The Mac (called Macintosh until 1999) is a family of personal computers designed and built by Apple. Macs are known for their ease of use and distinctive aluminium, minimalist design, and are popular among students, creative professionals, and software engineers. The current Mac lineup includes the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro laptops, and the iMac, Mac mini, Mac Studio and Mac Pro desktop computers. Macs run the macOS operating system.
The first Mac was released in 1984 under the name Macintosh, and was advertised with Apple's now-famous 1984 ad. The Mac has undergone four major transitions: from Motorola 68k to PowerPC processors, from Classic Mac OS to Mac OS X, from PowerPC to Intel x86 processors, and from Intel to Apple silicon processors. Today, Macs share the same ARM architecture as iOS devices; Apple silicon's performance and power efficiency has been described as "impressive" by AnandTech.
In 1979, Apple employee Jef Raskin, envisioned an easy-to-use, low-cost computer for the average consumer. He wanted to name the computer after his favorite type of apple, the McIntosh (// MAK-in-tosh). In 1983, Apple licensed the rights to the Macintosh name from audio equipment manufacturer McIntosh Laboratory, and in 1986, bought the trademark outright.: 87
See also: History of Apple Inc.
The first Macintosh, unveiled in 1984, was the first successful mass-market all-in-one personal computer with a graphical user interface, built-in screen, and mouse. It was pivotal in starting the desktop publishing revolution. It had an all-in-one design, and pioneered the graphical user interface (GUI), and was described as a "revolution" by the New York Times. Steve Jobs partially took the inspiration for the GUI from Xerox PARC, an R&D institute that had partnered with Apple.
Over the 1980s, the Macintosh became dominant among creative professionals and in schools. Apple continued to release new models, including the PowerBook lineup, which were the first portable computers with the keyboard behind a palm rest and a built-in pointing device (a trackball) in front of the keyboard. The second generation of Powerbooks was the first laptop in the world to have a trackpad, built-in Ethernet, stereo speakers, and an integrated expansion bay. System 7 introduced virtual memory and co-operative multitasking. Apple discontinued the use of Frog design's Snow White design language, and brought hardware design in-house with the Apple Industrial Design Group.
In 1994, Apple abandoned Motorola CPUs in favor of the RISC PowerPC architecture developed by the AIM alliance of Apple, IBM, and Motorola. The Power Macintosh line, the first to use the new chips, proved to be highly successful, with over a million PowerPC units sold in nine months. In 1994, Apple's marketshare fell to 8.5% compared to market leader Compaq's 10.3%. Even after the transition to the superior PowerPC-based lineup in the mid-1990s, the falling prices of Wintel PCs, poor inventory management with the Macintosh Performa, and the release of Windows 95 contributed to continued decline of the Macintosh's market share. Apple's computers competed against Macintosh clones, hardware manufactured by third parties to whom Apple had licensed System 7, which cannibalized the sales of Apple's higher-margin Macintoshes.
For years, Apple had "desperately" tried to develop a successor to the aging Mac OS, which lacked proper multitasking and memory protection, and was prone to crashes. Executives eventually settle on acquiring Steve Jobs's NeXT in order to base their next-generation Mac OS on NextSTEP, which had a modern Unix architecture. Following the company's purchase of NeXT, Steve Jobs returned to Apple on February 7, 1997. Though he was initially brought in as a "adviser", he rapidly gained significant influence, and was appointed interim CEO on September 16, 1997. Jobs simplified the notoriously complex Mac product line down to only four products: an unnamed consumer laptop (later revealed to be the iBook), the PowerBook, the iMac, and the Power Mac, in order to "put the A-team" on each one and simplify marketing. All were successful due to their high performance, competitive prices and aesthetic designs, and helped return Apple to profitability. Apple also stopped licensing Mac OS to Macintosh clone manufacturers,: 256  and changed the lineup's name from Macintosh to Mac. Apple completed the elimination of the Macintosh product name in 1999 when "Power Macintosh" was retired with the introduction of the Power Mac G4.
The iMac G3 all-in-one computer was introduced in 1998. Its translucent plastic case is considered an industrial design landmark of the late 1990s, credited to Apple design chief Jony Ive. It was first available in Bondi Blue; the second revision came in Blueberry, Grape, Tangerine, Lime, and Strawberry colors. The iMac's colorful appeal, ease-of-use, and Internet capabilities were central to its marketing, leading the Associated Press to call it "futuristic" and "eye-catching". The iMac did away with the SCSI and proprietary ADB connectors, in favor of two USB ports. It replaced a floppy disk drive with a CD-ROM drive for installing software. The iMac proved to be wildly successful, with 800,000 units sold in 139 days. It made the company an annual profit of US$309 million, Apple's first profitable year since Michael Spindler took over as CEO in 1995. However, the iMac's bundled USB Mouse was widely criticized for its non-traditional "hockey puck" shape. The iMac's aesthetic was applied to the Power Macintosh G3 and later the iBook, which completed Apple's four-product computer lineup. More than 140,000 preorders were placed for the iBook before it began shipping in September, and by October it was already the highest selling portable computer in the U.S. In 2000, Apple released the Power Mac G4 Cube. Despite its innovative design, it was initially priced US$200 higher than the comparably-powerful and more expandable Power Mac G4, while also not including a monitor, resulting in slow sales, and its later discontinuation in 2001.
Following Apple users' and developers' increasing discontent from Mac OS's technical rot, and missing features like preemptive multitasking and protected memory, Apple introduced the long-awaited Mac OS X in 2001, a fully overhauled Unix-based successor to the Classic Mac OS. Mac OS X uses Darwin, XNU, and Mach as foundations, and is based on NeXTSTEP and FreeBSD. A Mac OS X Public Beta was released in September 2000, featuring a revamped user interface called "Aqua". The initial version of Mac OS X, version 10.0 "Cheetah", was released on March 24, 2001. Older Mac OS applications could still run under early Mac OS X versions, using an environment called Classic. Subsequent releases of Mac OS X included 10.1 "Puma" (2001), 10.2 "Jaguar" (2002), 10.3 "Panther" (2003) and 10.4 "Tiger" (2005).
At Macworld 2001, Steve Jobs unveiled his new "digital hub" strategy, focused on helping users organize and create multimedia content. Over the following years, this effort culminated into the iLife softwaer suite, which included iTunes, iMovie, GarageBand, iDVD, and iWeb, allowing consumers to easily listen to music, edit videos, create songs, burn homemade films to DVDs, and create websites respectively. iTunes's "Rip, Mix, Burn" ad campaign was criticized by some, who claimed it encouraged media piracy. This accompanied the release of the iPod portable music player, Apple's first successful mobile device. iTunes was later expanded with the launch of the iTunes Music Store in 2003, rapidly taking over the market and profoundly changing the music industry, which had been beset by widespread piracy.
Apple continued to launch products, such as the education-oriented eMac, and the PowerBook G4 notebook aimed at professionals. The iMac G3 was later succeeded by the "Sunflower" iMac G4, and the flat iMac G5, both of which dropped the array of colors in favor of white plastic. On January 11, 2005, Apple announced the Mac Mini, priced at US$499, making it the cheapest Mac.
At WWDC 2005, Steve Jobs announced that all Macs would switch to Intel processors, revealing that Mac OS X was developed to run internally on both the Intel and PowerPC architectures since 2001. The transition aimed to make the company's computers more power-efficient and competitive with Wintel PCs. The PowerPC G5 chip's heavy power consumption and heat output (the Power Mac G5 had to be liquid-cooled) had prevented its use in Mac notebooks and the Mac mini, which were forced to use the older and slower PowerPC G4 chip. The transition allowed Apple to add more powerful multicore processors to its notebooks and increase their battery life. The Rosetta translation layer enabled users to continue running PowerPC apps until its removal in Mac OS X Lion. The Intel transition led to a continuous increase in the Mac's market share. Intel chips also allowed users to run Microsoft Windows natively on Mac hardware. In March 2006 a group of hackers announced that they were able to run Windows XP on an Intel-based Mac. On April 5, 2006, Apple released a public beta of Boot Camp, software that allowed users to install Windows XP on their Mac. Later versions added support for Windows Vista and Windows 7.
Starting in 2006, Apple's industrial design shifted to favor aluminum, which was used in the construction of the first MacBook Pro. In 2008, the second-generation MacBook Pro switched to glass and a new, sturdier aluminium unibody design. These materials are billed as environmentally friendly. Design chief Jony Ive guided products towards a minimalist and simple feel, including the elimination of replaceable batteries in notebooks.
Following the release of the iPhone, Apple announced a multi-year effort to bring many iPhone innovations "back to the Mac", including multi-touch gesture support with new trackpads, the Magic Mouse, and the Magic Trackpad; instant wake from sleep, and flash storage.
On February 24, 2011, Apple became the first company to release a computer that supported Intel's new Thunderbolt I/O interface. Using the same physical interface as a Mini DisplayPort, and backwards compatible with that standard, Thunderbolt 1 boasted two-way transfer speeds of 10 Gbit/s.
At WWDC 2012, the new MacBook Pro with Retina display was announced, with a thinner body, faster CPUs and GPUs, a higher pixel density display similar to the iPhone's, MagSafe 2, and quieter impeller fans on the 15” model. It received mostly positive reviews, with Nilay Patel of The Verge calling it “one of the best displays to ever ship on a laptop”, although other reviewers criticized the lack of some ports and the removal of the SuperDrive. In November 2012, the iMac was redesigned to feature significantly thinner side edges, faster processors, and the removal of the SuperDrive.
On WWDC 2013, the new Mac Pro was unveiled, with Phil Schiller saying “Can't innovate anymore, my ass!” in response to critics stating that Apple could not innovate without Jobs. It had an entirely new design, being much smaller, with a glossy dark gray cylindrical body, with a thermal core in the middle, with the components of the Mac built around it. It was praised for its power and "futuristic" design, with some pro users criticizing its lack of upgradability and the removal of expansion slots.
The iMac was refreshed with a 5K Retina display in 2014, making it the highest-resolution all-in-one desktop computer at release. The MacBook was brought back in 2015, with a completely redesigned aluminum unibody chassis, a 12” Retina display, fanless low-power Intel Core M processor, a much smaller logic board, a new Butterfly keyboard, a single USB-C port, and a solid-state Force Touch trackpad with pressure sensitivity. It was praised for its portability, but criticized for its lack of performance, the need to use adapters to use most USB peripherals, and a high starting price of $1299.
In 2015, Apple began a service program to repair a widespread GPU defect in the 2011 15” MacBook Pro, which could lead to graphic artifacts or prevent the machine from working entirely. The same year, the MacBook Pro was updated to have more battery life, faster flash storage and the same Force Touch trackpad as the MacBook.
The fourth generation MacBook Pro was released at an Apple Special Event in October 2016, with a thinner design, the replacement of all ports except the headphone jack with Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports, the Butterfly keyboard from the MacBook, P3 wide color gamut display, and the Touch Bar, an touchscreen OLED display strip replacing the function keys and the escape key on some models of the MacBook Pro, with a UI that changes and adapts depending on the application being used. It also replaces the power button with a Touch ID sensor on models with the Touch Bar. It was released to mixed reviews, with most reviewers criticizing the Touch Bar, which made it harder to use the function keys by feel, as it had no tactile feedback. The Thunderbolt 3 ports and need to buy "dongles" were also a source of frustration for many users, especially pro users who rely on USB-A devices and SD cards. A few months later, many users reported a problem with stuck keys and letters being skipped or repeated. iFixit identified the cause as being dust or food crumbs getting under keys and jamming them. Due to the Butterfly keyboard being riveted into the case, users had no choice but to take the machine to an Apple Store or authorized service center for keyboard repairs.
After years had gone by without the Mac Pro getting any meaningful updates, Apple executives admitted in 2017 that the 2013 Mac Pro did not meet expectations, and that they had designed themselves into a "thermal corner", preventing them from releasing a planned dual-GPU successor. The yearslong keyboard issue on MacBook Pros, Apple's abandonment of the Aperture pro app, and the lack of Mac Pro upgrades led declining sales, and a widespread belief that Apple was no longer commited to pro users. Apple unusually unveiled their future pro product roadmap, announcing the future iMac Pro as a stopgap, and an upcoming expansible next-generation Mac Pro. The iMac Pro was revealed at WWDC 2017 with Intel Xeon W processors and Radeon Vega graphics. In 2018, Apple refreshed the MacBook Pro with faster processors and a third-generation Butterfly keyboard, and redesigned the MacBook Air with a Retina display, Butterfly keyboard, Force Touch trackpad, and Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports.. The third-genereation Butterfly keyboard added silicone gaskets to prevent dust and small objects from obstructing keys, but many users continued to experience issues. Apple launched a program to repair affected keyboards free of charge. Higher-end models of the 2018 MacBook Pro 15” had a flaw where the Core i9 processor would get uncomfortably hot, with YouTuber Dave Lee recording a maximum temperature of 93 degrees Celsius under load, and thermal throttled to the point it was slower than the 2017 15” MacBook Pro with a Core i7 CPU. Apple patched this issue by releasing a supplemental update to High Sierra, blaming a "missing digital key" in the thermal management firmware. After installing the patch, Dave Lee noted that the MacBook Pro alleviated the issues, now not being nearly as hot.
The 2019 MacBook Pro and MacBook Air featured a new Magic Keyboard, which successfully fixed previous reliability issues. The Touch Bar and Touch ID were also made standard on all MacBook Pros, and the escape key was detached from the Touch Bar and returned to being a physical key. At WWDC 2019, then VP of hardware engineering John Ternus revealed the all-new Mac Pro, with a far more upgradabile design, introducing a new expansion module system (MPX) and an optional Afterburner card. Almost every part is user-replaceable, with iFixit giving it a 9/10 repairability score. It received positive reviews, with reviewers praising the modularity and upgradability, and quiet cooling, while also meeting the demands of professionals who were unsatisfied with the previous generation Mac Pro.
In April 2018, Bloomberg published rumors stating that Apple intended to drop Intel chips and replace them with ARM processors similar to those used in its phones, causing Intel's shares to fall 6%. The Verge, commenting on the rumors, stated that such a decision made sense, as Intel was failing to make any significant improvements to its lineup and could not compete for battery life with ARM chips.
At WWDC 2020, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced the transition to Apple silicon, built upon an ARM architecture, over a two-year timeline. Apple also unveiled a Develop Transition Kit (DTK) for developers to port their apps to ARM, and the Rosetta 2 translation layer enabling Intel apps to run on Apple silicon Macs. On November 10, 2020, Apple announced their first chip, the M1, and the first Macs to ship with Apple silicon: the MacBook Air, Mac Mini, and the 13" MacBook Pro. These new Macs received immensely positive reviews, with most reviewers praising their longer battery life, lower heat, and improved performance compared to the previous generations.
The iMac Pro was quietly discontinued on March 6, 2021 after only receiving two minor updates. On April 20, 2021, a new 24” iMac M1 was revealed, featuring seven new colors, thinner white bezels, and an enclosure made entirely from recycled aluminum. On October 18, 2021, Apple announced new 14" and 16" MacBook Pros featuring a notch, mini-LED 120 Hz ProMotion display, MagSafe, HDMI and SD card ports, and a high-impedance headphone jack. They can be equipped with either a M1 Pro or M1 Max chip.
On March 8, 2022, the Mac Studio was revealed, featuring more powerful M1 Max or M1 Ultra chips in a similar footprint to the Mac mini. The M1 Ultra model's CPU is more performant than even the 28-core Intel Xeon W Mac Pro, while being much more efficient and compact. It was introduced alongside the Studio Display, replacing the 27” iMac, which was discontinued on the same day. On June 6, 2022, at WWDC 2022, Apple announced an updated MacBook Air based on a new M2 chip. It incorporates several changes from the 14" MacBook Pro, such as a flat, slab-shaped design, full-sized function keys, MagSafe charging, and a Liquid Retina display, with rounded corners and a notch for a 1080p webcam.
|Timeline of Macintosh model families|
Source: Glen Sanford, Apple History, apple-history.com
|Current Mac laptops|
13.6" M2 (shown)
14.2" M1 Pro, M1 Max
16.2" M1 Pro, M1 Max (shown)
|Current Mac desktops|
Small form factor desktop
Small form factor desktop workstation
Customizable desktop workstation
24" 4.5K display M1
4th gen: M1
3rd gen: Intel Core i5, i7
1st gen: Apple M1 Max or Ultra
3rd gen: Intel Xeon W
The original Macintosh was marketed at Super Bowl XVIII with the now-famous 1984 ad made by Ridley Scott, who had previously directed Blade Runner. The ad alludes to George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, and symbolizes Apple's desire to "rescue" humanity from the conformity of computer industry giant IBM. The ad was later considered a "watershed event" and a "masterpiece." Before the Macintosh, high-tech marketing catered to industry insiders rather than consumers, and as a result, journalists covered technology like the "steel or automobiles", with articles written for a highly technical audience. The Macintosh launch event "pioneered" event marketing techniques that have become "widely emulated" in Silicon Valley, by creating a mystique about the product and giving an inside look into a product's creation. Apple also took a new "multiple exclusives" approach regarding the press, giving "over one hundred interviews to journalists that lasted over six hours apiece," and introduced a new "Test Drive a Macintosh" campaign.
Apple's brand, which established a "heartfelt connection with consumers", is cited as one of the keys to the Mac's success. After Steve Jobs's return to the company, he unveiled the Think Different ad claiming the legacy of pioneers like Albert Einstein, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., with Steve Jobs saying: "if they ever used a computer, it would have been a Mac." The Think Different campaign was critically acclaimed, and won many awards including the 1998 Emmy Award for Best Commercial and the 2000 Grand Effie Award for most effective campaign in America.
Apple's design ethos holds a central role in Mac product marketing. By giving Macs iconic designs, Apple gives a "human face" to technology products. The design of Mac products is a major focus of media coverage; for example, the original iMac (1998) was called "futuristic" and "eye-catching" by the Associated Press, and its ease of use was central to its marketing. For a long time, Apple has secured very prominent product placements of Macs in high-profile movies and shows, like Mission: Impossible, Legally Blonde, and Sex and the City. Apple notably does not allow moviemakers to show villains using Apple products. Apple TV+ shows feature MacBooks prominently.
The Mac is well known for its high brand loyalty. In 2022, the American Customer Satisfaction Index gave the Mac the highest customer satisfaction score, at 82/100. Apple is currently in the fourth largest personal computer vendor, with 8.9% market share..
Apple contracts hardware production to Asian original equipment manufacturers such as Foxconn and Pegatron, maintaining a high degree of control over the end product. By contrast, most other companies (including Microsoft) create software that can be run on hardware produced by a variety of third parties such as Dell, HP Inc./Hewlett-Packard/Compaq, and Lenovo. Consequently, the Macintosh buyer has comparably fewer options but has superior integration compared to a Microsoft buyer.
Most of the current Mac product family uses ARM-based Apple silicon processors. The MacBook Air, the MacBook Pro, the iMac, Mac mini, and Mac Studio use the Apple-designed chips, which have been praised for their performance and power efficiency. Rosetta 2 is a translation layer that allows Apple silicon Macs to run Intel apps, in order to maintain the broad array of software available for the platform. The Mac is the only mainstream computer platform to have successfully transitioned to a new CPU architecture, and has done so twice. All current Mac models ship with at least 8 GB of RAM, and have high-speed Thunderbolt connectivity, also known as USB 4, with speeds up to 40Gb/s. All of Apple's machines except the Mac Pro use integrated graphics built into the Apple silicon chip. Apple's notebooks are charged with either USB-C or MagSafe connectors depending on the model.
Apple offers many accessories for the Mac, including the Studio Display and Pro Display XDR external monitors, AirPods Pro and AirPods Max headphones, and peripherals like the Magic Keyboard with Touch ID, and the multi-touch Magic Trackpad and Magic Mouse.
Main article: macOS
Macs run the macOS operating system, which was first introduced in 2001. Within the market of desktop and laptop computers it is the second most widely used desktop OS, after Microsoft Windows and ahead of ChromeOS. macOS is based on Darwin and NeXTSTEP, and is a Unix operating system that borrows heavily from FreeBSD. macOS features the Aqua user interface, which has been described as "highly intuitive". Macs integrate deeply with other Apple devices, including the iPhone and iPad, through Continuity features like Handoff, Sidecar, Universal Control, and Universal Clipboard.
There are many popular Mac apps; including cross-platform apps like Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Cloud, Mathematica, Ableton Live, and Cinema 4D. Apple has also developed several apps for the Mac, including Final Cut Pro, Logic Pro, iWork, GarageBand and iMovie. A large amount of open-source software applications, like Firefox, LibreOffice, GIMP, and command-line programs, are cross-platform, and thereby also run natively on macOS. Many applications written for Linux or BSD also run on macOS, often using X11. Apple's official integrated development environment (IDE) for macOS is Xcode.
The current version of macOS is macOS Monterey, released on October 25, 2021.