Best of 2000s: Apple's 10 Most Unforgettable Moments

01
of 11

Apple's 10 Most Unforgettable Moments

Steve Jobs with iPhone
Jon Furniss / WireImage / Getty Images

Deciding on the best of Apple in the 2000s was not an easy task. I selected memorable events from each year, from the year 2000 to 2009. If anything really juicy happens in December, we'll have to edit the list and make it the Top Eleven Best or Worst Events in the 2000s for Apple.

In the meantime, here are what I think are the 10 most memorable events for Apple in the past decade. They struck me as important because they impacted technology, customers, or popular culture. Some don't fit neatly into any category, but are just too interesting to pass up.

When you go through my list, think back to how some of the events affected you, your friends, or your business.

With that in mind, drum roll please…

The Ten Best or Worst Events in the 2000s for Apple

Listed by year, starting with 2000:

  1. Steve Jobs Becomes Permanent CEO
  2. PowerMac Cube
  3. OS X Operating System
  4. iPod
  5. iTunes Music Store
  6. Apple Switches to Intel
  7. Motorola ROKR
  8. iPhone
  9. Steve Jobs Takes Leave of Absence, Undergoes Liver Transplant
  10. Apple Abandons Macworld Trade Show
02
of 11

Steve Jobs Becomes Permanent CEO

Apple's 10 Most Unforgettable Moments: Steve Jobs Becomes Permanent CEO
Steve permanently took over the reins as Apple CEO in 2000. Courtesy of Apple

Steve Jobs Becomes Permanent CEO. In the late 1990s, Apple looked for a permanent CEO to replace Gil Amelio, who left the company in disarray in 1997. Gil had done at least one good thing: persuading Apple to buy Steve Jobs' Next Software. Along with Next, and many of its engineers, came Steve Jobs himself, returning to the company that he originally co-founded. After Gil left, the Apple board named Steve Jobs as the interim CEO. During the 2-½ year search for a permanent CEO, Steve was paid a token $1 a year in salary.

Also during those 2-½ years, Apple did a complete turnaround, based largely on Steve Jobs and new Apple products like the iMac and iBook.

During the 2000 Macworld event in San Francisco, Steve Jobs announced that he was taking the reins of Apple once again, as the full-time CEO, dropping the 'interim' portion of his job title. Steve joked that his new title would be iCEO, due to the huge success of the iMac, iBook, and other products.

03
of 11

PowerMac Cube

Apple's 10 Most Unforgettable Moments: PowerMac Cube
PowerMac G4 Cube. Courtesy of Apple

In the summer of 2000, Steve Jobs unveils his newest creation: the PowerMac Cube.

The Cube contained a G4 PowerPC processor, a slot-loading CD-RW, or a DVD reader. It also had a single AGP slot to house the video card, and built-in FireWire and USB ports. The entire system was contained within an 8x8 cube, which was then housed in a clear acrylic enclosure that added two inches of height, lifting the Cube off the surface to allow air to flow into its bottom vents. The Cube had no fan, and was silent in operation.

The Cube's aesthetics were a winner, but it suffered from lackluster sales and a tendency to overheat. In addition, early models were notorious for developing cracks in the acrylic shell. It also didn't help that the Cube was priced higher than the desktop PowerMac G4, which was more expandable and more powerful.

The Cube was never discontinued. Instead, Apple suspended production in July of 2001, bringing a quick end to a system for which Apple seemed to have completely misread the market.

04
of 11

OS X Operating System

Apple's 10 Most Unforgettable Moments: OS X Operating System
OS X 10.0. Courtesy of Apple

On March 24, 2001, Apple released OS X 10.0 (Cheetah). Available for $129, OS X marked the beginning of the end for the classic Mac OS, and the rise of a new OS based on a UNIX underpinning.

In order to maintain compatibility with the large number of OS 9 applications in use, OS X was able to run a special 'Classic' compatibility mode that allowed OS 9 apps to run.

The initial release of OS X was not without its faults. The OS was slow, it had system requirements that many existing Macs were not be able to meet without upgrades, and it had a user interface that was dramatically different from the OS 9 interface that Mac users knew and loved.

But even with its faults, OS X 10.0 introduced Mac users to new features that would become second nature to end users: the Dock, a new way of organizing applications; Aqua, the new bold-color user interface, with 'lickable' buttons, a reference to brightly colored window buttons that Steve Jobs made during its introduction; Open GL; PDF; and, new for Mac users, protected memory. You could now run multiple applications without any application affecting the rest if it failed.

While OS X 10.0 had many problems, it created the foundation that all versions of OS X have since been built upon.

05
of 11

iPod

Apple's 10 Most Unforgettable Moments: iPod
First generation iPod. Courtesy of Apple

2001 was a banner year for Apple products. Perhaps the most important of these was unveiled on October 23, 2001. The iPod was Apple's answer to the portable music player also known as an MP3 player, a reference to the popular music format used to transfer and share music at the time.

Apple was looking for products to help drive sales of Macintoshes. At the time, iMacs were popular computers in college dorms, and Mac users were trading MP3 music left and right. Apple wanted to add a music player that would be a reason to continue to buy iMacs, at least for the college and younger crowd.

Apple started by looking at existing music players, possibly with the goal of acquiring the company that made them, and rebranding the players as its own. But Steve Jobs and company couldn't find any existing product that wasn't too big and clunky, too small, or didn't have a user interface that was “unbelievably awful” (a comment possibly made by Steve Jobs at the introduction of the iPod).

So Steve said go forth and build me a portable music player. And they did. And the rest is history.

Oh, the iPod name? Rumor has it the name came from a copywriter who was reminded of the pods in the movie '2001: A Space Odyssey' when he saw one of the prototypes.

06
of 11

iTunes Music Store

Apple's 10 Most Unforgettable Moments: iTunes Store
The iTunes Store. Courtesy of Apple

iTunes as a music player for the Macintosh has been available since 2001. But the iTunes Store was something completely new: An online store that allowed music fans to purchase and download their favorite music, by the song or by the album.

While the concept wasn't new, Apple was able to do something no one else had been able to do successfully: persuade all the major record labels to sell downloadable music online from a single store.

During the Macworld San Francisco 2003 keynote address, Steve Jobs said, "We were able to negotiate landmark deals with all of the major labels." The iTunes Store launched with 200,000 music tracks from the five major record labels, with each track costing 99 cents, no subscription required.

The initial version of the iTunes Store allowed users to preview a 30-second segment of any song, download music for use on up to three Macs, and transfer the music to any iPod. It also allowed unlimited burning of music tracks to CDs.

07
of 11

Apple Switches to Intel

Apple's 10 Most Unforgettable Moments: Apple Switches To Intel
Intel Core i7 processor used in the late 2009 27-inch iMac. Intel

“Mac OS X has been leading a secret double life the past five years,” said Steve Jobs at the World Wide Developers Conference held in San Francisco in June of 2005.

The secret life he referred to was that engineers at Apple had been testing OS X on Intel-based hardware ever since it was first developed. With this revelation, Apple stopped using PowerPC processors from IBM and Motorola, and changed to Macintoshes based on Intel processors.

Apple used processors from Motorola in the early years of the Macintosh, and then made a change to PowerPC processors designed by a coalition of Motorola and IBM. Apple was now making a second change to new processor architecture, but this time, the company chose to hitch itself to the leading processor manufacturer, and the same chips used in PCs.

The move was undoubtedly caused by the failure of the PowerPC G5 processor to keep up in the performance race with Intel. In the summer of 2003, Apple released its first PowerPC G5 Macs. At 2 GHz, the G5 Mac outperformed Intel PCs running at 3 GHz. But in the following two years, the G5 fell far behind Intel, and never moved beyond 2.5 GHz in speed. In addition, the G5 design was a power-hungry monster that Apple was never able to shoehorn into a laptop model. Something had to give, and looking back, the move to Intel was one of Apple's best decisions of the decade.

08
of 11

Motorola ROKR

Although technically the ROKR is a Motorola product, this re-badged E398 candybar-style phone represents Apple's first foray into the cellular phone market.

Motorola and Apple worked together to bring Apple's iTunes music system to the ROKR, but the two companies were never able to work together in a seamless manner. Motorola didn't want to make a lot of changes in the E398 to accommodate music playback, and Apple didn't like the interface.

The phone used a 512 MB microSD card, but was restricted by its firmware to only allow 100 iTunes songs to be loaded at any one time. The reasons for the restriction are somewhat speculative, but it's likely that either Apple didn't want the ROKR to be competitive with its iPods, or the record labels didn't want music tracks making the leap from a controlled iPod environment to a cell phone device that was perceived to be more open.

The ROKR was a failure, but Apple learned some valuable lessons, lessons it would apply to an upcoming new product.

09
of 11

iPhone

Apple's 10 Most Unforgettable Moments: iPhone
The original iPhone. Courtesy of Apple

First announced at the January 2007 Macworld in San Francisco, and released the following June, the iPhone marked Apple's major move into the smartphone market.

In the U.S. market, the original version of the iPhone was exclusive to AT&T, and ran on AT&T's EDGE cellular network. Available in 4 and 8 GB models, the iPhone had a touch-based interface with a single button that took users back to the home screen.

The iPhone incorporated Apple's iPod music player and provided the ability to view movies, TV shows, and videos, capture and display photos, and run applications.

In its original incarnation, the iPhone only supported web-based applications, but within a short time developers were writing native code applications. Apple embraced iPhone developers soon after, providing iPhone SDKs (Software Developer Kits) and development tools.

The iPhone was a runaway success. Follow-on models addressed the shortcomings of the original version, upgrading speed, adding more memory, and creating an application base that rivals anything available for other smartphones.

10
of 11

Steve Jobs Takes Leave of Absence, Undergoes Liver Transplant

It had been the topic of conversation ever since 2008's World Wide Developers Conference. Steve Jobs looked gaunt, thin, and tired, and speculation ran rampant. This wasn't the first time Steve had been ill. In 2004, he underwent successful surgery for a rare form of pancreatic cancer.

This led many to wonder if the cancer had returned, and speculation wasn't discouraged when Bloomberg news mistakenly ran an obituary for Steve. During the winter months leading up to Macworld 2009, Steve said his problem was a private matter, but that in essence it was a trivial health issue that could be corrected by diet.

In early January 2009, Steve sent an email to Apple employees announcing that he was stepping down from his position as CEO to take a six-month leave of absence. In the email, Steve said:

“Unfortunately, the curiosity over my personal health continues to be a distraction not only for me and my family, but everyone else at Apple as well. In addition, during the past week, I have learned that my health-related issues are more complex than I originally thought.

In order to take myself out of the limelight and focus on my health, and to allow everyone at Apple to focus on delivering extraordinary products, I have decided to take a medical leave of absence until the end of June.”

It was later learned that in April 2009, Steve Jobs underwent a liver transplant, but was still planning to return in June as scheduled.

Steve did return in June, worked on a part-time basis throughout the summer, and made a public appearance in September, taking the stage to introduce new iPods, updated iTunes software, and more.

11
of 11

Apple Abandons Macworld Show

Apple and Macworld had been participating in one or more annual expos and conferences since 1985. Originally held in San Francisco, MacWorld was later expanded to a semi-annual show held in Boston in the summer and San Francisco in the winter. The Macworld show was the ultimate gathering for the Mac faithful waiting for new Mac product announcements each year.

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple, the Macworld expo took on new meaning, because the keynote address, usually delivered by Steve, became the highlight of the event.

The relationship between Apple and Macworld started to show strain in 1998 when, under pressure from Apple, Macworld was moved from Boston to New York. Apple wanted the move because it believed New York was the center for publishing, one of the Mac's major uses.

The New York shows never sold well, however, and the owners of Macworld moved the summer event back to Boston in 2004. Apple refused to attend the Boston show, which was halted after the 2005 Macworld.

The Macworld San Francisco show continued with Apple as the main participant until December 2008, when Apple announced that the 2009 Macworld San Francisco show would be the last it would participate in.

It's believed that Apple pulled out of the show because its products and services were moving beyond the core of Macintosh computers for which the show was intended.