Week in review: Apple marks three decades

Apple Computer marks 30 years in existence as if it were just another day at the office.

Like the co-worker who doesn't seem to want a big deal made of an upcoming birthday, Apple Computer marked its 30 years in existence as if it were just another day at the office.

But for Apple fans, the world changed when Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak decided to shift their focus from making devices for free long-distance calls to making computers. In the three decades since its founding, Apple Computer has grown from a tiny start-up to a household name and cultural icon known as much for its iPod digital-music players as its computers.

CNET News.com looks back on a wild ride that saw Apple fall from the top of the tech heap in the 1990s as Microsoft grew into the largest software company in the world and PC makers such as Compaq Computer and IBM came to dominate the industry. Compaq now exists only as a brand name sold by Hewlett-Packard, IBM no longer makes PCs, and Apple is enjoying perhaps its finest hour.

As part of the retrospective, CNET News.com shows the evolution of Apple computers and their early fonts and graphics, and examines their radical shift to a graphical user interface. Also, Mac fans share photos and stories about how Apple has affected their lives.

After News.com invited readers to share memories and impressions of their experience with Apple products, the TalkBack forum filled with plenty of feedback.

"After using OS X, I cannot imagine going back to the Windows platform," Clay Morrison wrote in the forum. "And I really feel sorry for anyone who still uses it."

While consumers reflected on Apple's innovation and leadership, the company announced that it would lose one of its core leaders. Avie Tevanian, the man who led software development efforts at Apple for nearly a decade, is leaving the company. Tevanian joined Apple in 1997, after serving as head of engineering for Steve Jobs' start-up Next.

Apple this week also had some some legal business to take care of. Attorneys representing the company returned to court in London to battle another lawsuit from the company that controls the Beatles' music catalog. Apple Corps claims that Apple Computer's use of its fruit-shaped logo in promoting its iTunes Music Store violates an earlier trademark agreement.

The , which also has heard plenty of litigious noise over the volume control on its iPods, released a free software update for some iPods that lets listeners set a maximum volume limit. The update, available for video iPods and all iPod Nano models, also includes a parental-lock option. After setting the volume limit, parents can lock the setting with a combination code to prevent children from raising the maximum volume without their parents' knowledge.

Patent fights pending
In a dispute that's part of a broader debate over the future of the patent system, some U.S. Supreme Court justices suggested that the patent at the heart of a suit against eBay may be too vague and trivial to even be taken seriously. During oral arguments that lasted about an hour, Justice Stephen Breyer suggested that if eBay's "Buy It Now" feature could be patented, "then maybe A&P could patent its process for a supermarket."

Patent holder MercExchange sued eBay in September 2001, accusing it of patent infringement through its use of the "Buy It Now" feature, which allows shoppers to halt the auction process and purchase items at a fixed price. A federal appeals court sided with MercExchange and granted it an injunction against eBay. The injunction is currently on hold.

When Research In Motion's wildly popular BlackBerry service faced a shutdown earlier this month, the legal spat in that case illustrated the potentially disruptive effects of court injunction based on patent infringements. In a case brought by eBay that the online auction site hopes will curb what it calls "near-automatic" injunctions, the U.S. Supreme Court is examining the question of when such court orders are appropriate.

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