Under Steve Jobs, Apple developed has lots of excellent software, some of which has had a huge influence on technology and how we use computers. This isn’t to say other companies haven’t been just as influential, but it’s hard to underestimate the Cupertino company’s contribution. There are other great Apple programs, but I want to focus just on the ones I think have been game changers: Apple OS, iTunes and Garage Band.
Mac OS and iOS.
Right from the start, Mac OS was important. In Steve Jobs’s own words, ‘Windows just copied the Mac’ in the 80s. That might be a slight exaggeration, but from the early days of Windows, Mac OS was clearly an influence. The current generation, Mac OS X has introduced numerous innovations over the years, notably the ability to be suspended and restarted very quickly. This makes it ideal for laptops, as the explosion of Macbooks has proved. Anyone who works on OS X and Windows will also note how much better Apple’s Spotlight works when searching for files and applications. Unlike Windows, which looks like it’s been designed by committee, OS X looks like something that has been built from the ground up with a singular focus.
The iPhone introduced us to iOS in 2007, and is now already up to version 5. This has revolutionized pocket computing, and the app icons arrangement has clearly influenced Android. The App Store has quickly become a hugely successful eco system, the first large scale example of a closed system for purchasing and installing software.
Apple’s hard to escape media app iTunes isn’t to everyone’s taste, but I’ve always liked it. It’s true that Genius isn’t what it’s hyped up to be, and Ping seems like half a good idea, but overall it’s an excellent way to organize your music and video collection. The iTunes store has improved over the years, and is a really user friendly way to buy music and more.
A lot of iTunes power has been its link up with the iPod, and later iPhones and iPads. While it’s true this locks you into using it, it has meant Apple can control the user experience more easily, and no-one would argue that their devices are poor in that respect.
iTunes was a better media library than what had come before, and over 10 years nothing has come near it in terms of usability or completeness.
This is a great example of design making something complex accessible to all. Garage Band made it easy to make music, which had always been pretty challenging to basic computer users before. It bridges the gap between something suitable for beginners, and something that can produce music that actually sounds professional.
While other Apple programs like FinalCut had long been popular with professionals, Garage Band saw Apple pushing for a wider market. This strategy certainly worked, as owning a Mac has long ceased to be something just for professional designers, and Garage Band has become a standard introduction to recording music.
Are there any other areas you think Apple revolutionized software?