iAM40: Four decades of Apple, company that changed the way we communicate

Apple celebrates its 40th birthday on Friday having risen from a three-man project in a California garage to the most valuable company in the world, estimated to be worth more than 700 billion US dollars (£486 billion).

An Apple iPod and iTunes
An Apple iPod and iTunes

Founders Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne created the company on April 1 1976 as they set about selling computer kits to hobbyists, each of which was hand-built by Mr Wozniak.

In contrast, today the company has more than 480 retail stores in 18 countries worldwide and reported income of more than 18 billion US dollars (£12.4 billion) for the first quarter of this year.

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The company also recently revealed that there are now more than one billion active Apple devices being used around the world.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs in 2004 at the launch of the world's first online music market in Europe

Chief executive Tim Cook described the figure as one “no-one could have imagined”, adding that it was an “indicator of how much impact Apple has on people around the world”.

The company’s journey to the summit of the technology industry has been a rocky one, having seen Mr Jobs leave the firm in the mid-1980s after his pet project, the first Macintosh computer, struggled and he attempted to oust then chief executive John Sculley.

However, he returned in 1997 when the company was in financial crisis and launched the iMac the following year, the first of a string of hardware products that also includes the iPod, iPhone and iPad, as well as the iTunes Store that cemented Apple’s place as an industry leader, before his death from cancer in 2011.

The iPhone 6 with an Apple Watch

Since then the firm has also launched its first wearable, the Apple Watch, and continued to see an increase in sales in its MacBook line of computers despite a global drop in PC sales. The Apple Music streaming service was also launched in 2015, gaining more than 10 million paying users since then.

However, Apple has also recently been at the centre of a battle with the US government and intelligence agencies over data encryption, with the technology firm refusing to help the FBI unlock an iPhone belonging to a terror suspect, claiming it violated user privacy and the process would make all iPhones more vulnerable.

The firm received backing from the wider tech community before the FBI gained third party help to access the phone and ended court proceedings.

The company’s 40th birthday was being marked by the launch of the iPhone SE and new smaller iPad Pro on Thursday, with the smartphone believed to be aimed at emerging markets such as China and India, not traditional targets for Apple, as the next phase of the firm’s history begins.

An iPad, Macbook and iPhone displaying iTunes

APPLE’S BIGGEST MILESTONES

The 40-year history of Apple has seen some of the most crucial moments in technology and some of the biggest product launches, lifting the firm from selling computer kits hand-built in a garage to selling more than 65 million iPhone 6 handsets in three months in 2014.

• April 1, 1976 - Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne found Apple Computer in the garage of Jobs’ parents’ house in Los Altos, California. Less than a year later, Mr Wayne sells his 10% stake for 800 dollars, a percentage that would be worth more than 70 billion dollars today.

• July 1976 - The company’s first product, the Apple I, is launched. It is little more than an assembled circuit board that comes without a keyboard, monitor or case and each is handmade by Mr Wozniak and priced at 666.66 dollars.

An Apple iPhone 5, MacBook Air and iPad Mini

• 1977 - The second-generation device, the Apple II, is launched at a computer fair. Later models are among the first devices to take advantage of the floppy disk drive as a means of storage.

• 1979 - During a visit to Xerox, Mr Jobs and other Apple staff see the company’s PARC interface, which uses boxes and windows as graphics, as well as virtual folders to organise items on the screen, instead of text that had been used up to this point. Mr Jobs immediately changes Apple’s focus to this type of look known as a graphical user interface (GUI), which is now universally used in computing.

• 1984 - Having been removed from the Apple Lisa (Local Integrated Software Architecture) team two years earlier for infighting, Mr Jobs launches his latest Apple project - the Macintosh. An advert for the device depicting George Orwell’s world of 1984 being shattered by the arrival of the Macintosh is shown during the Super Bowl, having been directed by Ridley Scott. The campaign was the beginning of Apple’s “Think Different” era that saw it take on the established market players.

• 1985 - After a strong start, Macintosh sales fall away, and Mr Jobs rows with chief executive John Sculley. After Mr Jobs reportedly plots a coup to remove him, the Apple board sides with Mr Sculley and strips Mr Jobs of his responsibilities. He resigns and immediately creates NeXT.

• 1993 - After a series of expensive product misses, the ill-fated Newton tablet launches. The device struggles and its handwriting recognition feature is even made the butt of a joke on The Simpsons. Mr Sculley is removed as chief executive and replaced by Michael Spindler. But he is replaced by Gil Amelio in 1996, who cuts costs and staff. Mr Amelio eventually decides to buy NeXT for its operating system, returning Mr Jobs to Apple.

• 1998 - Having replaced Mr Amelio as chief executive in July 1997, Mr Jobs’ first major launch since his return is the iMac. The desktop computer comes in a range of colours and is the first major product to be influenced by Jony Ive. It is a sales success and begins an era of new innovation at the firm.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs in 2004 at the launch of the world's first online music market in Europe

• 2001 - Attention turns to the music industry, as the first iPod is announced, which enables users to have “1,000 songs in their pocket” for the first time. It is followed by the iTunes Store in 2003, ushering in the age of digital downloads.

• 2007 - Moments after announcing the company was changing its name from Apple Computer to Apple Inc, Mr Jobs reveals the company’s first smart mobile device, the iPhone.

• 2010 - Having returned from medical leave following cancer treatment, Mr Jobs takes the stage again to introduce the much-rumoured iPad. Despite being initially questioned as a needless device, the tablet market soon explodes, with most of Apple’s rivals launching tablets of their own.

• Jan 2011 - Mr Jobs takes another leave of absence, this time indefinitely. Tim Cook assumes day-to-day control of Apple. Mr Jobs reappears in June to unveil iCloud, but this would be his last appearance. He then resigns as chief executive in August.

• October 5, 2011 - Mr Jobs dies of cancer at the age of 56.

• 2014 - The re-designed iPhone 6 and larger 6 Plus launch, with Apple selling 10 million in three days. The company also announces its first wearable - the Apple Watch.

• 2015 - Apple reports quarterly profits of £12.4 billion, breaking the global quarterly profit record for any public company. The Apple Watch goes on-sale.

• 2016 - The FBI gains a court order to have Apple help unlock an iPhone belonging to one of the Islamic State-linked San Bernardino shooters. Apple refuses to comply on privacy grounds and is backed by tech community. FBI then gets a third party help to unlock phone and drops the court order.

The iPhone 6 with an Apple Watch
An iPad, Macbook and iPhone displaying iTunes
An Apple iPhone 5, MacBook Air and iPad Mini