It's been said that there's a Simpsons episode to cover every possible situation. Recently I've been thinking about the episode where Homer joins the Hullabalooza tour as the side entertainment: a fat guy who can take a cannonball to the gut and live to tell about it. Earlier in that episode, Homer makes reference to the US Festival.
The US Festival! Geez! It was sponsored by the guy from Apple Computers," says Homer. A baffled teen replies, "What Computers???"
The episode, "Homerpalooza," aired in 1996. It's a ludicrous notion today, but at the time Apple actually seemed like it was destined to become a footnote in the history of personal computing.
Arguably, it was the iPod that put Apple back on top and made it a household name again, especially amongst teens. But why stop there? Apple has shrewdly capitalized on its momentum with a series of iPod variants followed by the iPhone, and there's no reason to think it won't continue. Consider this timeline. Is it really so crazy?
2001: The iPod is introduced, revolutionizing the way people listen to and purchase music. OS X is introduced the same year, rekindling enthusiasm for Apple's software products
2002: The iMac G4 is released. Apple acquires music software company eMagic
2003: The iTunes music store opens
2004: The G5 is introduced
2005: Apple releases the iPod Nano. An OEM alliance with Intel is formed
2006: Disney buys Pixar and Steve Jobs accepts a position on the Disney board
2007: The iPhone is introduced, famous as much for its hype as for the product itself. The latest line of iMacs enters the market
2008: Apple creates the iPhone Nano and signs up mobile carriers in Canada, France, Belgium, Japan and seven other nations
2009: The Sony PlayStation 3's flagging sales prompt the Japanese giant to reach out to Apple for input. Apple takes on the design challenge, helping Sony release a cheaper, more ergonomic PS3 and the Apple logo is placed on the machine alongside Sony's. The upgraded device will synch via Bluetooth with any iPod or iPhone product. Sales of PS3 begin to push past Xbox 360 within six months
2010: Microsoft pulls the plug on future Windows development, finally admitting that Windows Vista was ill-conceived from the get-go. Steve Ballmer steps down as CEO. Bill Gates comes out of retirement and hands over the day-to-day operations of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to his wife. Surprising everyone, he opts not to rejoin Microsoft but begins consulting for Apple. Steve Jobs responds with a US$35 million donation to the Gates foundation. The iPod watch is released in September
2011: Apple buys a little-known Linux distribution that was developed by a university student in Hamburg, Germany. Jobs promises that Apple's software business will be entirely open source within five years. Gates takes on the title of Chief Software Architect at Apple. In November, the Sony/Apple iStation is released
2012: Apple releases its definitive operating system called Apple Seed. Microsoft announces it will no longer produce software for PCs and focuses its efforts on enterprise software
2013: Sun attempts a hostile takeover of Microsoft, prompting a bidding war between Sun and Oracle. Oracle ultimately pays US$24 billion for the Microsoft assets and later rolls Microsoft Exchange, SQL Server and Microsoft's business intelligence and ERP applications into its own products
2014: Larry Ellison opts to retire from Oracle. Steve Ballmer is hired on to oversee the Oracle/MS product line and ultimately assumes the position of president and CEO. Steve Jobs holds a press conference saying he's looking for new challenges and will work in Disney's Pixar division full time. He's given the enigmatic title of Futurist at Large. Bill Gates assumes the position of CEO at Apple
2015: Apple Computers are on 95 percent of desks around the world