Apple has done some awesome stuff in the past, including a complete turn around from underdog and even dying entity in the 1990’s to a revived force to reckon with.
I do not like to write this post for some reasons, one being that posts like this are usually bullshit. Mine included. But anyway.
What Apple does good
- Holistic design – Apple designs both the hardware and the OS that runs on it and tries to make the total experience as pleasing and good as possible.
- Balance of hardware specifications – The combination of elements make sense. From screen resolution to the processor, to the amount of memory. Try and match it with any standard issue HP, Sony or Asus computer and they all fail to get the complete package right. Most systems come with 1344 x 768 resolution where 1600 x 900 makes more sense. Most systems are 3 centimeters thick. Or more. Most weight close to- or over 3 kilos.
- Marketing and loyalty – Apple is almost a religion. It does not matter if most arguments pro or contra Mac are valid. It is simply a very strong brand.
What they did wrong in the past
- Isolation and exclusion – If you bought a mac, you could only use Mac stuff to extend and connect to it. From physical connectors to hardware recognition to drivers to memory to hard drives, to files and so on.
- Proprietary stuff and full control – Up until a certain point Apple produced almost everything “themselves”. They refused to use standard hardware as the PC branch did. They refused to license their technology to other producers.
What IBM did
- Licensing their invention and releasing control – IBM licensed everything so that anyone could produce a PC, and/or improve on the existing designs. While the PC was far from awesome, the fact that anyone could produce one and put it on the market, created a lot of “good” stuff, including competition on price and performance. It took about 10 years before a PC was more than a box of crap (due to numerous design errors on how the hardware was plonked together), but in the end it got to the point of being quite good.
- Make a lot of other mistakes – IBM lost the OS part of the PC market to Microsoft due to several mistakes including doing a worse job on their OS than Microsoft did. While Windows was not the best, OS/2 was even worse at a certain point: buggy and prone to crashes.
What the result was
- Apple dropped from a potential market leader to a niche-product – In the 1980’s Apple lost from the PC on price and speed of development. Short and simple: PCs had more to offer in speed, available software and value for money (“what can you buy for 500, 1000 or 3000 dollar?) than a Mac.
Blam! Apple is back in business
When Apple moved from the Motorola/IBM RISC based Power PC to the same Intel processors as used in PCs, something happened for the good.
Suddenly Apple products moved out of obscurity. People (like me) who would never had considered a Mac, now started considering them, as they were not just a dead end with some obscure OS, but allowed you to fall back to Windows if you wanted or needed to (either via Bootcamp or Parallels).
Basically, from a closed environment with a closed OS on some obscure and closed platform (Power PC) for the hardcore fans, Apple entered the mainstream again with an open configuration that even allowed you to run (oh horror!) MS Windows on the side.
But let us not forget the iPod and the role it probably played in this game as well. The iPod almost single handedly (and more than anything else, including the cure iMac) put Apple back in in the center of attention of the consuming population of this world. Followed – years later – by the incredible successes of the iPhone and the iPad.
All three products (iPod, iPhone and iPad) changed everything in the fields in which they operated. The iPod introduced almost limitless storage on a portable MP3 player. The iPhone raised the bar for smart phones (from: “everything was wrong” to: “now they are getting it right”) and how to operate them. The iPad re-vitalized a dying branch of computing: based on tablets.
Slam! Back to obscurity again?
In the past years Apple seems to move back again to where I find them to be less and less interesting as a platform.
- Closing everything more and more again – Apple seems to close more and more of the system, taking away the liberties you might have had on OS 10.5 and 10.6. The iPhone and iPad environment has never been open to begin with: requiring iTunes to install stuff and not allowing for any “bypass” via other download- or means of installation. Which is a bitch if you are a developer for apps distributed via other channels.
- Playing the jealous bitch – The past year, Apple entered more and more in the news due to lawsuits started by them on almost everyone else producing phones and tablets. On the long run, this is going to be bad news for Apple itself, as all the signals are about possession, being a jealous bitch bully and striving for the exclusion of others instead of taking pride out of what they have made and achieved.
- Losing it to Google – Regardless of what “analysts” have written in the pas year about Android tablets, Android tablets are the next big thing to happen. Right now you can buy last years tablets for 100 euro and less. This years Android tablets are entering from 300 euro (Archos and the likes) to 400 euro (Asus and Acer). The diversity and release of control of Android to the market (see the similarities to what IBM did with the PC) is what makes two of the most important drivers of the success of the Android platform.
- The silent and slow comeback of Microsoft – Whether you like MS or not, they have been working hard to correct their mistakes on Vista and other stuff. The OS still has the biggest market share and the most choice in software. It is still ugly (I use Windows 7 for a year now) and has some weird bugs like hiding the: “do you want to install this software?” popup that Windows 7 puts between the installer of any software and your computer. But all in all, Microsoft seems to work its way up to be a more modest player striving to make things work and work properly.
I believe that Apple made a mistake in the 1980’s and after by going obscure and by hoosing to exclude other platforms, instead of embracing the diversity and the standards set by others.
I believe that those choices: leading to isolation of their users (files systems which are not compatible, network protocols not being compatible, hardware being not compatible, memory banks not being compatible, and so on) is a bad way to go on the long run.
And my feeling is that Apple is moving in that direction again with almost every new signal they give.
Speculation with the purchase of apps on OSX 10.6 – via iTunes – was that Apple is moving towards the same kind of control as is now on iOS. “If you do not buy and install it via our controlled system, you will not be able to run it”. This is not the case yet, as you can install anythign from any source. But who is to say that Apple – indeed – will not push through in that direction?
Other speculations are that Apple will – again – abandon Intel and go for something like ARM based machines (see one of the articles on the rumours here).
Android tablets and phones seem to be: “the new IBM Personal Computer”
Android is just another player. And not much better or worse than iOS. Again: regardless of what “Analysts” say.
Android, however, is doing “the IBM” with their relatively open platform, the availability of low cost hardware, the fierce competition of multiple players in the same market and an ever inclreasing install- and hacker base (allowing you to install “Android x.x” on devices it was not released for) and the ever increasing possibility to install other OSes (like Linux and – somewhere in 2012 or so: Windows 8) on the devices, increasing their possibilities where the Android environment fails.
And with the course Apple seems to be taking more and more, history seems to be repeating (closing more and more as we progress -including what they allow developers to do, leading to less and less options and more and more people making a choice for something else).
An awesome performance
If I would have followed the advice of someone I know to buy Apple Stocks in 2009 (at rates going under 100 USD then and rates around 400 USD now) I would have had at least 4 times my original investment.
Compare that to Google and Microsoft stocks, which have not shown any real increase in the past 5 years and Apple is certainly the company to look at.
Apple did awesome. With iTunes. With the iPad. With the iPhone. With the iPod. With their PC division.
I fear – however – that Apple is going to fuck it up again in the next years. (See all of the above.)
As a developer
As a developer I currently feel more and more inclined to stick with Android. If there ever was an intention to do something in iOS, all that spunk has been eradicated by Apples recent attacks on the Samsung Galacy 10.1 tablet.
A company that feels the need to fight a war for market exclusivity via court – instead of using whatever happens to increase their image for the positive by standing out in value for money and awesomeness – does not get my support. As it feels like the senseless killings of a rabid animal.
As a consumer
What does Apple fear? What is there to fear? Except losing the battle for more sales and more consumers on your side?
I rather buy a product from a great and friendly producer who does not give a fuck – apart from producing more and even better awesomness – than from one or another jealous bitch that can not stand any competition at all. Infringed patents or not.
I salute you Apple. Think different. Have a nice day.
What is interesting regarding Samsung is that Apple only now lashes out. Also that other Tablet producers seem to be out of the loop for now.
What happened between Apple and Samsung that pissed Apple off so much? Is it something in their relationship of past years, where Samsung was building almost all of the hardware you find in the current Apple products?
We might find out some day. Or not.