Apple and the Mainstream Tipping Point

Apple doesn’t always win markets and they don’t always invent them, but when Apple enters a market it is almost always the tipping point to mainstream adoption.


  • The Apple II series was the first main stream computer. They eventually lost ground to the more business-friendly IBM PCs, but it introduced computing to the masses in a way no one before was able to. (And for us students, it is what we grew up using with the Apple IIe seeming to be in every school.)
  • Next came the Macintosh. It was the first truly mass consumed computer with a Window-based user interface. Of course, it lost out to Microsoft and Intel once Windows 3.1 and 95 were introduced.
  • We have to wait a while — 16 years actually — for the next major wave of computing. And this market Apple won: portable music players. While the iPod wasn’t the first (just like the Apple II series wasn’t the first) it quickly came to dominate the market and maintain its dominance through this day.
  • Next came the iPhone. Again, not the first smartphone but its introduction completely changed the landscape for cell phones, instantly raising the bar and inspiring competitors. The jury is out on this one. There is a long way to go when it comes to defining a winner as only about 2% of the cell phones sold worldwide are smartphones today.
  • And now we have the iPad. Unfortunately many media pundits are exclaiming stupidly that Apple is inventing the market. That’s far from the truth. Microsoft really pioneered the market 10 years ago with the Tablet PC operating system. For many reasons it was a flop. Apple is re-inventing it and from first take, doing it the right way with the right price.

So while Apple has not always invented the market or even been the eventual winner, the company (Steve Jobs?) has an uncanny knack for understanding exactly when a market is ready to go mainstream and is consistently a major player in the outcome.

Lets hope Apple’s 5 for 5 with the introduction of the iPad. I believe it is.

Disclaimer: I have a vested interest in Apple’s mobile success as powerOne calculator is available right now for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

2 thoughts on “Apple and the Mainstream Tipping Point

  1. You left out the Newton. In many ways, the iphone and ipad are direct descendants of the Newton, from a user experience point of view.

    • Jason Grigsby on Twitter pointed out the Newton and Apple TV as failures. We should probably re-think the Apple thing as it seems to be restricted to Apple when Steve Jobs was around. I don’t know if I count Apple TV since it is a niche product aimed at people who buy all their media through iTunes.

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