October 24-31: Sculley's Gift to Microsoft, Panther Released
Published October 31st, 2004

This week in 1985, Apple CEO John Sculley committed his biggest mistake of his tenure at Apple. Indeed, this mistake may well have doomed Apple to play second fiddle to Microsoft in the world of GUI-driven OSes. At the very least it allowed Microsoft to not have to innovate its way into this market, but rather to surf Apple's coattails into the big time.

What was this mistake? It was licensing the look and feel of the Mac OS to Microsoft, though really it was in allowing that license to be interpreted as a license covering Microsoft in perpetuity, instead of merely for version 1.0 of Windows, which is what Mr. Sculley thought he was doing. This was a huge, massive mistake that allowed Microsoft to lift wholesale elements from the Mac OS for Windows.

Though Apple would fight this in court, suing Microsoft for copyright infringement, that case would eventually be dismissed by a US court because of this license agreement signed by Apple in 1985. This story is a complex one, and unless you've read about it from a source like Owen's Apple Confidential 2.0, you likely don't know the whole tale.

This week in 1993, Apple introduced the odd Mac TV, an all-in-one Mac with a built-in TV tuner.

Seven years later, Apple introduced the very cool MessagePad 200 and the eMate 300. Read below for details on these Newton products.

Lastly, it was this week in 2003 that Apple released Panther, Mac OS X 10.3, the best personal computing operating system the planet has as yet seen.

You can find more information on many of the entries below in Owen Linzmayer's excellent Apple Confidential 2.0. The other entries can be found in TMO's archives, and we link to articles whenever we can.1981:

October 24-31

1985: Four days before Bill Gates turns 30 years old, Apple CEO John Sculley hands him the best birthday present ever: an agreement allowing Microsoft to use some Mac technology in Windows 1.01, in return for delaying the shipment of a Windows version of Excel. Mac sales were far below Apple's initial forecasts, and Sculley feared things would only get worse if Microsoft curtailed its Mac application development efforts. In hindsight, this one decision would be instrumental in allowing Microsoft to legally dominate the operating system market with what most considered to be an inferior Mac OS knock-off.

1993: Apple introduces the US$2,079 Mac TV. Code-named Peter Pan, the Mac TV is an odd experiment for Apple. It is essentially a black Mac LC 550 with a built-in TV tuner, allowing you to watch 16-bit television on the 14-inch Trinitron monitor. The Mac TV is also notable in that it is the last desktop Mac model with a 68030 CPU.

Along with the Mac TV, Apple also introduces the Mac Color Classic II (also know as the Performa 275), first in Canada, and subsequently in Asia and Europe. The Color Classic II has the same motherboard design of the LC III with a 33MHz 68030, but it is enclosed in the compact upright form factor along with a built-in 10-inch color monitor.

1996: Apple announces the MessagePad 2000 and eMate 300, both running the new Newton 2.1 operating system. The US$949 MessagePad 2000 (code-named Q) is hailed as “the first in a new generation of handheld, mobile Internet computers.” Built for life on the road, the 1.4-pound device is a complete mobile computer for the business professional, with a full range of personal productivity and desktop connectivity applications powered by a 160MHz StrongARM processor.

The US$800 eMate 300 (code-named Project K, Schoolbook, and Shay), is essentially a MessagePad 2000 encased in a translucent green, ABS-plastic enclosure in the shape of a clamshell with a handle, protecting a built-in keyboard. Apple restricts sales of the eMate 300 to the education market.

2001: The day after releasing to manufacturing the Mac OS X 10.1 version of Office v. X (US$499), Microsoft announces the worldwide availability of Windows XP Professional (US$199) and Home (US$99) editions. Apple's first major update to Mac OS X-the US$129 version 10.1-hit shelves the previous month.

2003: Apple releases Mac OS X 10.3, code-named Panther. The US$129 major update features a new Finder with Sidebar and Toolbar, Exposé, iChat AV, fast user switching, FileVault, Font Book, faxing, and Xcode.