The Mac Then and the iPad Now

on January 24, 2014

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the Mac. My father was one of the few industry analysts there to witness the the birth of the Mac and wrote a great piece reflecting on the Mac’s role in computing over the past 30 years. But rather than look back I would rather look forward.

The Mac has played an important role in paving the way for computing in many areas. I believe the iPad is playing an equally important role in the future of computing. It is interesting to think that in the future we may be celebrating the 30 year anniversary of the iPad while some manifestation of the product is still in the hands of many.

About 10 years ago, pent up with frustration and nearly throwing my Windows desktop out the second story window of the house I was living at, I switched to a Mac and never looked back. How many consumers today are not upgrading their Windows PCs and instead are switching to an iPad as their primary personal computing device? How many people across the globe who never owned a PC will get an iPad as their first PC?

Apple’s vision for the Mac was all about making computing simple and accessible. The vision centered on bringing computing to everyone not just those with a degree in computer literacy. This remains Apple’s vision holistically today and it is further manifested in the iPad. While the Mac’s reach has remained limited (about 6% of the total PC install base today) the iPad has the potential to reach the masses in way the Mac cannot but with the same original vision in mind.

Many keep pounding the narrative that the PC is dead. While there is some truth to this statement computing is alive and well it simply has shifted to new form factors. Even though I believe there is still a growth story for the Mac there is no question the iPad has the greatest potential reach with its computing form and function.

The iPad may not acquire the vast majority of the global personal computing market share but it will not matter. Competitors will still study it and learn from it because it will lead the way with simplified mass market computing. Which is something many companies struggle to execute on. While the iPad itself will continue to play a role in the future of computing its influence will be visible industry wide for decades to come. The iPad is as important today to the future of computing as the Mac was 30 years ago.

Steve Jobs shipped the first Mac 30 years ago today. The first portable Mac debut in September of 1989. And while I’m not sure Steve Jobs knew all that he had at the time, I believe he shipped the first truly mass market “Mac” on April 3rd 2010.