If you think the lukewarm reception to Apple’s new iPad is the exception, think again: The company has a long history of questionable first impressions dating back to the original Macintosh over 25 years ago. The Week has rounded up more than 25 years of Apple products that failed to impress critics when they were first introduced. Among the most notable: The original Macintosh in January, 1984, the iMac in May, 1998, the iPod in October, 2001 and yes, even the iPhone in July, 2007.
It’s hard to imagine that the Macintosh was dismissed when it was introduced in January, 1984: We all remember the iconic Super Bowl television commercial modeled after George Orwell’s book 1984. But at a starting price of $2,495, the initial criticisms were harsh. “Useless,” said one engineering firm president of the mouse. “It isn’t all that easy to learn,” said the president of a corporate consultancy. “I think it’s awkward,” added a newspaper publisher. The original Mac exceeded all expectations by going on to sell 70,000 units in the first 100 days.
Flash-forward to 14 years later and the introduction of the first iMac, which took a nod from the original Macintosh by putting the monitor and all of the components under one stylish roof, with a $1,299 price tag. “All the good looks and good intentions in the world can’t make up for slow application performance, poor sound quality and no upgrade path,” remarked PC World. “Apple tells users to ‘think different.’ We advise Apple to ‘think again.’” For the next four months, the iMac outsold all other personal computers in the U.S. and doubled Apple’s share of the PC market to 10 percent.
Looking back almost a decade, you would never expect a $395 portable MP3 player with a 5GB hard drive to have succeeded, but the iPod was exactly what the fractured market was looking for. But that doesn’t mean that everyone found it appealing. “Apple lacks the richness of Sony’s product offering,” one analyst said, with almost all of them taking pot shots at the high price tag. But despite modest initial sales, by 2005 Apple was selling more than 20 million iPods each year, with a 65 percent market share. Today, the company sells over 50 million of the devices each year.
Of course, not all of Apple’s product have gone on to be success stories: Included in The Week list is the Newton, first sold in August, 1993. Despite being an iconic device for the Apple faithful, the device never gained traction and was dropped after only five years. Perhaps Seattle Times writer Rory J. O’Connor said it best: “The title PDA ought to stand for productivity draining apparatus.”
Hey, at least there were more hits than misses, right?