What if Apple went bankrupt in 1997?

Discussion in 'Apple, Inc and Tech Industry' started by iMi, Aug 25, 2016.

  1. iMi macrumors 6502a

    iMi

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    #1
    I was thinking about this today while reading about another iconic American brand that isn't doing so well. What would the world look like today had Steve Jobs never returned to Apple and the company went bankrupt back in 1997? Imagine Apple would ceased to exist at that point.

    Who would have emerged as the leader? What would the smartphone market look like? Music? Education? Computers? Corporate governance?

    It's an interesting thought experiment.
     
  2. Zenithal macrumors 68040

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    Smartphone era would have been much delayed. Blackberry would be more relevant today than they are. The Palm device company may not have suffered a quick death as a result.
     
  3. Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    #3
    Russia went bankrupt (and defaulted on their debt) in the late 1990s. And it is still with us, and had returned to economic growth within a decade.

    Therefore, I don't think that bankruptcy - per se - is the issue here, and @Zenithal has offered a few interesting thoughts on possible alternatives.

    Where Apple was revolutionary was not just in the obvious - the OS, and the design of stunning, beautiful objects that worked well, that fusion of form and function that is the expression of good industrial design.

    Of far greater importance is how Apple revolutionised the music industry - transforming the relationship between buyer/consumer and music creator and producer (and - yes - murdering the record companies in the process), and subsequent to that, introducing the highly profitable concept of renting music - the rentier model - to the music and entertainment industry.

    That is explosive and transformational stuff, and I am not sure that the industry would have developed in quite the same manner economically without Apple, although I have little doubt that some sort of technically equivalent devices (on the lines of iPhones, if not iPods) would have made an appearance sooner or later.
     
  4. SandboxGeneral Moderator

    SandboxGeneral

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    Even if they declared bankruptcy it doesn't always mean a company goes out of business.
     
  5. iMi thread starter macrumors 6502a

    iMi

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    I realize that... that's why it's just a thought experiment. Apple in some form would likely continue or it's best parts would have been sold off and developed by someone else. But still, the world would be different today. No doubt. Right?
     
  6. SandboxGeneral Moderator

    SandboxGeneral

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    Sure, anythings possible in that situation. I like to think that Apple would have still come out with all these great products had Microsoft not infused them with capital they needed. It might have just taken longer.
     
  7. Zenithal macrumors 68040

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    Fun fact, Microsoft and Apple still hold a fairly close relationship outside of typical competition. They both borrow on each others contributions as per what I've been told was a gentleman's agreement. It's why with Windows 7, mainly, you began seeing many OSX features popup and the same with OSX borrowing from Windows. Both OSs in their modern variant are fairly similar now. It's up to users to see which one they prefer the most. Some like both!

    I'm glad I never bought a Palm device though. I was tempted on too many an occasion with "low" prices.
     
  8. MacNut macrumors Core

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  9. iMi thread starter macrumors 6502a

    iMi

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    If the Surface Phone is everything the rumor mill says it is, I sure will buy one!

    Funny how the roles have reversed? Back in the day Apple was the ecosystem with missing apps and nearly complete lack of support from developers. I remember telling someone at work back in the early 2000's that I've got a Mac and they said "what's that?" hahaha... I remember us not having MS office. Now, it seems like Windows 10 Mobile is like this...
     
  10. maflynn, Aug 26, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2016

    maflynn Moderator

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    I think its hard to say these things, because Blackberry was (is?) so tied to the physical keyboard that made them, so another company would have probably came up with the idea of a software keyboard and BB would still have resisted it.

    Palm would also be in the same place they are today (non-exstance), because of the ease a phone handles so many functions that the stand alone Palm did

    MS was so hung up on the design and function of WinCE that they would have continued down the same path, i.e., not changing WinCE and I think the results would have been similar, i.e., someone else eating their lunch. They screwed up an opportunity if they were just a bit more forward thinking and innovative.

    Its not a gentlemen's agreement and there's no such thing in business. Jobs hated MS, but he knew he needed them. Basically for the cash infusion, Apple agreed to drop the lawsuits that were in the pipeline and agreed not sue anymore so its a bit more binding then a handshake.

    At one point MS thought it needed to succeed by seeing Apple fail, and I Apple thought the same thing (remember those I'm a PC commercials). Now with a new CEO, MS is moving to services and see Apple as just another way to make money.
     
  11. Savor Suspended

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    We would still have removable batteries and more micro-sd slots in our phones. Charging them would be universal. Apple revolutionized the music and mobile industries but also hindered them both.
     
  12. Micky Do macrumors 68000

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    Folks would still be using Windows XP today…… One of the computers at work is still on XP!
     
  13. Tech198 macrumors G4

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    The mind boogles...

    I don't wanna think about it, but I guess MR wouldn't be rumor mill wouldn't be churning..... There would be no Apple rumors.

    Dell may be in top,, ASUS, PC market would increase, (instead of decline). .... basically the complete opposite of today.

    (...and we'd be all be carrying around Android phones) not that there's any problem with that either
     
  14. keysofanxiety macrumors 604

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    I don't think money would have been much of a concern. Leadership definitely would have been.

    Jobs had a fantastic consumer view of the whole thing, and as he was at the top, he could make the decisions. He wasn't an engineer, which in a strange way made him the perfect man for the job. He got rid of confusing product lines. Everything had to conform to a certain aesthetic. He went from the user experience and worked backwards; not the mentality of 'what new technology can we shoehorn into our products'.

    This video, taken in 1997 when he just arrived back at the helm, absolutely nails it. He properly had his back against the wall as well.

     
  15. Mousse macrumors 68000

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    Most folks many, but not me. I would be using AmigaOS or BeOS. I would imagine the office suite for BeOS would be called BeWare.:D:D
     
  16. iMi thread starter macrumors 6502a

    iMi

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    I'm gonna go on the record as saying the guy asking the question is a douchebag. Just saying... Jobs was indeed brilliant.
     
  17. phrehdd macrumors 68040

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    PDA's already were being accessorized by cell phone ability. Perhaps a few of the PDA makers may have later come out with built in cell phone capability as some were already starting to use a Linux like OS.
     
  18. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

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    Wow, I just rewatched that video (there's a longer version where Jobs goes on to explain why he killed off a number of Apple initiatives).

    The thing that struck me, is how adamant he was to take the user experience and work backwards, not take the technology the Apple Engineers have and see how to sell it. The thought that instantly came to my mind is the Apple Watch. I see a product where the engineers came up with a good product (I have one myself) but it wasn't derived imo as something from the end user experience backwards.
     
  19. theluggage macrumors 68030

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    So here's an alternative history: 1997, Sony buys the "Macintosh/Mac" trademarks at the bankruptcy sale, and few years thereafter, their Vaio range of high-end laptops and SFF systems get rebranded as Macs although they're x86 machines running Sony's customised version of Windows with a few Mac-like flourishes and maybe a rather slow MacOS Classic emulator. Then, a certain S. Jobs has an idea about how the newly emerging MP3 players could be improved and turned into the Next Big Thing and chooses Sony as the obvious target for his pitch... In 2004, Sony launch the new "MacWalkman" and use their position in the music biz to tie it to the "Mac Tunes" music service. A few years later, they integrate this into the new "PhoneMan"... 2016 rolls round and the world looks much like it does today, except the DRM is much worse and Tim Cook is CEO of the hugely successful "Apple Leather Goods" retail empire, having made a fortune selling bands for Sony WalkWatches.

    (Historical note: Even in '97 with its desktop line going down the toilet, PowerBook hardware was nice. Sony are virtually out of the game today but, at the time, nothing said "I wanted a PowerBook but the boss said I had to have a PC" like a Sony Vaio. Of course, Sony and Apple collaborated on the original Powerbook which defined the design of the modern laptop. MacOS 9 was dying anyway - OS X owes more to Jobs' NeXTStep than it does to classic MacOS. )

    More realistic overall prediction: probably on the same trajectory, but some years behind where we are now, and with MS in a much stronger monopoly position. Apple never pulled brand new ideas out of the raw firmament, but they were very, very good at spotting upcoming ideas, refining them and turning them into must-have mass market products.

    ++this. Bear in mind that a major raison d'etre for the iPhone must have been as an iTunes platform (the non-Music App market was a bit serendipitous, though).

    See whimsy above. However, a breakup with some large PC maker buying the trademarks and MS buying the other IP is feasible.

    ...and there would have been a market for that, with MS & Blackberry fighting it out for the corporate market, probably ending with MS doing something anticompetitive to make WinCE the only option for corporate email.

    I suspect that the success of the iMac, and later the iPhone and iPad did a lot to weaken the MS monopoly on Windows, Internet Explorer and Office. iMacs and iPhones were sexy, and suddenly executives who had been presiding over MS-only shops wanted to be able to read their email and open documents. The iPad did a lot to persuade people that there was life without Office.

    It could be worse. The most serious problem with Win XP isn't Win XP itself, its all the legacy software (and bad developer habits) left over from the DOS days that meant everything had to run with admin privileges.

    No you wouldn't. You'd have been beaten into submission because - without huge numbers of Macs and iDevices creating a demand for device-independence - every website would require Internet Explorer, every file would need MS Office or Genuine Adobe Acrobat to open and every peripheral on the market would depend on proprietary drivers only available for Windows.
     
  20. Savor Suspended

    Savor

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    #20
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    A deeper question, is WHAT IF Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, The Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison, Nikola Telsa, Alexander Bell, Sir Isaac Newton, Leonardo Da Vinci, Galileo, Martin Cooper, and so many other great inventors were never born?

    What if IBM, HP, Xerox, Sony, and Motorola never existed, where would Apple be today? Where would Apple be if it wasn't for Steve Wozniak's Apple ][ keeping them afloat for a decade after the Macintosh commercially flopped and Jobs got canned by his own company?

    I get that Steve Jobs was a great man and appreciate Apple's influence in industries. But let's NOT pretend Apple invented the cell phone, portable music, tablets, and computers. Difference between inventive and innovative. Harder to be inventive and original than doing a cover song.

    All Apple did was trace over other people's work and patted themselves on the back by calling their products revolutionary that works like magic. They revolutionized industries but they weren't the original seed planted in those industries. They weren't the inception to those inventions.

    Steve was great but learn to appreciate the many more geniuses that came before him.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Appreciate The Woz...
     
  21. rshrugged macrumors 6502a

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    I don't think Apple's entry into the non-music market was luck.

    https://medium.com/cuepoint/sightso...ath-squad-for-patents-fe51cc4f9239#.stsp7fel8
    Music and non-music downloads would've happened sans Apple. SightSound with MSFT, and with whomever else, were already on that pathway, albeit struggling to penetrate the existing order. As it turned out, fear of MSFT's size enabled Apple (nonthreatening market share) to inch their way into the market, then transform it through iTunes.
     
  22. phrehdd, Aug 27, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2016

    phrehdd macrumors 68040

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    Maybe IBM would have acquired Apple patents etc.

    After all, IBM was at one time in cahoots with Microsoft (for OS/2) and also, if I recall correctly, Apple for "PINK" project.
     
  23. linkgx1 macrumors 65816

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    I feel this way too. I love my Apple Watch but it's just not....made for everyday human use. I feel like the engineers did so many compromises that we got a whole bunch of half baked features rather than a few really good and useful features.
     
  24. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

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    #24
    IBM wasn't just in cahoots with MS for OS/2, they were a customer with Microsoft from the very beginning of the PC. PC DOS was written by Microsoft, in fact Gate's stroke of genius was to license DOS and not sell it to IBM (which IBM wanted in the first place). MS then set out to license QDOS from Seattle Computer Co, since it was not originally developed in house.

    Side note, I wonder how the world would have changed if they did sell DOS to IBM, or IBM licensed CP/M like they originally wanted too (Microsoft wasn't their first choice).
     
  25. phrehdd macrumors 68040

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    Microsoft didn't create or invent any DOS. They bought it for about 50 grand and went into licensing with IBM. Up to version 6.1, PC DOS was just MS DOS rebranded. After 6.1, PC DOS was only an IBM product. Many still consider DOS to have been at best "inspired" and at worst ripped off from CP/M. Ironically, the creator of CP/M ended up later working for Microsoft.

    My only chortle was when Bill Gates publicly stated that OS/2 will be the greatest operating system yet. Admittedly, though not an Apple user then, I was very excited about the "Pink" project that didn't get beyond the drawing board.
     

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