Cool and Innovative Branding – The Forbidden Fruit of Information Technology

Today the Apple brandmark stands for innovation, reliability and cool products. It reflects functionality, balanced with product beauty. The company has managed to turn the box of wires hidden in the study into a “must-have” lifestyle item. Few people realise that we could have had iPod and iPhone mobile digital devices (iPod and iPhone) and iMac computers (iMac) 10 years earlier. Still fewer people realise how Apple is going to change their lives and affect their future.

Chased out of paradise through the Windows of Bill Gates

In the late 1970s, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak created the Apple Macintosh, commonly shortened to Apple Mac, the first commercially successful personal computer to feature a mouse and a graphical user interface (GUI, pronounced gooey) instead of a command-line interface.

In the early 1980s, Jobs was among the first to see the commercial potential of the mouse-driven GUI. Jef Raskin, an Apple employee, who envisioned an easy-to-use, low-cost computer for the average consumer, wanted to name the computer after his favourite type of apple, the McIntosh, but the name had to be changed for legal reasons. The brandmark, an apple with a bite taken out of it signifying the tasting of the forbidden fruit, truly delivered just that. In 1985, the combination of the Mac, Apple’s LaserWriter printer and Mac-specific software such as Aldus PageMaker, enabled users to design, preview and print page layouts complete with text and graphics – an activity which would become known as desktop publishing (DTP). Initially, DTP was unique to the Macintosh (yes, there was life before Microsoft and Bill Gates), but eventually became available to IBM PC users as well.

The company’s substantial market share dissipated in the 1990s as the personal computer (PC) market shifted towards PCs that were IBM-compatible when Microsoft started running its Windows operating system (Windows) instead of the outdated and cumbersome MS-DOS operating system (MS-DOS). For many serious computer enthusiasts, Windows was seen as a rip-off of Apple’s operating system, compliments of Mr Gates. That did not stop Bill’s appetite; The Microsoft Internet Explorer Internet browser (Internet Explorer) is another rip-off – this time with Netscape as the victim.

In 1988, Apple sued Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard for infringement of its copyrighted GUI, citing the use of rectangular, overlapping and resizable windows. Unfortunately for PC users worldwide, the case was decided against Apple after four years, as were later appeals. I say unfortunately because the world would have been a better place if Apple had been allowed to become the dominant desktop computer. Imagine what life would have been like if we had the iPod, iMac and iPhone 10 years earlier!

In 1998, Apple consolidated multiple consumer-level desktop models into the “Bondi Blue” iMac G3 all-in-one, which was a massive sales success and revitalised the Macintosh brand. One of the first products made under CEO Steve Jobs since he left the company in the mid-1980s, it brought Apple back into profitability. Its translucent blue plastic case, later in many other colours, is considered an industrial design hallmark of the late 1990s. By introducing colour, Steve Jobs shifted the paradigm from Henry Ford’s (Gates/Dell) famous statement that you could have any colour as long as it was black (grey) to any colour you wanted. Companies treated Apple Macs as a fashion accessory. Receptionists displayed iMacs on their desks, regardless of the suicide blonde (dyed by her own hand) receptionist’s own computer literacy.

Apple’s focus on design has allowed each of its subsequent products to create a distinctive identity, and Steve Jobs famously declared that “the back of our computer looks better than the front of anyone else’s.” The iMac was recognisable on television, in films and in print. This increased Apple’s brand awareness and embedded the iMac in popular culture.

The iMac and other Macintosh computers can also be seen in various movies, commercials, and TV shows (both live action and animated). The iMac has also received considerable critical acclaim as the “Gold Standard of desktop computing”. Forbes magazine describes the original candy-coloured line of iMac computers as being an “industry-altering success”.

The “blue and white” artistic look was applied World Brands to the Power Macintosh. The later iMac and eMac computers were accompanied by a new design, dropping the array of colours in favour of white plastic. Current Mac systems are targeted mainly at the home, education and creative professional markets, and use aluminium enclosures. Today many PCs are more design-conscious than before the iMac’s introduction. Multi-shaded design schemes are now quite common and some desktops and laptops are available in colourful, decorative patterns.

Apple’s use of translucent candy-coloured plastics inspired similar designs in other consumer goods. Grilling machines, portable electronics, pencil sharpeners, video game consoles and peripherals (including the Nintendo 64, which was released in special edition “Funtastic” colours), featured the translucent plastic. Apple’s introduction of the iPod, iBook G3 and iMac G4, all featuring snowy white plastic, inspired similar designs in consumer electronic products.

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