25 years ago, Steve Jobs launched the first iMac, saving Apple.

25 years ago, Steve Jobs launched the first iMac, saving Apple.

The iMac Launch: A Turning Point for Apple and Steve Jobs

It was May 1998, and Steve Jobs was about to launch the iMac, the computer that would pave the way for Apple’s remarkable comeback. The product was set to ship in August, 25 years ago this month. Jobs had chosen Steven Levy, then working for Newsweek, to get an exclusive first look at the iMac and spend time with him prior to the launch. This was a significant moment for Apple, as they were on the brink of bankruptcy and did not yet have the clout to demand a magazine cover. However, Jobs was particular about who would be photographing him, leading to some tension and last-minute compromises.

The photographer chosen for the behind-the-scenes images, Moshe Brakha, had to contend with Jobs’ initial resistance. Brakha, experienced in dealing with difficult subjects like Joni Mitchell and the Ramones, managed to calm Jobs and capture one of the most iconic shots of him for the Newsweek spread. Jobs’ skepticism was also directed at the portrait photographer chosen for the hero shot, as he had never heard of him before. Despite the initial challenges, Jobs recognized Brakha’s artistic talent and formed a bond during the photoshoot.

The iMac launch represented a turning point not only for Apple but also for Steven Levy’s relationship with Jobs. Levy had known Jobs since writing about the original Macintosh launch in 1984 and had covered his return to Apple in 1997. However, being granted an advance look at the iMac marked the beginning of a routine in which Levy would receive early peeks or personal briefings on every major product Apple released in the following decade. This access provided Levy with multiple interviews and behind-the-scenes experiences, including witnessing Jobs’ attention to detail and commitment to perfection.

During their conversations, Jobs shared his vision for bringing Apple back from the brink of failure. He believed that by returning to Apple’s roots as an innovator, the entire industry would benefit. Jobs emphasized the importance of a “whole-widget” strategy, where Apple designed their products from scratch, created software in-house, and marketed directly to consumers. This strategy, combined with the iMac’s unique design and standout features like a powerful G3 chip and built-in modem, ultimately paved the way for Apple’s resurgence.

The iMac was more than just a sleek computer. It simplified the process of accessing the internet, which was a frustrating experience for many at that time. Additionally, the iMac’s design, crafted by Jony Ive, stood out with its curvy translucent plastic and vibrant Bondi Blue color. It embodied Apple’s “Think Different” slogan and captured the imagination of consumers. The iMac was a symbol of Apple’s ability to combine innovation, simplicity, and design in one package.

As Levy reflected on his interviews with Jobs, he came across a forgotten exchange where Jobs hinted at a software strategy that would be revealed at the iMac’s official introduction. Jobs assured Levy that Newsweek would have the first great photographs of the iMac and an in-depth story about it, ensuring that the article would have a lasting impact. Twenty-five years later, this article is still remembered, with the photograph becoming one of the most iconic images of Steve Jobs.

The iMac’s success was driven by its simplicity, value, and design. However, the iMac of today is drastically different, both in terms of power and fun. It still bears the iMac name but no longer represents the same whimsical and groundbreaking spirit. The iMac G3 marked the beginning of Apple’s journey towards becoming the Apple we know today, with the iPhone being the pinnacle of their innovation. Jobs’ whole-widget strategy laid the foundation for Apple’s continued success, but his visionary leadership and attention to detail cannot be replicated.

As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the iMac, we remember the pivotal role it played in Apple’s history and the impact it had on Steven Levy’s relationship with Steve Jobs. The iMac’s launch signaled a turnaround for Apple, leading them on a path of innovation and success. While the iMac has evolved over the years, it remains a symbol of Apple’s commitment to pushing boundaries and creating products that inspire and delight.