In show business, you often hear the phrase “overnight sensation” when someone suddenly becomes famous. But the truth is quite often left unsaid, that the person in question actually struggled as a virtual unknown for years before finding the brass ring.
Now you can’t say Apple took terribly long to become a major player in the personal computer industry, particularly with such early successes as the Apple II. But it’s also true that, having lost the race for dominance in the operating system wars, Apple languished for quite some time.
Sure, a leaner, meaner company under Steve Job’s leadership quickly returned to profitability. But for a long time it seemed as if Macs were indeed going to be consigned to niche status, with sales of less than 800,000 units per quarter. It also meant that Mac market share was around 2% of the world market, and it was easy to consider the company a tiny player that would probably never amount to anything significant in the world of personal computers.
Indeed, not only did Apple concede leadership to Microsoft early on, but it appeared there were no real competitors on the horizon. Some thought that an open source operating system, Linux, might be a contender, but its desktop alternatives are generally nothing more than pale imitations of Windows. While Linux is a significant factor when it comes to servers — and in fact we use a Linux server for our sites — attempts to transform it for the desktop, other than for power users, haven’t amounted to much.