that it would take much of the fun out of what we do. (And like I said, we're not doing this to get rich, so "fun" is a big reason why we keep doing it!)
Out of Darkness, Light!
Then came the reports of preorders approaching a hundred thousand, of schools suddenly reconsidering Apple as a viable alternative, and so on, and so on. By the time the iMac was released, it had already become the most recognizable and well-known computer on the market. Best of all, Apple seemed to have rediscovered its corporate identity. It was no longer an anachronism which produced incompatible PCs; it was now the computer company that "Thinks Different." And that difference was obvious to anyone who merely looked at an iMac.
Shortly after the iMac was released, we at OakTree Software decided that there was now no need to port to Windows, since the iMac was once again winning new converts to the Mac. It was if we all breathed a collective sigh of relief, and went back to doing what we loved doing: developing Bible software for the Mac.
When I think back on how quickly after the iMac's debut we abandoned our porting plans, it's clear that we were looking for any reason to avoid going to Windows. Nevertheless, the fact that we had so compelling a reason so soon after the iMac appeared speaks volumes about how much that one computer did to recapture mindshare for Apple.
Changes in Attitudes. . .
Every time we exhibit at that conference, we are asked the inevitable question about Windows compatibility, and every year up until 1998, people would look at us like we were insane whenever we responded that our software is only available for the Mac. "Don't you realize," they would sneer, "That Apple is going out of business?" "How can you ignore 95% of the people who could benefit from your software?" they would ask incredulously. And they would take almost personal offense when we would say that there are just some things that are easier to do on a Mac than on a PC.
But that year, just a few short months after the iMac was introduced, people's attitudes toward the Mac changed dramatically. All of a sudden, when I would tell people that Macs could do things that PCs couldn't, they would nod their heads knowingly in agreement! The iMac was so different and so desirable on an almost visceral level, that people could tell just by looking at it that Macs had something unique to offer. With the introduction of the iMac, we were no longer perceived as Macintosh diehards who couldn't see that it was time to jump ship. On the contrary, we were now being perceived as forward-thinking developers who were catering to the most dynamic segment of the personal computing world! It was an amazing turnaround, and one that left me more than a little dumbfounded.
They Say It's Your Birthday!