The Mac at 25: Successes, regrets, Apple's had a few

5 things Apple did right and 5 things it didn't over the last quarter-century

Some of us still have a few posters, though.

Not the best .edu sales structures

The Apple II had the closest thing to a lock on the educational market, in its day. Expensive, but solid and easy to manage, along with a great library of apps kids could use. Since then, Apple has still been strong in the educational market, but not as strong as it could be.

Certainly, some of the reasons for this were out of Apple's control. After Windows 95 was introduced -- "Start me up ... you make a grown man cry" -- Microsoft used its hefty connections and cash to donate tons of Windows PCs to secondary schools and higher education depots. This not only trained future Windows users, but it allowed Microsoft to write off the retail costs.

Apple tended to coast in terms of pushing education sales. The company has reorganized its educational sales force many times, but it has never made the kind of push vendors like Dell or IBM did. For example, when a friend of mine, who ran computer systems at a major university, tried to price out a new computer lab, Dell, HP and others not only gave him bulk pricing, they also threw in same-day support, as well as teams of techs to come and install and configure the whole lab. Apple's response? "The closest Apple store to you is ... you can buy what you need from there." At retail.

Clunky and weird online strategies

In the days of online walled gardens such as AOL, CompuServe and the like, Apple tried its own, calling it eWorld. Remember that? Nah, not many people do. (Editor's note: I do. I used it on a Performa 6200. See above.)

Since then, Apple has thrown up iTools, only to abandon it. There was .Mac, which promised sort of a "cloud" experience but cost $99 a year and never seemed to go very far. That was recently rebranded MobileMe, with more of a Web 2.0 feel, but it instantly suffered from outages. And it still cost, and still didn't work quite right.

Granted, Microsoft's Live initiative hasn't rocked the world either, but it's clear that online efforts aren't Apple's core strength, and poor services are more damaging to the brand than no services.

So there you have it. Highlights and low points from the last 25 years. Of course, there are lots more in each category. You don't live past 30 without acquiring piles of little victories and regrets. Have your own top picks? Weigh in on the comments section.

Dan Turner has been writing about science and technology for over a decade at publications including Salon, eWeek, MacWeek and The New York Times.

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Dan Turner

Computerworld
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