Apple bigger than Microsoft AND Intel? What is that about?


I don’t know that there’s a whole lot of significance there, other than a certain amount of irony, and some bragging rights for Steve Jobs.


The venue where Jobs is likely to do the bragging is World Wide Developers Conference 2011. Unless I have lost track of when that is supposed to happen, it’s set to begin Monday—so by the time you read this, it will have opened several days ago. And probably Steve Jobs will have told the world about iOS 5 (operating system for mobile devices), OSX Lion (latest cat in the Operating System 10 lineup, successor to Snow Leopard) and iCloud.


I saw a report, today, that Apple’s worth is greater than the combined worth of the two companies that used to be so connected, business-wise, marketing-wise. They were so welded together, in their marketing and prospects, that together they comprised the major computing platform. It was walled Wintel.


Personal computers, PCs, were based on Intel processors. The operating system used on by far the greatest number of PCs was Windows.


There were mainframe computers and midis, but those kept receding as local area networks, LANs, came to the fore.


Personal computers were made primarily by IBM, for quite a while, but then along came the “compatibles.” They had Intel chips and ran Windows, too, but cost significantly less than IBM models. They, too, were on the Wintel platform.


But that situation changed, beginning ages ago, in computer technology years. Other processor makers came into the picture and became major players. I rooted for them, liking the idea of the monopoly being broken. And indeed, that was among the factors that kept bringing the prices of PCs down. Whenever I had a system built, I specified AMD processor(s).


As for Intel, it was delighted to market to other computer makers, and for other platforms. Intel was particularly pleased to strike a bargain with Apple whereby Intel chips would be used in some models. Then there was a platform we might call OStel, or maybe Inple. Apple’s new generation of operating systems, OS-X, was optimized for certain Intel processors.


Alas, poor Moto! Many generations of Apple computers had utilized Motorola chips. The first Macs had Motorola 6000 chips, and there followed Apple Macintoshes with 6020, 6030 and 6040 processors. Names of models reflected the processor series, actually. For instance, a Mac Quadra has a 6040 processor.


For a while there were models with Motorola processors and Apples with Intel ones, and finally, Intel was the standard for Apple. That’s one reason I see no real significance in the statement that the worth of Microsoft and the worth of Intel, combined, does not equal that of Apple.


For years the success of a computer platform was tied closely to its use in the business world. PCs came to be the type used in nearly all industries. Apple had quite an advantage for a while, in schools K-12, and in the publishing world.


An Apple for the teacher came to mean that when computers entered the classroom, they were used by teachers. Wintel computers weren’t, for the most part.


But as computer labs and computers used by students became common in secondary schools, those computers were PCs. Apples were still popular for elementary school use.


That has changed, to the point most schools use PCs, desktops and laptops, all the way, and PCs are used by the administration as well as for instructional purposes. Apple computers are still used in much of the print publishing industry.


Apple’s business triumph is much more about other kinds of products than about computers. Computer-wise, Apple has been an adopter of existing technology that had promise, but did not innovate much. But Apple has managed to come up with the coolest, most appealing and consumer-friendly specimens in each important genre where they saw an opportunity to grab market share.


Apple didn’t invent small MP3 players, nifty cell phones or slate/tablet computers. They produced mondo cool ones, and marketed them very well.


All those i-Something products have had the look and the functionality that consumers found attractive. There are whole product categories where Apple has not been active; but where the company has decided to concentrate, it has excelled to the point of becoming the standard.


Thought of as a type of computer, or as a gadget, the iPad has come into business and professional use. As other tablets or slates come to market, that dominance is diminishing. Already there is strong competition, some of it from Motorola (sweet revenge?). The Android, Honeycomb and Gingerbread OS tablets will add to the selection and drive the price point ever lower.


E Skype lilimartini.