Ten things Apple killed, and why it was right
5. The button-based phone
Talking of the iPhone, it also killed the mobile phone as we’d known it until 2007: a long brick, pebble-dashed with buttons. Overnight, mobile phones that looked like that were replaced by mobile phones that looked exactly like the iPhone. A bit too exactly with some of Samsung’s, eh m’lud?
The only people who missed the old-school mobiles were people who liked to text fast without looking. Over-represented among corporate executives and rioters, these are the people who kept BlackBerry alive until… well, best Google the latest news when you read this.
6. Software in boxes
Having killed the floppy, Apple went on to remove the DVD drive, simply because its laptops – and, finally, even its desktops – became too thin to accommodate it. That left no medium from which to install software, hastening the industry’s shift to downloads.
When the App Store was launched for the iPhone in 2008, it was pretty much all over for boxed software. It survives, however, in the games market, where charging for a physical disk helps to reduce the need for the game or the vendor’s servers to actually work.
Introduced in 2006, iWeb was Apple’s way of helping non-techies design and host a website. Lots of people took it up. Then, in 2011, Apple replaced all of its internet-related services with iCloud. iWeb was not among its features.
Given moves towards clean code, responsive web design and content management platforms, iWeb had begun to seem dated. But users understandably felt let down.
One of them emailed Steve Jobs asking if it was really true that all their time and effort would now be wasted. His reply, in full: “Yep.”
8. The hard disk-based iPod
It wasn’t quite the first device of its kind, but when Apple launched the iPod in 2001, it had one amazing advantage over other “MP3 players”, as your granny called them.
Instead of a flash memory chip with room for a few dozen songs, it had a miniature hard disk with room for a thousand.
Of course, nobody really wanted an iPod because it could store more tracks – they wanted it because it looked cool and gave them a reason to say the word “iPod” like they were in the future. But the 1,000-song thing justified the price.
So iconic was the iPod that Apple preserved it in carbonite as the iPod Classic while flash memory evolved to let smaller, lighter and cheaper iPods store plenty of music, and later video and apps.
Eventually, it started to look embarrassing and, in 2014, Apple shouted “look, it’s the iPhone 6!” while putting the iPod Classic in a bin behind its back. We shall not see its like again. But the iPod touch is way better, to be honest.
9. The 30-pin dock connector
During the launch of the iPhone 5 in September 2012, Apple’s Phil Schiller announced a brand new connector to replace the 30-pin dock that had “served us well for almost a decade”.
Fibber. With its sharp edges, fussy spring-grip lugs and USB-like ability to always be the wrong way round, the 30-pin plug had actually been a nine-year experiment in cognitive dissonance.
Even so, Schiller was met with the worst reaction from an Apple keynote crowd: total silence. Nobody wanted a new connector. We wanted all our old accessories to keep working.
But Lightning was a huge improvement, which will make it all the more gutting if the iPhone 8 ends up replacing it with USB Type-C after we’ve all paid £200 for new headphones.
Remember OpenDoc? Probably not, unless you were closely following Apple during the 1990s.
OpenDoc was a framework to store content in common formats. If that sounds boring, you weren’t closely following Apple during the 1990s. You don’t even know boring.
For years, every time Apple partnered with anyone, it would end up trying to shoehorn OpenDoc into the project, which would then die horribly. It was the tech collaboration equivalent of “feat. Iggy Azalea”.
One of Steve Jobs’ first acts after returning to Apple in 1997 was to kill OpenDoc, fire most of the employees involved with it, burn their desks, salt the earth and nuke the facility from orbit.
This meant third-party apps that depended on it were also doomed. At the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference, one of their makers took issue with Jobs.
Steve memorably responded with a riff on how Apple had become “a farm with all these animals going in different directions”. “Focusing is about saying no,” he concluded. “When you say no, you piss off people. [But] the result of that focus is great products.”
OpenDoc developers still thought he was a dick, but it was a great speech.