No One is Perfect: Ten Apple Mistakes Since the Return of Steve jobs

by Chris Seibold Mar 31, 2005

Since Steve Jobs return to Apple the future for the once beleaguered company has been growing steadily brighter (at this point one would be well advised to don sunglasses when looking towards Apple’s prospects). Deservedly Steve Jobs gets most of the credit. Of course with credit goes blame, so I present a list of Apple’s top ten errors since Mighty Steve returned to the fold.

10) iMac to ship with a 33.6 Kbps modem

The original iMac was kind of a make or break product for Apple, if it had flopped we might all be using Linux. In short Apple needed a big time hit and to get it they took some surprising steps: Added color in a sea of beige, reinvigorated the all in one form factor, ditched the floppy drive and marketed the machine as specifically built for the internet. They also announced the iMac would ship with a 33.6 Kbps modem. You have to wonder just what they were thinking, after all this was a computer supposedly focused squarely on the best ‘net experience possible and when it comes to the web faster is better. The howls of protest were heard and, thankfully, between the May announcement and the August ship date the original iMac ended up with a 56 Kbps modem.

9) The eMac for Education only

In 2002 Apple needed a new education model. The original iMac form factor was dropped and Sunflower iMacs were thought to be too expensive for schools with tight budgets. To fill the gap Apple introduced the eMac. A relatively speedy machine that featured a G4 chip at an affordable price. Sure it looked like an old school iMac that followed Jason Giambi’s former pharmaceutical regimen but the combination of power and speed was alluring not just to schools but to cash strapped Apple fans. Shocked that people other than educational institutions wanted a powerful and reasonably priced machine Apple relented and agreed to sell the machine to all comers a few months later.


Well the infusion of all things starting with “i” isn’t really a mistake, it just bugs me.

7) Macs currently shipping with 256MB

Apple is fond of noting that most people, the vast majority in fact, never open their computer’s case. Which is good to know, that information frees the designers up to do some amazing things. The question is: If no one is going to open the computer why ship the thing with such a paltry amount of RAM? Spend a few more bucks and give the non-openers a truly stellar computing experience right out of the box.

6) Flower Power/ Blue Dalmatian iMacs

In 2001 rumors were running hot and heavy. Would this MacWorld Expo reveal the long anticipated G5? What complete shocker would S. Jobs roll out? The people were slavering for something new, something great and what they got was speed bumped Macs with, uh, less than desirable plastics. Those that criticized Macs for being all style over function were suddenly armed with verbal weaponry of nuclear proportions.

5) iTools

The standard pitch was that if you plunked down the cash for OS 9 iTools would come along as part of the bargain. iTools, you may recall, was a collection of nifty stuff you could do over the web (mail, web page, etc.). Apple cancelled iTools citing the cost of running the program and replaced it with the $99 per year .mac. The more jaded among us wonder if iTools wasn’t just an example of “get ‘em hooked and reel them in” deal. Whatever the reason the fiasco didn’t foster a lot of consumer level trust.

4) DVD drive iMacs

In 2000 the original incarnation of Napster was the rage, peer-to-peer technology was slowing campus networks to a crawl and people were trading music faster than Wall Street traded stocks. The folks at Apple thought about this behavior and decided that while everyone seemed to be going music crazy what they really wanted was a computer that played DVDs. Not the best decision, turned out that all those people really did want to burn CDs.

3) Running out of iMacs

The G5 iMac is a thing of beauty. In the years to come people will undoubtedly argue about which computer was really more ground breaking the iMac G4 or the G5. One thing they’ll agree on is the iMac of the summer of 2004 was positively lame. That’s because there was no iMac in the summer of 2004. Apple ran out of the sunflower model and wasn’t able to produce the G5 in a timely manner. Not exactly the deftest use of logistics.

2) Changing the DRM of iTunes

If there is one thing that computer users agree on universally it is that digital rights management is a great thing. Heck everybody loves the DRM! Wait, that’s wrong.  But what is worse than DRM in general is when the DRM is changed after you bought the song. That is precisely what has happened with iTunes. Deciding that the DRM is acceptable before you buy a song is a well thought out decision. Changing the rules on something that is, ostensibly, your property after you’ve purchased it is nearly unconscionable.

1) Waiting until 2005 to introduce a low cost/limited feature machine.

Since the second day after the original iMac was introduced people have wanted to get one without a monitor. From 1998 to 2005 people said time and time again price was preventing them from switching to a Mac. Apple turned a deaf ear, people rationalized Apple’s decision or argued that Macs were already comparably valued (those folks seem a bit foolish now). Since Apple did finally cave in ‘05 they could of, and should of, made the move earlier.

There are blatant omissions, the G4 cube for example. So, obviously, the list is not all-inclusive. it is also important to note that in the big scheme of things (well, in the big scheme of Apple computer) these were very minor errors.


  • 256 MB of RAM might not be such a mistake if one considers the following to be true.  Apple’s prices for RAM as a build to order option are exceptionally high.  One RAM vendor told me is that in order to sell kits of RAM, Apple has to lock in a contract to sell RAM at a specific price with a specific vendor for a specific time period.  Unfortunately that leaves Apple with a price that is not subject to market fluctuations if true.  If Apple were to sell RAM to recoup those costs of buying RAM from the vendor, they would make their machines even more costly than they are today.  It is better that Apple only ship the bare minimum RAM needed to run the system, and let people decide how much RAM to install for their needs and buy from other vendors if they want to save money than pass all the cost to the consumer. 

    gopher had this to say on Mar 31, 2005 Posts: 9
  • could HAVE, should HAVE. not of.

    slinky had this to say on Mar 31, 2005 Posts: 1
  • correct slinky, thanks

    chrisseibold had this to say on Mar 31, 2005 Posts: 48
  • no. mac os x needs 512 MB to be happy.

    the computers should ship with that or apple should lower the system requirements by coding better or allowing users to turn off eyecandy (not possible).

    cool list.

    alec had this to say on Apr 01, 2005 Posts: 2
  • My old G3 600 is running OS 10.3 with 256MB RAM and it runs fine. My iMac G4 800 is running 10.3 also but with 768 MB and I can barely tell a difference.

    This list was stupid and pointless almost all of these things were just opinions. ie:

    #4 - The whole idea of macs is that they are 20 steps ahead of Micro$oft. They started shipping with DVD drives because smart people use macs. People who need power and innovation.

    The point is that the person who wrote this article is a complete idiot. The only apple mistakes I see are maybe 10 and 1

    J R had this to say on Apr 01, 2005 Posts: 1
  • JR, I agree about OS X on lesser machines.  I have it running quite happily on a G3 366 with 384Mb RAM and a G3 400 with 192Mb RAM.

    I don’t find the OS slow at all on those machines.

    But I disagree on your other point. People are not idiots for having opinions different to yours.

    As I disagree with you, would that mean the baton of idiocy is handed to you you? Of course not.

    Feel free to disagree, but personal insults merely devalue other’s respect for your own opinions.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Apr 01, 2005 Posts: 1209
  • Thanks for the compliment JR, hey I’ve moved all the way up to idiot!
    On the Mac DVD drive thing, well Steve Jobs called it a mistake. I suppose I’ll stick with his opinion on that one…
    As for 256MB being enough, well most folks would disagree. Here’s some anectdotal evidence for ya:
    I only recently upgraded my iBook from 256 to 768 and rather than going into a long list of pageout counts and such I’ve got to say it runs much better. My other computers (G4 tower and g5 tower) all have a gig+ and, honestly, II can’t tell much difference between a gig and and a gig and a half (well I can’t tell any difference).
    Also note that Garageband (which comes with your Mac) has a recommendation of 512MB as does iDVD. iMovie HD requires 512MB to even use the HD functionality.

    chrisseibold had this to say on Apr 01, 2005 Posts: 48
  • A reader named Joe D. was kind enough to write to me and point out that the DRM change isn’t really retroactive. Joe says that if you purchased your music before the DRM changed you can still burn the playlists the number of times stated in the original DRM. I countered with the new streaming restrictions. Joe pointed out that that restriction applies to all your music, not just the borrowed stuff. So I suppose the water is a little muddy on list entry 2.

    chrisseibold had this to say on Apr 01, 2005 Posts: 48
  • Mac OS X runs happily on lower RAM only if you use the Finder.

    Once you launch and use Safari for about 30 minutes, you’ll get the spinning beach ball several times.

    That spinning beach ball is reserved for memory paging in/out from the hard drive.

    I’d put in the top ten list: Promising a 3.0GHz G5 and not delivering. The ramifications of this show in the whole Apple line. Obviously, they don’t have complete control over this mistake… but nearly 3 quarters have past!

    If they hit 3 Ghz earlier - we would be seeing the dual core or lower power consumpt. G4 in our PowerBooks. We’d see faster G5 servers and iMacs. We’d see faster G4 iBooks. The pro towers are holding everyone back!

    Nathan had this to say on Apr 01, 2005 Posts: 219
  • We have G5 servers and iMacs. 

    gopher had this to say on Apr 01, 2005 Posts: 9
  • 3.0 GHz isn’t important. Let me repeat that: 3.0 GHz is NOT important. Clock speed of a processor means literally nothing. It is a marketing tool and that’s it. I could probably sketch out a processor that ran at 1 MHz but performed better than the latest G5s and Pentiums. (It would cost a *lot* of money, though.)

    The only time you can compare clock speed is when you’re comparing speed of the same processor line. Pentium 4 vs Pentium 4, IBM 970 vs IBM 970. Everything else is comparing apples to oranges.

    Joe D. had this to say on Apr 02, 2005 Posts: 1
  • Spot on Joe.  And if you ever want proof, try running a full Pentium against a Celeron of the same clock speed.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Apr 02, 2005 Posts: 1209
  • The absolute biggest mistake Jobs made was cutting the Newton project.  Imagine if Apple now owned not only the PDA marked, but the integrated PDA-Cell Phone market.  This on top of Sculley’s two major mistakes: cutting AppleLink (now AOL) and refusing to license the Mac OS.


    Phredd had this to say on Apr 03, 2005 Posts: 2
  • I think TV ads should be in the top ten too. The switcher ads were annoying and the ‘fastest computer’ ones were misguided and ended up falling foul of the regulator’s rules.

    scrumph had this to say on Apr 05, 2005 Posts: 1
  • Not licensing the OS is not a mistake.  Apple tried licensing the OS from 1994 to 1997 with dire results.  They couldn’t keep up on the hardware end with Power Computing, and soon both Power Computing and the other clones were overtaking Apple in processing power.  And in the end, the Apple realized that licensing the OS was not right because they couldn’t shift themselves to a software only vendor.  Remember Apple is still the only company that makes the entire widget.  Even if it does come from multiple sources, they find the best of the various hardware to work together.  Yes there are occassionaly lemons, but it has been constantly rated highest on the Consumer Reports.

    The Newton was also a money loser for Apple since they didn’t lower their cost for the Newton nor did they make it as small as the Palm to be able to get into more people’s hands.   

    In the end, Apple had to focus itself on where the money was to be gained.  They turned themselves around into a profitable company by 1998 and with the exception of the fall of 2000, they have not had a money losing quarter since then.  How many other .coms can say that?

    Apple remains a financially stable institution with money in the bank to spare.  Apple picks its markets carefully. 

    gopher had this to say on Apr 05, 2005 Posts: 9
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