Why the iPad is the original Mac all over again

Why the iPad is the original Mac all over again

Summary: The iPad is only a reboot of Steve Job's original Mac vision of the accessible appliance computer. Don't believe me? Look at the specs.


The iPad is remaking the PC industry. PC sales are falling. Microsoft and Intel are flailing. Tech-averse consumers are loving its always-on, 1-button simplicity.

At bottom, the iPad is the original Mac concept reimplemented in the latest technology with stellar industrial design. Why didn't the industry see this coming?

Key similarities

Screen size almost the same. No expansion (except for DRAM to 512k). Built-in productivity apps. Intuitive GUI interface. Portable. And even more affordable than the original - and unmet - goal of a $1000 computer. Here are the specs:

Mac 128k vs iPad 3

FeatureMac 128kiPad 3Delta
MHz 8 1,300 162.5
Processor Word size
Single core
Dual core
Quad-core graphics
A lot
RAM capacity
128k/512k 1GB 8,000x
Display 9" Monochrome 9.7" Color Way better!
Display resolution 512x342  2048x1536 18x
Standard storage 400k 16GB 40,000x
Network None Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Expansion None None  
Weight 16.5 lbs 1.44 lbs 1/11th
Cost (2012 dollars) $5579.12 $499 1/11th


(Mac specs courtesy of EveryMac.)

The Storage Bits take

The tablet concept goes back to 1968, when Alan Kay described his "Dynabook" concept, which he envisioned as a learning tool for children. But many technologies had to be developed to make it possible.

Compared to the 128k Mac, the biggest space saver is the flat panel display replacing the bulky and power hungry CRT, followed by the advent of flash storage - 40,000x capacity in a fraction of the space of a floppy - followed by the Moore's Law reduction in chip feature sizes.

Why didn't the industry see this coming? Bill Gates did, but he and Microsoft didn't draw the right conclusions from their tablet failures. Lightweight hardware needs lightweight software, and Windows is anything but.

Instead of assuming Windows, Microsoft needed to do what Apple did in 1984: build an OS from the ground up integrated with the hardware and the user experience. If I'm correct, Windows 8 on tablets will be no more successful than it predecessors.

Comments welcome, of course.

Topic: Apple

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  • So sad you had to turn this into an anti MS rant

    Oh well. Here I go, proving you wrong once again.

    "Microsoft needed to do what Apple did in 1984: build an OS from the ground up integrated with the hardware and the user experience"

    This is exactly what MS did with the smartphone and many other computing devices with embedded OSs. I shouldn't have to teach you this, you should know better.
    "Windows CE is a distinct operating system and kernel, rather than a trimmed-down version of desktop Windows"

    Let's compare this to iPhone and iPad. Was iOS built from the ground up? Nope. iOS is based on an extremely heavy and bloated OS called OS X. So according to you then, it is MS that did this right and Apple that did this wrong. Remember, I'm only going based on YOUR logic.

    Anyway, you'd better hope that the iPad isn't like the original Mac because if it is, Apple will be nearly bankrupt in a few years and will come running to Microsoft to ask them for a bailout, again.
    • +1

      fitting reply.
      Ram U
    • I found the blog an interesting perspective

      I also find it curious that you feel the need to defend MS at every turn and every perceived attack.

      Ah, I forgot. You are the shill-in-chief. I guess you were not around when MS screwed IBM and Wordperfect, and later Netscape, to achieve its dominance. Or perhaps illegal/unethical conduct does not bother you, as selling your soul seems to come rather easily.
      • Please point out where I defended MS

        Nowhere in my post did I defend MS or suggest that MS was right. I only proved that Robin was wrong.
        • You cannot be that ignorant

          Just read your own title and re-read the blog. I very small fraction talks about MS (and Intel). Maybe you need to see a therapist. A boogeyman seems to be lurking in too many blogs.
          • What is your definition of a small fraction?

            There are 7 paragraphs in the blog. 3 of them are about Microsoft. That's 42%. Is 2/5 a small fraction? Yes or no?

            Again, I'm not defending MS. I'm pointing out where Robin is wrong, where MS is wrong, and where Apple is right.

            Put aside your hatred of me, it will allow you to think much more rationally and you won't look like the complete fool that you just advertised yourself to be.
          • Pedantic, pathetic spin

            The first paragraph is NOT about MS, although it is mentioned. About half of the space of the blog is taken up by a table comparing two Apple products. So yes, it IS a small fraction. I frankly do not give a rat's a$$ what your definition may be.

            Look up "rant" for your own benefit. It definitely does not apply to this blog, but I know rationality is challenging for you.

            I have watched you for a long time often shooting the messenger to further your "cause" here. Your approach says nothing about me, but is does say an awful lot about you.

            Have a nice day
          • Look up "shooting the messenger"

            Shooting the messenger would be:
            "Robin, you are wrong because you hate MS."

            Didn't do that. While Robin does hate MS, I told him he was wrong by tearing his argument apart that MS should build a new OS from the ground up instead of trying to shoehorn an existing OS down into a mobile device. I did it by providing a ton of counter examples, none of which had anything to do with the messenger.

            If you want to see an example of "shooting the messenger" where someone accuses someone else of being wrong simply because of who they are, take a look at this post:
            "Ah, I forgot. You are the shill-in-chief. I guess you were not around when MS screwed IBM and Wordperfect, and later Netscape, to achieve its dominance. Or perhaps illegal/unethical conduct does not bother you, as selling your soul seems to come rather easily."

            You have a nice day too.
      • It is an interesting perspective

        But it is also lacking in understanding. As for toddbottom3, he is only pointing out the author's missing points. I don't see how Microsoft's questionable conduct relates to this post.
        • It does relate ....

          when MS (or any other) shills are involved. On my scale they barely rate above drug dealers and way below prostitutes. I still have my independence and pride. I am perfectly happy to kick Google, MS and Apple, all in the same post.
      • Its business

        Apple is currently screwing Samsung and Android. They screwed the record companies and the telcos who pay a higher subsidy for the iPhone over other phones.
        • Apple screwed the telcos

          How did Apple exactly screw the telcos, given the following reality:

          1. An iPhone sells at $699, unsubsidised;

          2. When sold "subsidised", an iPhone is sold for $199 + two years *expensive* contract. The estimated cost of the "subsidised" phone and the service charges are over $2500. Now, the telco presumably gives $699 (or less, considering the large volumes) to Apple.. and keeps the "insignificant" amount of nearly $2000 per iPhone owner..

          I believe any industry will love to be screwed like this by Apple.
    • Windows CE? Really?

      It isn't enough to be new. It also has to be good. Try re-reading the entire sentence.

      Traditionally MS has wrapped themselves around the boat anchor of Windows compatibility, which has limited their ability to innovate. Windows is their greatest strength, and as I've noted, they're doing some great stuff with ReFS and Spaces.

      But Wintel has conditioned hundreds of millions of consumers to buy cheap stuff with low margins, which leaves them poorly positioned against Apple's focus on quality and customer experience.

      If Microsoft is so smart, why did their tablets fail and Apple's succeed?
      R Harris
      • Now you are digging yourself even deeper

        YOU were the one who claimed that to be successful, a new OS needed to be written from the ground up. The evidence does not support your claim. The company that did write a new OS from the ground up was not successful. The 2 companies that did NOT write a new OS from the ground up WERE successful (Apple and Google).

        "MS has wrapped themselves around the boat anchor of Windows compatibility"

        And now you are getting even more ridiculous. Their entire mobile device strategy was based on an OS that was NOT compatible with Windows.

        "If Microsoft is so smart, why did their tablets fail and Apple's succeed?"

        Robin, YOU need to reread my post because at NO point did I say MS was smart. I was simply answering your post to show that your entire logic was flawed. You stated that rewriting an OS was necessary. History has proved you wrong. History has proven that taking a tried and true OS and retrofitting it down to a mobile device has worked far better than building a real time OS from the ground up.

        MS clearly chose the wrong strategy, there is no denying that. What is sad for you is that they chose the exact same strategy that you just suggested they take only you have the benefit of hindsight. Even with that benefit, you STILL got it wrong. Apple completely ignored your advice and got it right.

        If you are so smart, why did all the companies that ignored your advice succeed and the 2 companies that followed your advice (MS and RIM) have failed (so far).
        • To add further insult to injury

          Newton. OS rewritten from the ground up. Epic fail.

          PalmOS. OS rewritten from the ground up. Succes until iOS (an OS that was NOT rewritten from the ground up) came along. Then epic fail.

          BlackBerry OS (mentioned above but I'll mention it again). OS rewritten from the ground up. Success until iOS and Android came along. Then epic fail. Is BlackBerry 10 a brand new OS rewritten from the ground up? Oops, no, it is QNX, a desktop OS shoehorned into a mobile device.

          In 100% of all cases, when an OS that was written from the ground up has gone up against an OS that was retrofitted from a desktop OS, the OS that was written from the ground up has lost. In 100% of all cases, companies that are trying their hardest to survive are taking existing desktop OSs and shoving them into their mobile devices. This is exactly what you are suggesting they should not do.
          • Dont't forget BeOS

            A fantastic OS written by Apple alum that went down in flames!
          • And add MS to the list

            Windows CE for embedded, later turned into Pocket PC, Windows Mobile and finally Windows Phone 7/7.5 --> Epic Fail

            Windows Phone 8 --> NT adapted to ARM processors... will it succeed, we'll see soon?
          • Yes, you are absolutely right

            I feel like I did include MS in that list in my very first post but thanks for highlighting the fact that Robin is really, really wrong. OSs that were written from the ground up to be used in mobile devices have all been epic fails when they've gone up against desktop OSs shoehorned into mobile devices like Android and iOS.

            "Windows Phone 8 --> NT adapted to ARM processors... will it succeed, we'll see soon?"

            While I'm going to buy a WP8 (the most excellent Nokia Lumia 920) I would be willing to be that WP8 will "fail" in the long run but it won't have anything to do with innovation, the quality of the product, the shoehorning of NT, or the UI. If I were a betting man, I would bet that WP8 will fail because Apple is simply too anti-competitive and Samsung is simply too good.

            I'll use WP8 for a while and if it succeeds, fantastic. If it doesn't, I'll switch to Android. I'd switch to Apple if they start innovating again but after iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, and iPad 3, each of which are major disappointments and show that Apple is a stagnating company completely incapable of any further innovation, I am betting that Android is where the excitement will be found over the next few years. Luckily for Apple, there are millions and millions of people who like stagnation. The only thing at Apple that isn't stagnating is their bank account. Kudos to Apple for figuring out that innovation is not the path to long term success. Milking product lines and lock-in are. MS found this out years ago. Like with everything else, it just takes Apple a few years to copy everything that MS does.
      • No. Just no.

        "But Wintel has conditioned hundreds of millions of consumers to buy cheap stuff with low margins, which leaves them poorly positioned against Apple's focus on quality and customer experience."

        Apple says they have a new product and you start drooling. I believe Pavlov had the same outcome with a dog, bell, and food. Before you talk about conditioning, think. No one flies out to buy the latest economic-friendly anything. Why? They are real people that have real financial worries. Last I checked, the world is in a recession. I believe the applies to you, too, Mr. Robin.

        You just lost all my respect. Please explain what is wrong with having an economical solution? Apple fails to hit that market and this is the crap you write? If the only cars available were BMWs and Land Rover's, I got news for you... there isn't much of a car market. If the only computers are $1,000, you aren't having much of a computer market. If you don't remember, no one was interested in the iPhone until they got carriers to subsidize it. If people were really so hot and heavy with Apple because high-margins are the only way to buy, the Kindle Fires, Nexus 7s, Nooks, and all the other sub-$200 economic tablets should not be getting sold since there is no demand.

        Does/Would your parent need to spend $1,000 on a laptop in order to play solitaire? No. Does the typical soccer mom down the street edit audio or do video editing on her laptop? No. Do college students have the disposable income to spend extra because of a name? No. Will they be able to research for class, write papers, create presentations, and video call family from a $400 Wintel laptop? You bet. Will it suffer from just as many issues if neglected as an Apple machine? You bet.

        I don't support the main carriers because they gouge and people are too uninformed to fight back- $50 unlimited everything prepaid (very happy with the potential TMo/Metro merger). I don't support Apple because they gouge just as much or even worse. If I were to buy a computer (instead of build one), I would go for something that suited my needs and matched the price. Apparently you suffer from price-tag envy or something.

        You are still living in the Steve Jobs 2.0 days... actually, 1.0, too, except he wanted to charge too much so even fewer people supported him (and he marketed way less). If I'm not mistaken, this iPhone/iOS launch has gone down as the worst yet. More issues and signs of how much of a brilliant mind was lost in Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs would have never allowed multiple WiFi issues, purple haze, and the scratching issue be released. Ever. Tim Cook gets away with it initially because of how many Apple people have been conditioned into thinking they have a vastly superior product, so long as you're willing to pay the price. You were marketed to by the greatest marketer ever- Steve Jobs, so it's okay.

        Last, but not least- why does low cost mean cheap stuff? I'm assuming you are implying it is of inferior quality. While I agree with you, that inferior quality products are often less expensive, that doesn't mean that all less expensive items are worse. I bet you're the same person that spends twice as much for name brand groceries and medicine, but apparently you can afford it. Ever see the mark up percentages on prescription/OTC drugs? It makes me physically sick. If Apple wants to be the name brand, I'm perfectly fine supporting the generic.
    • iOS is not a true tablet OS

      It was designed for the iPhone. The browser is crap! and the grid of boring icons looks dated. Only Windows 8 has been designed for tablets.
      Contracts search and sharing change how you use apps.
      Snap view for side by side apps.
      Better multi-tasking than the iPad
      Backward compatibility with desktop apps (intel architecture)
      Access to a real file system with the file picker contract.
      A curated store with access to new style (metro) apps.
      SkyDrive and cloud integration for you settings and data.

      As computers have become more powerful and MS has held the line on system resources all modern hardware will run Windows 8 !