Capitalizing on the iPhone, venture capitalist firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is celebrating its third profitable year since the launch of its iFund in early 2008. The purpose of this fund was to help third party developers of iPhone apps, and the project went so well that the firm invested $200 million more to the initial $100 million. Due to Apple’s success, the firm received 5000 business proposal of which 25 were selected – most of which have been quite lucrative for the firm.
For someone to speak of a fund investing in Apple’s third party developers a decade ago would have been a joke. In October 1997 Michael Dell was asked what he’d do if he was in charge of Apple Computer and responded to an audience of several thousand IT executives “I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders.” Soon Steve Jobs responded by saying that he was coming after Dell, and a decade later Apple passed Dell’s company in market value , and in 2010 it even surpassed that of Microsoft’s, making Apple the second largest American public company in 2011. This deserves some insight into Apple’s journey from 1977 to what it is now.
In 1977 three people – Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne – set out to change the computer industry by introducing the Apple 1 Computer. The system came without a keyboard or a display, and was hand built by the developers, a sign that this company had a long way to go. About 200 units were ever produced before they introduced the Apple 2, which marked the true start of the company.
With color graphics and an open programming architecture, the Apple 2 went head-on against its rivals, Commodore PET and TRS-8, and got the support of VisiCalc – the first spreadsheet program. This gave Apple massive publicity and a market around the world; however, it was still the third favorite PC in the market.
The release of Macintosh was what made the Apple brand name so popular, and described the constant innovation for the company. As the company executives battled with each other, Steve Jobs (the current CEO) was moved from work on the Apple Lisa to the low cost Macintosh. Whereas Lisa was the first PC with a Graphic User Interface (GUI), it was a failure and the Mac saved the company. A massive ad campaign followed the release and resulted in strong initial sales. However, it suffered later due to its high price tag – something which hasn’t changed even today for Apple’s devices.
From 1986-1993 the computer manufacturer saw a spectacular rise in popularity as well as major setbacks from many ventures. While the Portable Mac was a failure, the Apple Powerbook became the first modern portable laptop of today. The brand’s popularity was similar to as it is today, and this period of time became the hey-day of Mac and the Apple brand itself. This, however, didn’t last long; various experiments into consumer markets resulted in brutal failure. Apple tried to introduce digital cameras, portable devices, televisions, and audio players – many of which would be released in recent times to find a huge market. In many ways the company was too ahead of its time, and innovation hurt.
With Steve Jobs away, Apple struggled to produce anything productive. With massive lay-offs, failed alliances with firms, and poor take-offs the company entered its lowest stage in history. The latter part of the 90’s was also when there was a technological boom, and firms such as Dell started mocking the failing giant. It would seem that Apple was history.
The board of directors finally brought Jobs back who aligned himself temporarily with Microsoft and also introduced lucrative projects such as the Apple Store, iMac, and various consumer software products. The final step forward came when Apple introduced the iPod in October, 2001 as the product would sell over 100 million copies in six years. By now Dell would have come to realize that he made a huge mistake in mocking the most innovative company of its time.
From 2007 the company took a new direction, one that would make it more dominant than the software giant Microsoft. It started selling music from the iTunes store, launched the App Store from where third party developers could start producing applications, and launched lucrative projects such as the iPhone. In 2010 the company launched a media tablet called the iPad, and sold more than 300,000 copies in the USA on its release date. By the end of 2010 its shares reached an all-time high, and by 2011 the company introduced another venture called the iCloud.
Worth more than $301 billion in market capitalization, Apple is a giant that has rediscovered it over the years and its innovation has moved its company forward, beating other industry leaders such as Dell and Microsoft. Modern consumer technology products are almost synonymous with Apple, and the company commands major shares in tablet, smartphone, and PC markets. Will this giant be the largest public firm in the world soon?