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A beige, boxy computer with a small black and white screen showing a window and desktop with icons.
The original Macintosh, released in January 1984.
A wide, thin computer made of aluminum with a large screen.
A 2009 model iMac: a wide, thin design.

The Macintosh ( / ˈ m æ k ɨ n t ɒ ʃ / MAK-in-tosh), marketed as Mac, is a line of personal computers (PCs) designed, developed, and marketed by Apple Inc. It is targeted mainly at the home, education, and creative professional markets, and includes the descendants of the original iMac, the entry-level Mac mini desktop model, the Mac Pro tower graphics workstation, and the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro laptops. Its Xserve server was discontinued on January 31, 2011.

Apple Inc.'s then-chairman Steve Jobs introduced the first Macintosh on January 24, 1984. It became the first commercially successful personal computer to feature a mouse and a graphical user interface, rather than a command-line interface. The Macintosh product line saw success through the end of the decade, though popularity dropped in the 1990s as the personal computer market shifted toward the " Wintel" platform: IBM PC compatible machines running MS-DOS and Microsoft Windows with an Intel processor. In 1998, Apple consolidated its multiple consumer-level desktop models into the all-in-one iMac, which proved to be a sales success and saw the brand revitalized.

Production of the Mac is based on a vertical integration model. Apple facilitates all aspects of its hardware and creates its own operating system that is pre-installed on all Mac computers, unlike most IBM PC compatibles, where multiple sellers create and integrate hardware intended to run another company's operating software. Apple exclusively produces Mac hardware, choosing internal systems, designs, and prices. Apple uses third party components, however, such as graphics subsystems from Nvidia, Intel, and AMD. Current Mac CPUs use Intel's X86-64 architecture. The earliest models (1984–1994) used Motorola's 68k, and models from 1994 until 2006 used the AIM alliance's PowerPC. Apple also develops the operating system for the Mac, OS X, currently on version 10.8 "Mountain Lion". The modern Mac, like other personal computers, is capable of running alternative operating systems such as Linux, FreeBSD, and, in the case of Intel-based Macs, Microsoft Windows. However, Apple does not license OS X for use on non-Apple computers.


Development and introduction

The Macintosh project began in the late 1970s with Jef Raskin, an Apple employee who envisioned an easy-to-use, low-cost computer for the average consumer. He wanted to name the computer after his favorite type of apple, the McIntosh, but the name had to be changed for legal reasons as it was too close, phonetically, to that of the McIntosh audio equipment manufacturer. Steve Jobs requested a release of the name so that Apple could use it, but was denied, forcing Apple to eventually buy the rights to use the name. Raskin was authorized to start hiring for the project in September 1979, and he began to look for an engineer who could put together a prototype. Bill Atkinson, a member of Apple's Lisa team (which was developing a similar higher-end computer,) introduced him to Burrell Smith, a self-taught engineer who worked as a service technician and had been hired earlier that year. Over the years, Raskin assembled a large development team that designed and built the original Macintosh hardware and the original version of the Mac OS operating system that the computer ran. Besides Raskin, Atkinson and Smith, the team included George Crow, Chris Espinosa, Joanna Hoffman, Bruce Horn, Susan Kare, Andy Hertzfeld, Guy Kawasaki, Daniel Kottke, and Jerry Manock.

Smith's first Macintosh board was built to Raskin's design specifications: it had 64  kilobytes (kB) of RAM, used the Motorola 6809E microprocessor, and was capable of supporting a 256×256- pixel black-and-white bitmap display. Bud Tribble, a member of the Mac team, was interested in running the Lisa's graphical programs on the Macintosh, and asked Smith whether he could incorporate the Lisa's Motorola 68000 microprocessor into the Mac while still keeping the production cost down. By December 1980, Smith had succeeded in designing a board that not only used the 68000, but increased its speed from 5  MHz to 8 MHz; this board also had the capacity to support a 384×256-pixel display. Smith's design used fewer RAM chips than the Lisa, which made production of the board significantly more cost-efficient. The final Mac design was self-contained and had the complete QuickDraw picture language and interpreter in 64 kB of ROM – far more than most other computers; it had 128 kB of RAM, in the form of sixteen 64  kilobit (kb) RAM chips soldered to the logicboard. Though there were no memory slots, its RAM was expandable to 512 kB by means of soldering sixteen IC sockets to accept 256 kb RAM chips in place of the factory-installed chips. The final product's screen was a 9-inch, 512x342 pixel monochrome display, exceeding the size of the planned screen.

A Macintosh sits in a museum exhibit about postmodernism.
The Apple Macintosh Plus at the Design Museum in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Burrel's innovative design, which combined the low production cost of an Apple II with the computing power of Lisa's CPU, the Motorola 68K, set off shock waves within Apple, capturing the attention of Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple. Realizing that the Macintosh was more marketable than the Lisa, he began to focus his attention on the project. Raskin left the team in 1981 over a personality conflict with Jobs. Team member Andy Hertzfeld said that the final Macintosh design is closer to Jobs' ideas than Raskin's. After hearing of the pioneering GUI technology being developed at Xerox PARC, Jobs had negotiated a visit to see the Xerox Alto computer and its Smalltalk development tools in exchange for Apple stock options. The Lisa and Macintosh user interfaces were influenced by technology seen at Xerox PARC and were combined with the Macintosh group's own ideas. Jobs also commissioned industrial designer Hartmut Esslinger to work on the Macintosh line, resulting in the "Snow White" design language; although it came too late for the earliest Macs, it was implemented in most other mid- to late-1980s Apple computers. However, Jobs' leadership at the Macintosh project did not last; after an internal power struggle with new CEO John Sculley, Jobs resigned from Apple in 1985. He went on to found NeXT, another computer company targeting the education market, and did not return until 1997, when Apple acquired NeXT. The Macintosh 128K was manufactured at an Apple plant in Fremont, California.

The Macintosh 128K was announced to the press in October 1983, followed by an 18-page brochure included with various magazines in December. The Macintosh was introduced by the now-famous US$1.5 million Ridley Scott television commercial, " 1984". It most notably aired during the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII on January 22, 1984, and is now considered a "watershed event" and a "masterpiece." "1984" used an unnamed heroine to represent the coming of the Macintosh (indicated by a Picasso-style picture of the computer on her white tank top) as a means of saving humanity from the "conformity" of IBM's attempts to dominate the computer industry. The ad alludes to George Orwell's novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, which described a dystopian future ruled by a televised " Big Brother."

Two days after "1984" aired, the Macintosh went on sale, and came bundled with two applications designed to show off its interface: MacWrite and MacPaint. It was first demonstrated by Steve Jobs in the first of his famous Mac keynote speeches, and though the Mac garnered an immediate, enthusiastic following, some labeled it a mere "toy." Because the operating system was designed largely around the GUI, existing text-mode and command-driven applications had to be redesigned and the programming code rewritten. This was a time-consuming task that many software developers chose not to undertake, and could be regarded as a reason for an initial lack of software for the new system. In April 1984, Microsoft's MultiPlan migrated over from MS-DOS, with Microsoft Word following in January 1985. In 1985, Lotus Software introduced Lotus Jazz for the Macintosh platform after the success of Lotus 1-2-3 for the IBM PC, although it was largely a flop. Apple introduced the Macintosh Office suite the same year with the "Lemmings" ad. Infamous for insulting its own potential customers, the ad was not successful.

Apple spent upwards of $2.5 million purchasing all 39 advertising pages in a special, post-election issue of Newsweek Apple also ran a "Test Drive a Macintosh" promotion, in which potential buyers with a credit card could take home a Macintosh for 24 hours and return it to a dealer afterwards. While 200,000 people participated, dealers disliked the promotion, the supply of computers was insufficient for demand, and many were returned in such a bad condition that they could no longer be sold. This marketing campaign caused CEO John Sculley to raise the price from US$1,995 to US$2,495 (about $5,200 when adjusted for inflation in 2010).

Desktop publishing

A Macintosh II with a separate monitor and CPU.
The Macintosh II, one of the first expandable Macintosh models.

In 1985, the combination of the Mac, Apple's LaserWriter printer, and Mac-specific software like Boston Software's MacPublisher and Aldus PageMaker enabled users to design, preview, and print page layouts complete with text and graphics—an activity to become known as desktop publishing. Initially, desktop publishing was unique to the Macintosh, but eventually became available for other platforms. Later, applications such as Macromedia FreeHand, QuarkXPress, and Adobe's Photoshop and Illustrator strengthened the Mac's position as a graphics computer and helped to expand the emerging desktop publishing market.

The Macintosh's minimal memory became apparent, even compared with other personal computers in 1984, and could not be expanded easily. It also lacked a hard disk drive or the means to easily attach one. Many small companies sprang up to address the memory issue. Suggestions revolved around either upgrading the memory to 512 KB or removing the computer's 16 memory chips and replacing them with larger-capacity chips, a tedious operation that was not always successful. In October 1985, Apple introduced the Macintosh 512K, with quadruple the memory of the original, at a price of US$3,195. It also offered an upgrade for 128k Macs that involved replacing the logicboard. In an attempt to improve connectivity, Apple released the Macintosh Plus on January 10, 1986, for a price of US$2,600. It offered one megabyte of RAM, easily expandable to four megabytes by the use of socketed RAM boards. It also featured a SCSI parallel interface, allowing up to seven peripherals—such as hard drives and scanners—to be attached to the machine. Its floppy drive was increased to an 800  kB capacity. The Mac Plus was an immediate success and remained in production, unchanged, until October 15, 1990; on sale for just over four years and ten months, it was the longest-lived Macintosh in Apple's history. In September 1986, Apple introduced the Macintosh Programmer's Workshop, or MPW, an application that allowed software developers to create software for Macintosh on Macintosh, rather than cross compiling from a Lisa. In August 1987, Apple unveiled HyperCard and MultiFinder, which added cooperative multitasking to the Macintosh. Apple began bundling both with every Macintosh.

Updated Motorola CPUs made a faster machine possible, and in 1987 Apple took advantage of the new Motorola technology and introduced the Macintosh II, powered by a 16 MHz Motorola 68020 processor. The primary improvement in the Macintosh II was Colour QuickDraw in ROM, a color version of the graphics language which was the heart of the machine. Among the many innovations in Color QuickDraw were the ability to handle any display size, any colour depth, and multiple monitors. The Macintosh II marked the start of a new direction for the Macintosh, as now for the first time it had an open architecture with several NuBus expansion slots, support for colour graphics and external monitors, and a modular design similar to that of the IBM PC. It had an internal hard drive and a power supply with a fan, which was initially fairly loud. One third-party developer sold a device to regulate fan speed based on a heat sensor, but it voided the warranty. Later Macintosh computers had quieter power supplies and hard drives. The Macintosh SE was released at the same time as the Macintosh II, as the first compact Mac with a 20 MB internal hard drive and an expansion slot. The SE's expansion slot was located inside the case along with the CRT, potentially exposing an upgrader to high voltage. For this reason, Apple recommended users bring their SE to an authorized Apple dealer to have upgrades performed. The SE also updated Jerry Manock and Terry Oyama's original design and shared the Macintosh II's Snow White design language, as well as the new Apple Desktop Bus (ADB) mouse and keyboard that had first appeared on the Apple IIGS some months earlier.

In 1987, Apple spun off its software business as Claris. It was given the code and rights to several applications that had been written within Apple, most notably MacWrite, MacPaint, and MacProject. In the late 1980s, Claris released a number of revamped software titles; the result was the "Pro" series, including MacDraw Pro, MacWrite Pro, and FileMaker Pro. To provide a complete office suite, Claris purchased the rights to the Informix Wingz spreadsheet program on the Mac, renaming it Claris Resolve, and added the new presentation software Claris Impact. By the early 1990s, Claris applications were shipping with the majority of consumer-level Macintoshes and were extremely popular. In 1991, Claris released ClarisWorks, which soon became their second best-selling application. When Claris was reincorporated back into Apple in 1998, ClarisWorks was renamed AppleWorks beginning with version 5.0.

The Macintosh Portable was Apple's first battery-powered Macintosh. It was available from 1989 to 1991 and could run System 6 and System 7.

In 1988, Apple sued Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard on the grounds that they infringed Apple's copyrighted GUI, citing (among other things) the use of rectangular, overlapping, and resizable windows. After four years, the case was decided against Apple, as were later appeals. Apple's actions were criticized by some in the software community, including the Free Software Foundation (FSF), who felt Apple was trying to monopolize on GUIs in general, and boycotted GNU software for the Macintosh platform for seven years.

With the new Motorola 68030 processor came the Macintosh IIx in 1988, which had benefited from internal improvements, including an on-board MMU. It was followed in 1989 by the Macintosh IIcx, a more compact version with fewer slots and a version of the Mac SE powered by the 16 MHz 68030, the Macintosh SE/30. Later that year, the Macintosh IIci, running at 25 MHz, was the first Mac to be " 32-bit clean." This allowed it to natively support more than 8 MB of RAM, unlike its predecessors, which had "32-bit dirty" ROMs (8 of the 32 bits available for addressing were used for OS-level flags). System 7 was the first Macintosh operating system to support 32-bit addressing. The following year, the Macintosh IIfx, starting at US$9,900, was unveiled. Apart from its fast 40 MHz 68030 processor, it had significant internal architectural improvements, including faster memory and two Apple II CPUs dedicated to I/O processing.


The Macintosh Classic.
The PowerBook 100.

Microsoft Windows 3.0 was released in May 1990 as a less expensive alternative to the Macintosh platform, which began to approach the Macintosh operating system in both performance and feature set. In response, Apple introduced a range of relatively inexpensive Macs in October 1990. The Macintosh Classic, essentially a less expensive version of the Macintosh SE, was the least expensive Mac offered until early 2001. The 68020-powered Macintosh LC, in its distinctive " pizza box" case, offered colour graphics and was accompanied by a new, low-cost 512×384 pixel monitor. The Macintosh IIsi was essentially a 20 MHz IIci with only one expansion slot. All three machines sold well, although Apple's profit margin on them was considerably lower than that on earlier models.

Apple improved Macintosh computers by introducing models equipped with newly available processors from the 68k lineup. The Macintosh Classic II and Macintosh LC II, which used a 16 MHz 68030 CPU, were joined in 1991 by the Macintosh Quadra 700 and 900, the first Macs to employ the faster Motorola 68040 processor. In 1994, Apple abandoned Motorola CPUs for the RISC PowerPC architecture developed by the AIM alliance of Apple Computer, IBM, and Motorola. The Power Macintosh line, the first to use the new chips, proved to be highly successful, with over a million PowerPC units sold in nine months.

It wasn't long until Apple released their first portable computers, beginning with the Macintosh Portable released in 1990. Although due to considerable design issues, it was soon replaced in 1991 with the first of the PowerBook line: the PowerBook 100, a miniaturized Portable; the 16 MHz 68030 PowerBook 140; and the 25 MHz 68030 PowerBook 170. They were the first portable computers with the keyboard behind a palm rest and a built-in pointing device (a trackball) in front of the keyboard. The 1993 PowerBook 165c was Apple's first portable computer to feature a colour screen, displaying 256 colors with 640 x 400-pixel resolution. The second generation of PowerBooks, the 68040-equipped 500 series, introduced trackpads, integrated stereo speakers, and built-in Ethernet to the laptop form factor in 1994.

As for Mac OS, System 7 was a 32-bit rewrite from Pascal to C++ that introduced virtual memory and improved the handling of colour graphics, as well as memory addressing, networking, and co-operative multitasking. Also during this time, the Macintosh began to shed the "Snow White" design language, along with the expensive consulting fees they were paying to Frogdesign. Apple instead brought the design work in-house by establishing the Apple Industrial Design Group, becoming responsible for crafting a new look for all Apple products.

Despite these technical and commercial successes, Microsoft and Intel began to rapidly lower Apple's market share with the introduction of the Windows 95 operating system and Pentium processors. These significantly enhanced the multimedia capability and performance of IBM PC compatible computers, and brought Windows closer to the Mac GUI. Furthermore, Apple had created too many similar models that confused potential buyers. At one point, its product lineup was subdivided into Classic, LC, II, Quadra, Performa, and Centris models, with essentially the same computer being sold under a number of different names. These models competed against Macintosh clones, hardware manufactured by third-parties that ran Apple's System 7. This succeeded in increasing the Macintosh's market share somewhat, and provided cheaper hardware for consumers, but hurt Apple financially as existing Apple customers began to buy cheaper clones while Apple shouldered the burden of developing the platform.

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 following the company's purchase of NeXT, he ordered that the OS that had been previewed as version 7.7 be branded Mac OS 8 (in place of the never-to-appear Copland OS). Since Apple had licensed only System 7 to third-parties, this move effectively ended the clone line. The decision caused significant financial losses for companies like Motorola, who produced the StarMax; Umax, who produced the SuperMac; and Power Computing, who offered several lines Mac clones, including the PowerWave, PowerTower, and PowerTower Pro. These companies had invested substantial resources in creating their own Mac-compatible hardware. Apple bought out Power Computing's license, but allowed Umax to continue selling Mac clones until their license expired, as they had a sizeable presence in the lower-end segment that Apple did not.


The iMac G3, introduced in 1998. While it led Apple's return to profitability, the associated mouse was one of consumers' least favorite products.

In 1998, Apple introduced its new iMac which, like the original 128K Mac, was an all-in-one computer. Its translucent plastic case, originally Bondi blue and later various additional colors, is considered an industrial design landmark of the late 1990s. The iMac did away with most of Apple's standard (and usually proprietary) connections, such as SCSI and ADB, in favour of two USB ports. It replaced a floppy disk drive with a CD-ROM drive for installing software, but was incapable of writing to CDs or other media without external third-party hardware. The iMac proved to be phenomenally successful, with 800,000 units sold in 139 days. It made the company an annual profit of US$309 million, Apple's first profitable year since Michael Spindler took over as CEO in 1995. This aesthetic was applied to the Power Macintosh and later the iBook, Apple's first consumer-level laptop computer, filling the missing quadrant of Apple's "four-square product matrix" (desktop and portable products for both consumers and professionals). More than 140,000 pre-orders were placed before it started shipping in September, and by October proved to be a large success.

In early 2001, Apple began shipping computers with CD-RW drives and emphasized the Mac's ability to play DVDs by including DVD-ROM and DVD-RAM drives as standard. Steve Jobs admitted that Apple had been "late to the party" on writable CD technology, but felt that Macs could become a "digital hub" that linked and enabled an "emerging digital lifestyle". Apple would later introduce an update to its iTunes music player software that enabled it to burn CDs, along with a controversial "Rip, Mix, Burn" advertising campaign that some felt encouraged media piracy. This accompanied the release of the iPod, Apple's first successful handheld device. Apple continued to launch products, such as the unsuccessful Power Mac G4 Cube, the education-oriented eMac, and the titanium (and later aluminium) PowerBook G4 laptop for professionals.

The original iMac used a PowerPC G3 processor, but G4 and G5 chips were soon added, both accompanied by complete case redesigns that dropped the array of colors in favour of white plastic. As of 2007, all iMacs use aluminium cases. On January 11, 2005, Apple announced the Mac Mini, priced at US$499, making it the cheapest Mac.

Mac OS continued to evolve up to version 9.2.2, including retrofits such as the addition of a nanokernel and support for Multiprocessing Services 2.0 in Mac OS 8.6, though its dated architecture made replacement necessary. Initially developed in the Pascal programming language, it was substantially rewritten in C++ for System 7. From its beginnings on an 8 MHz machine with 128 KB of RAM, it had grown to support Apple's latest 1 GHz G4-equipped Macs. Since its architecture was laid down, features that were already common on Apple's competition, like preemptive multitasking and protected memory, had become feasible on the kind of hardware Apple manufactured. As such, Apple introduced Mac OS X, a fully overhauled Unix-based successor to Mac OS 9. OS X uses Darwin, XNU, and Mach as foundations, and is based on NeXTSTEP. It was released to the public in September 2000, as the Mac OS X Public Beta, featuring a revamped user interface called " Aqua". At US$29.99, it allowed adventurous Mac users to sample Apple's new operating system and provide feedback for the actual release. The initial version of Mac OS X, 10.0 "Cheetah", was released on March 24, 2001. Older Mac OS applications could still run under early Mac OS X versions, using an environment called " Classic". Subsequent releases of Mac OS X included 10.1 "Puma" (September 25, 2001), 10.2 "Jaguar" (August 24, 2002), 10.3 "Panther" (October 24, 2003) and 10.4 "Tiger" (April 29, 2005).

Transition to Intel

The MacBook Pro, the first Mac notebook to use an Intel processor, released in 2006.

Apple discontinued the use of PowerPC microprocessors in 2006. At WWDC 2005, Steve Jobs revealed this transition, also noting that Mac OS X was always developed to run on both the Intel and PowerPC architectures. All new Macs now use x86 processors made by Intel, and some were renamed as a result. Intel-based Macs running OS X 10.6 and below (support has been discontinued since 10.7) can run pre-existing software developed for PowerPC using an emulator called Rosetta, although at noticeably slower speeds than native programs. The Classic environment is unavailable on the Intel architecture, though. Intel chips introduced the potential to run the Microsoft Windows operating system natively on Apple hardware, without emulation software such as Virtual PC. In March 2006, a group of hackers announced that they were able to run Windows XP on an Intel-based Mac. The group released their software as open source and has posted it for download on their website. On April 5, 2006, Apple announced the availability of the public beta of Boot Camp, software that allows owners of Intel-based Macs to install Windows XP on their machines; later versions added support for Windows Vista and Windows 7. Classic was discontinued in Mac OS X 10.5, and Boot Camp became a standard feature on Intel-based Macs.

Starting in 2006, Apple's industrial design shifted to favor aluminium, which was used in the construction of the first MacBook Pro. Glass was added in 2008 with the introduction of the unibody MacBook Pro. These materials are billed as environmentally friendly. The iMac, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac Mini lines currently all use aluminium enclosures, and are now made of a single unibody. Chief designer Jonathan Ive continues to guide products towards a minimalist and simple feel, including eliminating of replaceable batteries in notebooks. Multi-touch gestures from the iPhone's interface have been applied to the Mac line in the form of touch pads on notebooks and the Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad for desktops.

In recent years, Apple has seen a significant boost in sales of Macs. This has been attributed, in part, to the success of the iPod and the iPhone, a halo effect whereby satisfied iPod or iPhone owners purchase more Apple equipment, as well as the use of Intel microprocessors. From 2001 to 2008, Mac sales increased continuously on an annual basis. Apple reported worldwide sales of 3.36 million Macs during the 2009 holiday season. As of Mid-2011, the Macintosh continues to enjoy rapid market share increase in the US, growing from 7.3% of all computer shipments in 2010 to 9.3% in 2011. On February 24, 2011, Apple became the first company to bring to market a computer that utilized Intel's new Thunderbolt (codename Light Peak) I/O interface. Using the same physical interface as a Mini DisplayPort, and backwards compatible with that standard, Thunderbolt boasts two-way transfer speeds of 10 Gbit/s.

Timeline of Macintosh models

iPhone iPod

Product line

Compact Consumer Professional
Desktop Mac Mini
Mac mini.png
Entry-level desktop that ships without keyboard, mouse, or monitor; uses Intel Core i5 or Intel Core i7 processors
Imac 16-9.png
All-in-one available in 21.5" and 27" models; uses Intel Core i5 or Intel Core i7 processors
Mac Pro
Macpro BW.png
Highly customizable workstation desktop; uses Intel Xeon processors
( MacBook)
MacBook Air
MacBook Air.png
11.6" and 13.3" models; uses Intel Core i5 or Intel Core i7 processors
MacBook Pro
Macbook Pro PSD.png
13.3" and 15.4" models; uses Intel Core i5 or Intel Core i7 processors
Server Mac Mini Server
Mac mini.png
An additional Mac Mini configuration that ships with Mac OS X Server installed.
Mac Pro Server
Macpro BW.png
An additional Mac Pro server configuration that ships with Mac OS X Server installed.

Hardware and software


An iMac G5 with its back panel removed

Apple directly sub-contracts hardware production to Asian original equipment manufacturers such as Asus, maintaining a high degree of control over the end product. By contrast, most other companies (including Microsoft) create software that can be run on hardware produced by a variety of third-parties such as Dell, HP/ Compaq, and Lenovo. Consequently, the Macintosh buyer has comparably fewer options.

The current Mac product family uses Intel x86-64 processors. Apple introduced an emulator during the transition from PowerPC chips (called Rosetta), much as it did during the transition from Motorola 68000 architecture a decade earlier. The Macintosh is the only mainstream computer platform to have successfully transitioned to a new CPU architecture, and has done so twice. All current Mac models ship with at least 2  GB of RAM as standard. Current Mac computers use ATI Radeon or nVidia GeForce graphics cards as well as Intel graphics built into the main CPU. All current Macs (except for the MacBook Air, Mac Mini, and MacBook Pro with Retina Display) ship with an optical media drive that includes a dual-function DVD/CD burner. Apple refers to this as a SuperDrive. Current Macs include two standard data transfer ports: USB and FireWire (except for the MacBook Air, which does not include FireWire). MacBook Pro, iMac, MacBook Air, and Mac Mini computers now also feature the "Thunderbolt" port, which Apple says can transfer data at speeds up to 10 gigabits per second. USB was introduced in the 1998 iMac G3 and is ubiquitous today, while FireWire is mainly reserved for high-performance devices such as hard drives or video cameras. Starting with the then-new iMac G5, released in October 2005, Apple started to include built-in iSight cameras on appropriate models, and a media centre interface called Front Row that can be operated by an Apple Remote or keyboard for accessing media stored on the computer. Front Row has been discontinued as of 2011, however, and the Apple Remote is no longer bundled with new Macs.

Apple was initially reluctant to embrace mice with multiple buttons and scroll wheels. Macs did not natively support pointing devices that featured multiple buttons, even from third parties, until Mac OS X arrived in 2001. Apple continued to offer only single button mice, in both wired and Bluetooth wireless versions, until August 2005, when it introduced the Mighty Mouse. While it looked like a traditional one-button mouse, it actually had four buttons and a scroll ball, capable of independent x- and y-axis movement. A Bluetooth version followed in July 2006. In October 2009, Apple introduced the Magic Mouse, which uses multi-touch gesture recognition (similar to that of the iPhone) instead of a physical scroll wheel or ball. It is available only in a wireless configuration, but the wired Mighty Mouse (re-branded as "Apple Mouse") is still available as an alternative. Since 2010, Apple has also offered the Magic Trackpad as a means to control Macintosh desktop computers in a way similar to laptops.


The original Macintosh was the first successful personal computer to use a graphical user interface devoid of a command line. It used a desktop metaphor, depicting real-world objects like documents and a trashcan as icons onscreen. The System software was introduced in 1984 with the first Macintosh and renamed Mac OS in 1997. It continued to evolve until version 9.2.2. In 2001, Apple introduced Mac OS X, based on Darwin and NEXTSTEP; its new features included the Dock and the Aqua user interface. During the transition, Apple included an emulator known as Classic, allowing users to run Mac OS 9 applications under Mac OS X 10.4 and earlier on PowerPC machines. The most recent version is Mac OS X v10.7 "Lion." In addition to Lion, all new Macs are bundled with assorted Apple-produced applications, including iLife, the Safari web browser and the iTunes media player. Apple introduced Mac OS X 10.7 in 2010, and it was made available in the summer of 2011. Lion includes many new features, such as Mission Control, the Mac App Store (available to Mac OS X v10.6.6 "Snow Leopard." users by software update), Launchpad, an application viewer and launcher akin to the iOS Home Screen, and Resume, a feature similar to the hibernate function found in Microsoft Windows.

Historically, Mac OS X enjoyed a near-absence of the types of malware and spyware that affect Microsoft Windows users. Mac OS X has a smaller usage share compared to Microsoft Windows (roughly 5% and 92%, respectively), but it also has secure UNIX roots. Worms, as well as potential vulnerabilities were noted in February 2006, which led some industry analysts and anti-virus companies to issue warnings that Apple's Mac OS X is not immune to malware. Increasing market share coincided with additional reports of a variety of attacks. Apple releases security updates for its software. In early 2011, Mac OS X experienced a large increase in malware attacks, and malware such as Mac Defender, MacProtector, and MacGuard were seen as an increasing problem for Mac users. At first, the malware installer required the user to enter the administrative password, but later versions were able to install without user input Initially, Apple support staff were instructed not to assist in the removal of the malware or admit the existence of the malware issue, but as the malware spread, a support document was issued. Apple announced an OS X update to fix the problem. An estimated 100,000 users were affected.

Originally, the hardware architecture was so closely tied to the Mac OS operating system that it was impossible to boot an alternative operating system. The most common workaround, used even by Apple for A/UX, was to boot into Mac OS and then to hand over control to a program that took over the system and acted as a bootloader. This technique was no longer necessary with the introduction of Open Firmware-based PCI Macs, though it was formerly used for convenience on many Old World ROM systems due to bugs in the firmware implementation. Now, Mac hardware boots directly from Open Firmware (most PowerPC-based Macs) or EFI (all Intel-based Macs), and Macs are no longer limited to running just Mac OS X.

Following the release of Intel-based Macs, third-party platform virtualization software such as Parallels Desktop, VMware Fusion, and VirtualBox began to emerge. These programs allow users to run Microsoft Windows or previously Windows-only software on Macs at near native speed. Apple also released Boot Camp and Mac-specific Windows drivers that help users to install Windows XP or Vista and natively dual boot between Mac OS X and Windows. Though not condoned by Apple, it is possible to run the Linux operating system using Boot camp or other virtualization workarounds.

Because Mac OS X is a UNIX-like operating system, borrowing heavily from FreeBSD, many applications written for Linux or BSD run on Mac OS X, often using X11. Apple's smaller market share than Microsoft's means that a smaller range of shareware is available, but many popular commercial software applications from large developers, such as Microsoft's Office and Adobe's Photoshop are ported to both Mac OS and Windows. A large amount of open-source software applications, like the Firefox web browser and the office suite, are cross-platform, and thereby also run natively on the Mac.


Apple hyped the introduction of the original Mac with their " 1984" commercial that aired during that year's Super Bowl. It was supplemented by a number of printed pamphlets and other TV ads demonstrating the new interface and emphasizing the mouse. Many more brochures for new models like the Macintosh Plus and the Performa followed. In the 1990s, Apple started the "What's on your PowerBook?" campaign, with print ads and television commercials featuring celebrities describing how the PowerBook helps them in their businesses and everyday lives. In 1995, Apple responded to the introduction of Windows 95 with several print ads and a television commercial demonstrating its disadvantages and lack of innovation. In 1997, the Think Different campaign introduced Apple's new slogan, and in 2002 the Switch campaign followed. The most recent advertising strategy by Apple is the Get a Mac campaign, with North American, UK, and Japanese variants.

Apple introduces new products at "special events" hosted at the Apple Town Hall auditorium, and at keynotes at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference. Formerly, it also announced new products at trade shows like the Apple Expo and the Macworld Expo. The events typically draw a large gathering of media representatives and spectators, and are preceded by speculation about possible new products. In the past, special events have been used to unveil Apple's desktop and notebook computers, such as the iMac and MacBook, and other consumer electronic devices like the iPod, Apple TV, and iPhone. The keynotes as well as provide updates on sales and market share statistics. Apple has begun to focus its advertising on its retail stores instead of these trade shows; the company's last Macworld keynote was in 2009.

Market share and user demographics

Since the introduction of the Macintosh, Apple has struggled to gain a significant share of the personal computer market. At first, the Macintosh 128K suffered from a dearth of available software compared to IBM's PC, resulting in disappointing sales in 1984 and 1985. It took 74 days for 50,000 units to sell. Market share is measured by browser hits, sales and installed base. If using the browser metric, Mac market share has increased substantially in 2007. If measuring market share by installed base, there were more than 20 million Mac users by 1997, compared to an installed base of around 340 million Windows PCs. Statistics from late 2003 indicate that Apple had 2.06 percent of the desktop share in the United States that had increased to 2.88 percent by Q4 2004. As of October 2006, research firms IDC and Gartner reported that Apple's market share in the U.S. had increased to about 6 percent. Figures from December 2006, showing a market share around 6 percent (IDC) and 6.1 percent (Gartner) are based on a more than 30 percent increase in unit sale from 2005 to 2006. The installed base of Mac computers is hard to determine, with numbers ranging from 5% (estimated in 2009) to 16% (estimated in 2005). Mac OS X's share of the OS market increased from 7.31% in December 2007 to 9.63% in December 2008, which is a 32% increase in market share during 2008, compared with a 22% increase during 2007.

By March 2011, OS X market share in North America had increased to slightly over 14%. Whether the size of the Mac's market share and installed base is relevant, and to whom, is a hotly debated issue. Industry pundits have often called attention to the Mac's relatively small market share to predict Apple's impending doom, particularly in the early and mid 1990s when the company's future seemed bleakest. Others argue that market share is the wrong way to judge the Mac's success. Apple has positioned the Mac as a higher-end personal computer, and so it may be misleading to compare it to a budget PC. Because the overall market for personal computers has grown rapidly, the Mac's increasing sales numbers are effectively swamped by the industry's expanding sales volume as a whole. Apple's small market share, then, gives the impression that fewer people are using Macs than did ten years ago, when exactly the opposite is true. Soaring sales of the iPhone and iPad mean that the portion of Apple's profits represented by the Macintosh has declined in 2010, dropping to 24% from 46% two years earlier. Others try to de-emphasize market share, citing that it is rarely brought up in other industries. Regardless of the Mac's market share, Apple has remained profitable since Steve Jobs' return and the company's subsequent reorganization. Notably, a report published in the first quarter of 2008 found that Apple had a 14% market share in the personal computer market in the US, including 66% of all computers over $1,000. Market research indicates that Apple draws its customer base from a higher-income demographic than the mainstream personal computer market.

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