How Did Apple Get So Big?

On August 2, 2018, Apple made history by becoming the first publicly traded U.S. company to be valued at $1 trillion, as measured by market capitalization. In August of 2020, the company broke records again by becoming the first U.S. company to reach a $2 trillion market cap. Apple (AAPL) hovered just below that level as of early October 2020.

Since 2010, Apple has been one of the most valuable companies in the world. It stayed at or near the top for many years after that. The reason Apple is so highly valued is simple on the surface: the company makes popular products with generous margins. However, a curious reader who digs a little deeper will find mistakes, overthrown CEOs, and much more. In this article, we’ll look at the story behind Apple’s success.

Key Takeaways

  • Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak co-founded Apple in 1977, introducing first the Apple I and then the Apple II.
  • Apple went public in 1980, but Jobs eventually left—only to triumphantly return several years later.
  • Apple’s success lies in a strategic vision that transcended simple desktop computing to include mobile devices and wearables.
  • Both performance and design are key drivers of the Apple brand and its ongoing success.

From Apple I to Steve Jobs 2.0

Understanding why Apple became so successful requires looking back at its origins and history. From the first Apple computer (the Apple I, which was just a motherboard without a monitor or keyboard) to the latest iWatch, here is a brief overview of the chronology of Apple’s innovative products.

Apple, founded by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, started out in the business of kit computers with the Apple I. This initial production run is popular as a collectible now. However, it will mainly be remembered for helping the company get enough capital to build the Apple II in 1977—the same year Apple officially incorporated. Wozniak primarily built both these computers, and Jobs handled the marketing side.

The Apple II drove the company’s revenue until the mid-1980s, despite the hardware remaining largely the same. Apple attempted updates like the Apple III and the Apple Lisa, but these failed to catch on…