This week in Apple History: January 9 through 15

Something big happened this week

It's on the tip of our tongue. Apple did something in this second week of some year, something that mildly changed the entire world. That's one reason we're examining the history of this company, the fact that we can state that about changing the planet and not be exaggerating. There's plenty of hyperbole about Apple yet so very often the real, historical evidence of what it's done is even more impressive. Just suffice it to say that Apple had keynote speeches in this week for many years, and many of its iconic projects first saw the light of day in early January. Some of those products you remember, some of them you own and used today in one form or another - and one of them shook the Earth.

That hasn't always been true so our slicing through that history week by week is turning up gigantic successes and big failures, the launch of products set to change our lives and the end of products that didn't. Yet the random juxtaposition of, say, 9-15 January 1990 with the same dates in 2010 is also turning up unexpected harmonics and echoes. This is a company with 40 years and myriad products behind it but it's still Apple.

Got it. That product Apple launched in this second week of the year was the MacBook Air. Or was it the Mac mini? Could there be anything else?

Look back in statistics

On 9 January 2001, MacNN reported on how Apple had revealed that "81,000 simultaneous viewers watched the live Internet stream of Steve Jobs' Jan 7 Macworld Expo keynote, double the viewership of last Summer's MWNY". That would be Macworld New York, this being the days when we had two Macworlds instead of none.

Apple doesn't very often reveal the number of viewers its videos get but for contrast, we have an approximate figure for the September 2014 keynote when Apple revealed the iPhone 6 and 6s. In a subsequent earnings call, Tim Cook mentioned that it had got 20 million viewers. In 2001, Apple was crowing about a 100 per cent increase in viewers; in 2014 it casually revealed what is a further 24,691 per cent increase.

What those 81,000 people saw in 2001 include the launch of iTunes which up to then had been expected to be called iMusic. You have to suspect that most of the 81,000 people shrugged. As good as it was -- and come on, iTunes was good; it was only later that it began to creak under the weight of extra features -- iTunes would not become compelling until the iPod was launched around eight months later.

The music lives on

While the launch of the iPod may get mentioned when we cover October in Apple History - or it may not, we only managed to miss the launch of Safari last week - it earns a place here too because of other manufacturers and critics. By January 2003, iPod was a monster hit and accessories were in full flow. If we can't pick out all of them, we would like to mention one that has a special place in our hearts: the Griffin iTrip.

Sorry, that's the 2005 version: we lost our 2003 one many years ago. Announced on 9 January 2003, this was a Lifesavers or Polo Mints sized and shaped tube that sat atop your iPod, plugging into the earphone jack, and broadcasting your music. It didn't broadcast it very far but it broadcast in FM quality stereo so this was one early way that we could play iPod music on our car stereos. We really did create a playlist and attempt to broadcast it to two cars as we drove in a convoy. Let's just say it worked at traffic lights and not on the freeway.

Also on 9 January but this time in 2006, pundit Clayton M Christensen shook his head and said Apple was doooooomed. He's the author of a 1997 book called The Innovators' Dilemma and the crux of his argument was that inevitably Apple must collapse because its iTunes/iPod ecosystem was closed and it is only open ones that work. You'd think that he might be rethinking this but actually, no. Speaking to Business Insider in 2014 he said exactly the same thing.

Well, we think he did. Certainly he seemed unapologetic and quite strident about how Apple is doomed but the man speaks in the third person and we simply don't comprehend what "Clay says". Asked how Apple was continuing to do so well when he said they were doomed, he replied in part that: "their marketing was trying to find jobs to be done in people's minds where there isn't anything to get the job done".

Shedding light

Maybe if we understood old Clay Christensen more we'd argue better but really we're just saying Apple hasn't died yet. We might strongly suspect that the company has at least a few more months left in it but that's not the same as thinking Apple is unbeatable or unstoppable. Everything ends and though it took a long time for anyone to spot it, one thing ended on 9 January 2006.

On that day, MacNN gave a quick report that: "Adobe Systems today introduced the public beta of Adobe Lightroom, an all-new digital imaging solution for professional photographers" and mentioned that it was similar to Apple's Aperture. The app revealed today was a public beta running only on Mac OS X Tiger. Today it's part of the Adobe Creative Cloud that runs on Macs and Windows -- whereas Aperture is gone. Whether Lightroom beat it or Apple just beat it out of town because they were busy with other things, Aperture is dead, long live Lightroom.

Busy with other things

We really should've noted that Safari was announced last week, on 7 January 2003 but maybe our minds were on when it was revealed in a very slightly different form on 9 January 2007. It was a key part of what was an widescreen iPod with touch controls, a revolutionary mobile phone and a breakthrough internet communications device.

A widescreen iPod with touch controls, a revolutionary mobile phone and a breakthrough internet communications device. "Are you getting it?"

We got it. Oh, how we got it. "Today Apple is going to reinvent the phone," said Jobs on 9 January 2007. Since then, we've got one or two of them -- and every single smartphone from every single manufacturer has emulated it.

Much less regarded but perhaps still significant in Apple history is the Apple TV which was sort-of announced on the same day as the iPhone. MacNN explained on 9 January 2007 that it was being formally introduced today after we'd had a preview of it under the name iTV the previous year. From 2007 to 2015, Apple kept calling this Apple TV a hobby but it's doing pretty big business for a hobby.

Steady growers

There are other products from Apple that you can certainly say made a big difference but weren't as dramatic as the iPhone. Such as the Mac mini, first announced on 11 January 2005. That was the first-ever Mac released without keyboard, monitor or mouse and the idea was to produce something for people switching from PCs. They already had their peripherals, now they could just plug them in to a Mac.

Doubtlessly PC switchers did that but the Mac mini was also the most affordable new Mac so many Apple users went for it. Plus in what was surely an unexpected move, companies such as Macminicol launched that bought Mac mini devices by the hundreds and thousands before offering you space on them. Host your data backups or your FileMaker solutions on a Mac mini that you never see.

For Apple devices that you did see and that people saw you with, that people very much noticed you owning, there was always the MacBook Air. Steve Jobs slipped it out of a manila inter-office envelope on stage on 15 January 2008. It's the ultrabook that Intel struggled to match even though it runs on Intel processors. All Macs did by then but the first of them, the iMac and the 15in MacBook Pro were announced on 10 January 2006.


While Apple continually used the second week of January, in so many years, to launch so many new products, it also killed some off then too. The one we won't exactly miss but do hold dear is the Macintosh II: launched 1987, died 15 January 1990.

Maybe it says something about Apple, possibly it just says something about us but we look at that picture and we can feel how it was to type on that machine. Even as we work here on Apple Magic Keyboards that are unquestionably better ergonomically, we can hear the sound of those keys from long ago.

-William Gallagher (@WGallagher)
  1. Avatar
    chucker Fresh-Faced Recruit Joined: Mar 29, 2007

    Maybe that explains the huge hole in my life.

    I could do with a bit of Steve's showmanship to fill it right now.

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