Robert Peckham talks about Apple anniversaries

Opinion: Robert Peckham talks about the importance of the Apple Newton

I recently realised that 2012 has been a year of many landmarks for Apple, primarily because in April the company celebrated being 35 years old.

But there are many other landmark events this year worthy of remembering too:

  • 15 years since the release of Apple’s superb 20th Anniversary Mac
  • 10 years since the classic ‘funeral’ of Mac OS9 by Steve Jobs at WWDC, which you can view on YouTube
  • 10 years since the launch of the groundbreaking iMac G4
  • 10 years since Apple officially stopped using its famous iconic multicoloured Apple logo, still one of the world’s ten most recognised company icons
  • 10 years since the first of Apple’s famous ‘Switcher’ adverts
  • 10 years since Apple opened its 50th retail store, and its first store in New York City
  • 10 years since Apple was the first computer company to win a Grammy Award
  • 5 years since Apple launched the first iPhone, which leads neatly onto the main event that should be celebrated this year.

2012 is the 20th anniversary of the first public demonstration of Apple’s Newton (although the first MessagePad 100 wasn’t launched until early 1993). Why is this significant? Well, Apple’s iPhone is now responsible for well over half of the company’s profits, and it all began with the Newton, which was the iPhone’s father.

After five years in very expensive development, the Newton was first demonstrated in 1992 at CES in Las Vegas by John Sculley, the man who had forced Steve Jobs out of Apple seven years earlier. It is estimated he had already allowed Apple to spend over $400 million dollars in the five- year development of Newton, but he was correctly predicting a multi-trillion dollar market for handheld information devices by 2000, and correctly believed Apple should be a major player.

The massive development costs of Newton certainly contributed to Apple’s huge trading deficits in the 1990s, and John Sculley was forced to resign from Apple in 1993 over their performance. But Newton remained in development and production until Steve Jobs returned to the company in 1997, and many of the engineers who worked on Newton were later rehired or redeployed at Apple to work on the iPod, iPhone and now the iPad.

Newton is estimated to have finally cost Apple a total of well over $1 billion dollars in development, marketing, technical support overheads and sales losses – a massive investment to lose at the time, but when you consider that iPhone and iPod have contributed over $100 billion dollars profits to Apple in the past five years, then you realise John Sculley was right.

Robert Peckham is a 20-year veteran of the Apple reseller channel in the UK, and has managed many major Apple resellers. He founded the Mac Technology Association and was a director of the Technology Channels Association until their merger with CompTIA. He now runs MacTechnology, a consultancy for the Apple reseller channel which includes the Mac Tech Team support service.

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