Talking tech since 2003

Twenty years ago, product launches for tech products were not the media frenzied, lines around the corner events that they are today.  New tech products were quietly launched to a world waiting for something new to buy for Christmas.  But a handful of launches, media frenzied or not, shocked the world and changed the way the people interacted with each other, listened to music and purchased pretty much everything.  Here are our top six product launches that blew people’s minds:

Microsoft Windows 95

Windows 95: Windows may seem like a second-thought now, with newer versions seamlessly running in the background of millions of PCs, but when Windows 95 came out, it completely changed the way consumers used computers and how computers communicated with each other.  The most significant development was the Graphic User Interface with its simplified “plug-n-play” features as well as a true 32-bit design. Aside from the GUI developments, Windows 95 introduced numerous functions and features such as the taskbar, the ‘Start’ button, and the way the user navigates. You can see the visual difference between Windows 95 and its predecessor, Windows 3.1 below:

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Windows 95 quickly became the most popular desktop operating system in the world and drove competitive programs out of business including IBM’s OS/2, NeXTStep, and others. Microsoft’s actual “launch” of the product consisted of  a commercial featuring the Rolling Stones’ 1981 single “Start Me Up” (a reference to the Start button), which cost between $8 and $14 million for the use of the song.  If you want to experience a little nostalgia, you can see it here.

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People waiting in line to buy Windows 95.

Apple iPod

iPod & iTunes: Before the iPod, there were MP3 players.  They were cool, but what really made the iPod unique was iTunes, which transformed how we buy and listen to music.  The first iPod, which was released October 23, 2001, was a 5GB hard-drive-based music player priced for $399 that held 1,000 songs.   Its sleek, simple interface, and its ability to allow users to tote their entire music library in their pocket, made it the dominant player in the industry almost immediately. iPod and iTunes broke open the tightly controlled music industry and went head-t0-head with online piracy.  By 2010, iTunes was the largest music retailer on the planet and today has over 435 million users in 119 countries.  iPod has experienced a number of iterations and has sold over 350 million units to date.

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Apple iPhone

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People waiting in line for the original iPhone.

iPhone: We can’t mention the iPhone without first giving props to the PDA, or personal data assistant, which paved the way for the smartphone.  The first major developments came from Nokia, with their 9000 Communicator, and later Palm. But the iPhone, with its simple interface and multi-touch touchscreen, fundamentally changed the mobile industry.  iPhone OS was revolutionary as well, capable of handling robust tasks such multitasking and graphics.  Unlike Blackberry, Windows Mobile and Symbian, iPhone OS focused on applications and developers, allowing the development Apple’s App Store.  On June 29, 2007, the day the iPhone hit shelves, customers queued up hours before the store opened to purchase the device.  Apple sold 6.1 million 1st generation iPhone units over five quarters.  Sales in Q4 2008 surpassed temporarily those of BlackBerry sales of 5.2 million units, which made Apple briefly the third largest mobile phone manufacturer by revenue, after Nokia and Samsung.

Sony PlayStation 2

Playstation 2:  Sony’s PlayStation 2’s advanced graphics and superior games catapulted it to the top, making it the best-selling video game console of all time.  It was released on March 4, 2000, in Japan followed by North America and Europe later the same year. The sixth-generation console competed with the Sega Dreamcast, Microsoft Xbox, and Nintendo GameCube. The console used DVDs to store data, allowing it store nearly eight times that of the CD-ROMs that were used by its previous version.  Sony later manufactured several smaller, lighter revisions of the console known as “slimline” models, then in 2006 introduced the successor, the PlayStation 3, and this year will be releasing the PlayStation 4.

Apple iPad

iPad: Apple began taking pre-orders for the first-generation iPad from American customers on March 12, 2010 and the Wi-Fi version went on sale in the United States on April 3, 2010.  It was obvious that consumers wanted something more portable than a laptop when Apple announced that it had sold more iPads than Macs in the third quarter of 2010.  Even though tablet computers had already been on the market, including a number by HP and Asus, the iPad offered the same operating system and simplistic design that had drawn users to its other devices, making it the automatic next purchase for Apple users.  As far as lines for the launch go, they were minimal because the iPad was available online.  But the hard-core Apple fans still insisted on waiting outside the doors.

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People waiting in line to buy the original iPad.

Amazon Kindle

Kindle: Amazon’s Kindle did to books what iPod and iTunes did to music.  Skeptics said that no one would read a book on a tablet, but Kindle proved them wrong. Amazon was perfectly positioned to release an e-reader, as it was the largest online bookseller in the world.  When Amazon released the Kindle First Generation on November 19, 2007, for $399, it sold out in five and a half hours.  The device remained out of stock for five months until late April 2008.  In the last three months of 2010, Amazon announced that in the United States, their e-book sales had surpassed sales of paperback books for the first time.

Do you agree with the list? What would you add or remove? Leave a comment!


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