In 1998, when Apple introduced the iMac, they made two major changes to the computing world - besides using colors and a new shape - the company was the first to standardize on USB, and in a big shocker, to dump the ubiquitous floppy disk drive. The world was in pure shock that Apple could have done that - and many were sure that all in Cupertino were daft. But as the years passed, USB itself grew market share by leaps and bounds, and that daring leap Apple took by axing the disk drive looked tame. As the Internet grew in popularity, people learned to e-mail files as attachments and avoid sneakernet, while floppy disks just about disappeared into the vault of antiquity.
With the introduction of the first-generation iBook, and its accompanying partner, AirPort, Apple ushered in the era of wireless networking, and though others, like Intel (Centrino) have capitalized on this trend, Apple was first to the table. Apple's foray into new technologies with Gigabit Ethernet, hybrid CD-R/DVD-R burners (SuperDrive), hard-disk MP3 players (iPod) and even faster wireless (802.11n), continues to be a good indicator as to what will come next from the broader industry.
While the common analyst response is to downplay a new technology, then offer lukewarm acceptance, nodding approval and finally adoption and praise, Apple commonly doesn't look for wide acceptance before taking the leap - and every once in a while, it gets it wrong. But not often enough that Cupertino can be ignored.
For instance, with ThinkSecret's news today that Apple's yet to be released iPhone would be native to Cingular at introduction, speculation has risen that Apple will push GSM standards forward in the US, after the technology has had significant foothold overseas. GigaOM speculates, as we have outlined above, that Apple just might be the standard setter after all. Not bad for a company everyone thought was dead just a decade ago.
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