Its no doubt that over the past 12 years Apple have completely reinvented themselves. When I was a child I was never sat down by my parents and asked which operating system I wanted to use. Which is probably a good thing, because when I was a child I would probably have asked for a Windows PC. Back then what you could do on the Mac operating system was very limited, most importantly I couldn't play games. Of course when I was old enough to choose for myself I was bought into Apple wholeheartedly. Being the odd one out I was mocked as a child for using a non-compatible computer system, kids can be so mean.. Fast forward to now and I get a feeling of sick pleasure when I think that all the people who mocked me through my childhood are now all Apple users themselves.
So what did Apple do to reinvent themselves from the brand for stubborn geeks, to one of the coolest and most recognisable brands on the planet? The first advent of change was that they brought in design. They were, in my opinion the first large computer manufacture to really focus on producing an aesthetically pleasing design for their products. The first iMac, albeit flawed, was a great design which inspired people to notice Apple once again. To reinforce this image Apple brought in usability. OS X marked a new era in operating systems, one where it is more important to make a usable product than a fully functioned one, this is a philosophy which can be seen in many of Apple's later products.
So with OS X, iMacs and iBooks laying the ground work Apple came along with the iPod. There is no doubt in my mind this was a significant turning point for the Apple brand. Unlike the previous Apple offerings the iPod was significantly better than everything else on the market. It was smaller in size, better looking, more usable and simply put just cooler.
Now lets look at what the Apple marketing machine had been doing in the meantime, take a look at the first ever iPod advert and the first iMac advert. You'll notice that they don't mention price, specification, functionality or anything else which is normal in computer product advertising. Unlike other manufacturers who were competing on price or hardware speed, Apple were competing on brand.
And they were winning this battle, the Apple brand is growing and growing. With every revision of the iPod and every new iMac or MacBook Apple secured themselves further as a company who produce high quality fashionable products. What about the Apple hype machine? No doubt all the rumours about new products emerge from deep inside Cupertino. For years people and press alike were talking about fabled products like the Apple phone or the Apple tablet, with ever major keynote where these products weren't announced the hype just seemed to grow.
The iPhone was another landmark in Apples success, this was the first product in my opinion where Apple removed functionality to increase usability. The focus on the iPhone was purely to create a user experience second to none. On the face of it the iPhone was an underwhelming product, lacking in functionality that had been part of other phones for years. For the user the iPhone was a dream to use, and this was cleared reflected in its sales.
"we weren't first to the party, but we're gonna be the best" - Steve Jobs on iPhone multitasking
From this point onwards, Apple moved beyond a brand. People often joke about the Cult of Mac, but we see it every day with people queuing for hours to get their hands on the latest iPhone, or iPad. Users talk for hours about the applications on their phones or preach to the world about what they do on their iPad. Like it or not, Apple is here to stay, not everyone of their products is going to be a success, but its going to take a lot to knock the iPad and iPhone from their position at the top of the market.
Look at Apple's advertising for the iPhone 4, It again doesn't describe the product, just tries to highlight what an important part of your life the iPhone can be.
Just for fun, over the years i've owned the following Apple products:
6 Mac desktops (Classic, LCII, Quadra, G3, G4, MacPro)
4 Mac laptops (iBook, PowerBook G4, Macbook Pro 15", MacBook 13")
7 iPods (1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, iTouch x2 and Nano)
2 Apple Monitors
and i'm pretty sure I owned a couple of Apple printers...