Thursday, June 30, 2011

The More Things Change...

The more they stay the same.
An interesting movement in the smart phone market is playing out between the Android OS phones and the iPhone. The Windows 7 phone that I thought would take much of the market share is out of the picture, because Microsoft can't figure out that it is the apps that make the phone, and for apps you need a centralized place to get them. Too little too late MS!!

Anyway, back in the good old days, Microsoft and Apple, lead by Steve Jobs, duked it out for OS supremacy on the PC. Apple insisted that you had to buy their hardware with their OS. Configuration and software development was strictly regulated. For innovations in hardware you had to wait for the latest generation of the Macintosh.
Microsoft, on the other hand, allowed their OS to be hardware agnostic. Many different hardware companies used the DOS OS. Hardware innovation moved out of the factory and directly to the consumer nearly directly. Software development and configuration was wide open.

The result of the War of the OS? Apple was nearly destroyed as a company, Microsoft actually saved the company to preserve their Office suite for Macs. Then, the iPod came out and revolutionized Apple as a company.

After the iPod gave Apple the revenue stream to thrive as a company the CEO, Steve Jobs again, went for a market that no one in a million years thought Apple would want to dive in to. Jobs wanted to combine the PC with the iPod, with the mobile phone. The result was the iPhone. It revolutionized the industry. The iPhone's touch screen interface changed all user interfaces to come. It shook up EVERYTHING. Just as an example of how far the revolution has gotten, even the complex GPS devices in aircraft avionic suites are now all touch screen based, with icons very similar to that of the iPhone.
Apple was again on the top of the heap, but they had a familiar restriction. The iPhone could not be customized and software development was restricted. You can only run the iOS on hardware that Apple provides.

The rest of the industry struggled to catch up, and an interesting thing happened. Google released their Android mobile phone OS. It was hardware agnostic. It could be configured in all sorts of different ways. Software development was wide open. BOOM!! The popularity of the phone took off as, just as in the OS wars, hardware innovations went directly to the Android consumer as hardware manufacturers vied for market share. Apple, again, was left to play catch up, implementing hardware changes on their latest phones that were already obsolete when the new version of the iPhone was in development.

As the release of the iPhone 5 looms sometime late Q3 early Q4 of 2011, speculation is that it will be delayed to upgrade hardware that the latest generations of the Android clones have already released. Apple is slipping, and will soon fall to the wayside just as they did when they lost the OS war. And it is for the very same reason.

I think this fatal flaw of Apple comes from its CEO, and spiritual leader, Steve Jobs. Steve is a control freak of epic proportions. His products must be his in all ways. Design, look, feel, configuration, and development. He can not stand the fact that someone other than him may want to change something so elementary as what tone is sounded when a text is received. iOS has been through many major and countless minor revisions, and STILL there are restrictions on this very basic function.

It was fun while it lasted Apple. I hope that some other company will be there to shake up the industry like you did, to drive the next generation of innovation. Perhaps they will be a little less control freakish and will allow the industry to feed off their innovation.

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