Microsoft didn’t kill Apple. HP Did. Apple Helped.

Note: the following is opinion, based on my personal experiences over the last 20 years in the corporate and academic worlds, using Macs and PCs alike.

In the early days of the Mac, Apple had a chance.  A very good chance.  Many big businesses were already accustomed to the slick interface of Xerox ViewPoint workstations, and the Mac offered a very good facsimile of them.  People found them easy to use, they were comparably priced, and they ran all the popular software (such as WordPerfect and Quattro, and even some Lotus 1-2-3 variant).  But then something happened that made business communication look respectable.  HP brought out a relatively inexpensive laser printer that worked only with MS-DOS or PC-DOS machines.  It’s not that HP didn’t want to work with Macs, Apple wouldn’t open the architecture to let them.  Up to this point, most business printing was done on 9-pin dot matrix printers, which looked crappy.   Quality printing had to be done via a huge client-server beast that had a central printer somewhere in the basement.  HP brought that quality printing to the desktop.  But only for the platforms that wanted it.  At this time in history, PCs were still relatively rare, so being able to communicate from your PC and have it look as good as they IBM Selectric was very desirable.  Business wanted the high quality laser printing in a bad way, but it would be another couple of years before Apple would bring out their first LaserWriter.  By then, it was vastly inferior to its counterpart, the veritable HP LJ III (some of which I’m sure are still being used somewhere).  Even though it would be many more years before Windows 95 would be released, DOS and OS/2 -based machines were already deeply entrenched in businesses.  It would be nearly 10 years before HP’s laser printers could be used with Macs that weren’t on a network.  And by then, it was way to late.  Was Mac a better interface than DOS?  Hell yeah.  But DOS had better printers.  Say what you will about Microsoft’s backroom deals, but IMHO, it was really a combination of a printer and a very closed technology that kept Apple out of the business market.