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The blogged wandering of Robert W. Anderson

Why Apple Won’t Dominate Next Gen Computing

Alex Iskold of ReadWriteWeb tells us Why Apple Will Dominate Next Gen Computing.  He is wrong.

Apple’s success isn’t about the software

Alex Iskold’s premise is that Apple’s software platform is superior, therefore they will dominate.  He says . . .

Apple’s secret sauce has been its software.

First off, this is not Apple’s secret sauce.  Apple’s not-so-secret sauce is their ability to deliver highly-polished total product: hardware + software + services + image.

Controlling the hardware and software is a baseline requirement for a company to do this, but they go beyond that to build beautiful, desirable, and highly functional total products.  A good part of this is observable beauty and another part is pure marketing genius: the creation of desire and belief in the hipness of the product. 

Compare Apple’s total product approach with . . .

  • Microsoft licenses Windows Mobile for a variety of devices, not being a handset manufacture, it doesn’t control the total product.  For example, Samsung Blackjack.  Popular phone?  Yes.  Windows Mobile a flop?  No, but for user experience it compares very poorly against the iPhone.
  • Microsoft licenses Windows Vista to a wide range of OEMs.  Same story.  A little worse because when they did have influence over the total product, they botched it.  Example? The Vista Ready campaign and surrounding lawsuits.
  • Palm?  They had the slickest PDAs for quite some time.  They controlled the total product but forgot the services part so Blackberry beat them handily.  There death nell was selling of the software and licensing WM5.
  • The XBox 360.  Microsoft builds the hardware + software + service.  Runaway success.  Home run. 

My point? 

It isn’t the software, it isn’t the hardware, it is the total product. When a company controls the total product they can achieve Apple-level success.

Why Apple won’t dominate

To dominate, Apple has to penetrate into the greater computing space (and stop being a high-priced niche brand).  Either

  • their hardware becomes ubiquitous; or
  • they broadly license their platform to other hardware manufactures.

The first one is ludicrous:  user preferences are too varied for a single hardware vendor to be the one solution.  Apple has mostly done it with the iPod, but that is a piece of consumer electronics and pales in comparison to the complexity of computer systems in general.  If they believe this to be a good strategy, they would likely have to greatly broaden their product mix and lower their prices.

The second one, while certainly possible, would greatly complicate the Apple story, Apple software quality, messaging, etc.  And still, broadly licensing technology will not result in domination.

Only if Apple chooses one of these approaches can they possibly dominate next-generation computing.  And then they have to execute brilliantly.  And then several years have to pass for people to be in a position to replace hardware.  And then a huge migration has to occur.  And then, Cocoa what?

Anyone think this is Steve Jobs plan?  No way. 

And if it is?  Short Apple.  There is too much choice out there in terms of hardware, developer platforms, better licensing models, nascent cloud platforms, etc., for Apple to dominate.

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3 Comments »

    Roger Holmes wrote @ March 15th, 2008 at 1:43 am

A good number of relevant points given in the article without mentioning the most relevant point of the lot – When our friends at Redmond, Washington State tried to have a computer on every desk and all running (guess what) the real world said “NO WAY KNOWN”. Reality has a way of bring common sense to many things

    Robert W. Anderson wrote @ March 15th, 2008 at 7:58 am

Thanks for the comment, Roger. Yeah, you are right. The greater point is that nobody can dominate in the way that Alex Iskold suggests. The real world is too diverse in too many ways.

    Why Apple Won’t Dominate wrote @ December 4th, 2008 at 9:51 pm

[…] found this nice little nugget suggesting why Apple won’t take over the industry the way Microsoft did.  He’s not […]

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