The IBM PC was introduced on August 12, 1981. At the time I was 15 but I was already an avid Apple II user who enjoyed programming in assembly language. I must say that I didn’t pay much attention to the announcement. After all, it was just another boring monochrome computer. However, it soon became clear that the PC was a commercial success and a clear threat to Apple. The truth is that, like most teenagers, I couldn’t care less about the business market. As long as Apple could maintain their lead in the education and home markets, I would be happy.
In 1983, however a new threat emerged, the IBM PCjr. This product was squarely aimed at the market that Apple had dominated for years, at least in the U.S. That is when I started to hate IBM. I felt that they were forcing me to switch to a platform that wasn’t as exciting against my will. Of course, years later the same anger made me revolt against Microsoft and I progressively started to forget about IBM. That is a good thing by the way because I have just celebrated my tenth anniversary at IBM. Of course it helped a lot that I have always worked at IBM’s Software Group, a division that is operating system agnostic and allows customers to choose their preferred computing environment.
Today, almost 23 years after the introduction of the IBM PCjr, Apple is the most valuable computer maker in the world. What has changed? We now live in a world ruled by consumers, not corporate suits. Consumers want exciting new products, not boring, barely functional products. That is good. Some may complain that teenagers are driving the consumer electronics industry but I am ecstatic. I still remember why I was so excited by Apple as a teenager. The reasons I had then were not driven by style or peer pressure, they were driven by a passion for radical new products that made no compromises to achieve greatness. In general teenagers do not tolerate mediocrity as well as adults because they are not scared by change. That is why Apple is successful now with a new generation. They are fighting the establishment with superior products and this is a battle teenagers can perfectly relate to.
However, make no mistake, this is not just a marketing gimmick. Unlike Pepsi who wanted to artificially create a generational gap with their “Pepsi generation” campaign, Apple decided to focus on creating exciting new products that have since been adopted by a new generation. That is why it worked.