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5. Puck mouse: Anyone who rushed to the stores in 1998 to purchase a Bondi Blue G3 iMac was at the very forefront of a revolution that brought the personal computer from the floor to the desktop, and changed the way we stored files, surfed the Internet, listened to music, pointed and clicked. The iMac was the first computer to ship without a floppy drive and was ahead of the USB curve, shipping a matching USB keyboard and odd-looking mouse in every package. Apple lore has it that the mouse was designed by Jobs himself, who wanted a pointing device that would fit comfortably in his hand while he sat on top of his desk, and he promised the puck-shaped clicker would be “the coolest ... most wonderful mouse you’ve ever used.” Most users, however, used different adjectives to describe the mouse, most of which cannot be printed here.
4. Copland: The worst case of vaporware in Apple’s history officially kicked off in March 1994 alongside the original Power Mac, the first Cupertino computer to use a PowerPC processor. Intended as a dramatic rethinking of the System 7, Copland was originally slated to ship in beta form in late 1995, and as a full release in mid-1996, then fall, then January 1997, and finally, “sometime.” Pieces of Copland would eventually find their way into System 7.6 and OS 8, but Apple failed to deliver the operating system’s revolutionary features in any cohesive package; instead, NeXT and its fledgling OS was acquired from Steve Jobs, and the rest is Cocoa history. In the end, Copland was just too far ahead of its time --- so far, in fact, that many of its ambitions have become some of OS X’s greatest innovations.
3. Newton: While Copland’s failures were, for the most part, hidden deep inside Apple’s laboratories, Newton was the rare Apple product that crumbled under the weight of public scrutiny. Announced in May 1992 with great fanfare, the world’s first PDA hit the ground running, but had slowed to a crawl by the time it finally landed in stores some 15 months after its auspicious unveiling --- and it didn’t help that the handheld’s handwriting recognition immediately became the butt of jokes by Gary Trudeau and Matt Groening. Of course, Newton got better with subsequent revisions, but the world around it never quite caught up to its genius, and various models sat on shelves for several years before the project was ultimately killed in February 1998 by, you guessed it, Steve Jobs.
2. Macintosh Office: Hot on the heels of its wildly successful 1984 Super Bowl commercial for the Macintosh, Apple tapped Ridley Scott’s brother, Tony, to direct a follow-up TV spot to air during the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XX. Titled “Lemmings,” the 60-second ad depicted a mindless line of blindfolded businessmen walking toward (and off) a cliff in rhythm to an erie rendition of “Heigh-Ho.” Somehow, this was supposed to sell viewers on the idea of The Macintosh Office as a solution to their day-to-day business needs. Needless to say, the ad generated more disgust than interest, and Apple learned a valuable lesson: Don’t kill PC users in your ads. Plus, Macintosh Office struggled to impress without a bona fide file server, which didn’t arrive until 1987.
1. PowerPC: In 1994, everything changed for Apple. Despite Newton’s initial stumble, the company was still enjoying tremendous success as an industry leader and innovator, running neck and neck with Microsoft ahead of the blockbuster release of Windows 95. But instead of turning a corner, a decision to team with rival IBM and Motorola to create a new computing platform set the company back 10 years and eroded virtually every bit of success it had built over the previous 18 years. PowerPC was quickly eclipsed by Intel’s Pentium offerings (despite the latter’s weaker performance) and Apple’s Mac platform gradually lost market share, despite Jobs’ undying efforts to prove the megahertz myth. Apple finally abandoned the rebel chip in 2005 after the G5 stumbled out of the gate, and by late 2006, all new Macs were shipping with Intel processors.