For many years, the name International Business Machines, IBM, was synonymous with computing. When desktop personal computers were introduced in the early 1980s, Osborne and Kaypro were the names on the early generation computers. A young software company was developing the operating systems that would set the standard for generations of computing to come, and seemed to have a firm grip on the personal computing market. That company, Microsoft, was on its way to becoming biggest name in the nascent personal computer industry. As PCs became increasingly common, the prevalence of Microsoft operating systems was obvious, and unchallenged, and combined with IBM’s dominance, it was emerging as a monopoly, with no apparent competition in sight.
During the television broadcast of the 1984 Super Bowl, an advertisement was aired that changed the personal computing industry forever. That advertisement was for the Macintosh computer, and the company that developed it was the Apple Computer Corporation. The now-famous, or infamous, advertisement featured a scene out of George Orwell’s “1984,” including a large auditorium filled with identically-clothed and similarly-appearing people, all staring transfixed at a large screen onto which was projected a large close-up of a “leader” loudly dictating to those assembled. [a link to that ad is: ] Scenes of marching automatons are intercut with the “leader’s” broadcast and the progress of a young woman sprinting through corridors carrying a sledgehammer. The woman bursts into the auditorium and throws the sledgehammer at the screen, causing it to explode. The ad concludes with a narrator stating that “On January 24 , Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like ‘1984’.”
The significance of this ad cannot be overstated. With it, and with the introduction of the Macintosh computer, IBM and Microsoft’s monopoly was effectively over. While Microsoft would remain the dominant force in personal computing software – IBM would eventually sell its PC business to Chinese company Lenovo and depart the market – Apple’s innovative computing system and clever advertising did in fact revolutionize the personal computing industry. Apple emerged as a user-friendly David to IBM/Microsoft’s Goliath, and is considered a major success story in the history of American business.
Finding a flaw in Apple’s methodology is difficult given the respect the company has earned since that day in January 1984 when the Super Bowl ad ran. One cannot fault its marketing, nor its willingness to take risks. Additionally, its IPhone and IPad were major innovations that established new and profitable business lines that left other companies frantic to keep pace. Its failures, and there have been failures, have been dwarfed by its successes. The only real flaw for its competition to exploit involves the image of its main competitor, Microsoft, as the still-dominant force in personal computing. Microsoft remains the most widely-used operating system, and there is little hope that Apple will be able to put much of a dent in that dominance. By making its image as the dominant force appear irreversible, Microsoft has been able to remain on top of the PC industry.