Jason Snell notes that the iMac’s strongest legacy was Apple itself:
The company was close to bankruptcy when Jobs returned, and the iMac gave the company a cash infusion that allowed it to complete work on Mac OS X, rebuild the rest of the Mac product line in the iMac’s image, open Apple Stores, make the iPod, and set the tone for the next twenty five years.
I’m currently reading The Dao of Capital, which is all about the Austrian school of economics and the roundaboutness of true entrepreneurs, and this made what Apple is doing even more salient. Can you name a more roundabout tech company than Apple? To be clear, I suspect little of this was premeditated in the long term — i.e. no, Jobs and Ive probably did not have a Vision Pro in mind as the ultimate goal when they thought of the iMac — but the ethos of seeing everything as a potential intermediary and not commoditizing it fully à la Samsung is very much the Apple way. Using the iMac as the intermediate step towards the iPod, which was itself an intermediate step towards the iPhone, which was supposedly to be an intermediate step towards the iPad but turned into something much greater, though it also did end up being an intermediate step towards Apple silicone, all the while peppering these intermediary products with technology — LiDAR, ultra-wide lenses, spatial audio — that would become the key building blogs of Vision Pro, which is itself an intermediary towards who knows what. Very Austrian.
Thinking more closely to home, I can think of a few biotech companies that may be doing something like this — maybe, if you squint — but none come close. The addiction to immediate profits that the distorted American health care market provides is much too great.(↬Daring Fireball)