Apple could wow the technology world again today, most likely releasing a long-awaited redesign of its popular iMac line along with a slew of other technology innovations. Analysts and the press now stalk Apple's every move and sift through every word from Apple PR with a fine-toothed comb, looking for information on the company's plans. Apple's stock price keeps hitting new highs on what seems like a weekly basis, and its retail stores are filled to capacity.
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In other words, things are going well for Steve Jobs and company.
Times weren't always this good for Apple. Aug. 7 also marks another milestone: The 10th anniversary of Steve Jobs at his first event at Apple as the returning iCEO (the "i" standing for "interim"). When Macworld '97 took place in Boston, Apple was a mess. It had been a little more than a month since Jobs again took the wheel at Apple after Gil Amelio had been given his walking papers. Jobs had started the process of killing off the Newton and clone operations at Apple. The company was nearly bankrupt and had lost its direction. Nobody knew what the future held -- and what was to be shown that day was anything but reassuring.
To the Mac faithful, Apple was (and, to many, still is) the anti-Microsoft, and the agreement unveiled on Aug. 7, 1997, was seen as a deal with the devil. When Microsoft's then-CEO, Bill Gates, appeared on a giant screen above Steve Jobs and the Macworld attendees that day, the Macintosh community's reality was flipped upside down. Microsoft was bailing out Apple with a $140 million cash infusion that at the time represented more than 5 percent of the company's resources. The deal was likely made to help Microsoft fend off a rash of monopoly suits as much as it represented a strategic investment in a longtime partner. The deal, like many in the years since Jobs' return, turned out to be a boon for Apple. More than just infusing the company with operating capital, the partnership helped restore faith in the troubled Macintosh platform as Apple moved forward with cuts to various parts of its business and an overhaul of operations.
Microsoft got plenty in the deal, too. At the time, Microsoft's Internet Explorer was trying to usurp Netscape as the Web browser of choice, and a major component of the Apple deal was to make IE the default browser on every new Macintosh system. A few years later, Netscape was all but history. Microsoft also worked out a deal that called for Macintosh systems to include Microsoft's version of Java -- to be jointly developed by Microsoft and Apple -- striking a big blow to Sun Microsystems.
Microsoft didn't have as much success in cornering the Java market, and its Java Virtual Machine implementation in Mac was slow and buggy.
Another big part of the arrangement was the cross-licensing of patents. This was another huge win for Microsoft, which was still in court at that time fighting patent disputes with Apple. With that battle behind them, Microsoft's lawyers could more fully concentrate on the monopoly cases involving Netscape and Sun and the eventual successful appeal.
The deal hadn't been finalized until 2 a.m. on the day of the announcement, and Jobs' and Gates' remarks at Macworld were scripted just hours before the event.