October 8th, 2011

Apple's biggest mistake

Sometimes I love browsing through old issues of Wired. It went out on a limb almost all the time with concrete predictions and diagnoses. Here's one I just stumbled across today.

They Coulda Been a Contender, Jim Carlton in Wired, November 1997, starts out like this:

Once upon a time, Apple Computer was the undisputed king of the computer industry, the leader in nearly all areas of technology and innovation. The time, actually, was not so long ago, but it sure seems like it now.

In the span of just 10 years, Apple has fallen from that lofty pedestal to a position of near irrelevance in the industry it helped create. Where once it commanded nearly one-fifth of the world's personal computer sales, its share has dwindled to less than 4 percent. Where once its enormous profits were the envy of the entire industry, the company is now struggling to reverse a tide of red ink that has swollen to more than US$1.6 billion over the past two years.

The question is constantly asked in business circles: How could a company with such great technology have fallen so far and so fast? As I outline in my book, Apple: The Inside Story of Intrigue, Egomania, and Business Blunders, the company's fundamental problem was its dearth of effective leadership almost from the outset.

Steve Jobs is back in the limelight while Apple searches for a new CEO, but whoever that person is, they will still be haunted by the mistakes of their predecessors.

The biggest of those mistakes was Apple's refusal to license its Macintosh software to the rest of the industry...

Emphasis mine.