iOS vs. Android: mac vs. Windows all over again?

With the recent word that Google is planning a tablet – running Android no less, as opposed to Chrome – in response to the iPad, it began to feel more and more like deja vu all over again.

To wit:

  • A head start by Apple: check
  • An aggressive, deep pocketed competitor anxious to rule the world: check
  • An inferior overall experience offered by the competitor : check
  • Said inferior product available on a broader array of generally less expensive, less elegantly designed hardware from multiple companies: check
  • A more open platform vs. a more closed platform: check

Sounds familiar right?

If we take as a given that Apple’s decision not to license Mac OS “way back when” is the root cause of Apple losing Round 1 of the PC wars, then what’s today’s parallel?  Lack of Flash?  Tight reins over the app store and related approval process?

Hopefully, this time Apple’s lead is large enough and the user base entrenched enough to make it extremely tough if not impossible for Android to ultimately relegate iOS to a small niche, as mac OS was for so very long (and still is by most measures).

And hopefully the added years have given Jobs and Co. the perspective to allow “just enough” discomfort for themselves at the margin – in the form of openness and access to the platform – that the competition won’t be able to offer a compellingly better overall experience.

We’ll see.


About Tony Moody

I make movies. I wield a Les Paul and an iPad. I consume media - copious amounts. And I dabble in assorted nonsense. What do you do?
This entry was posted in Hardware, Musings, OS operating system and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to iOS vs. Android: mac vs. Windows all over again?

  1. hbh says:

    Interesting discussion in an historical context. There are some similarities to this Android v. iOS situation with PC v. MAC in the past. What’s most interesting to me is that Jobs seems to have kept his beliefs the same. Granted in recent years, particularly in MAC OS, they have become more Windows friendly, e.g., running boot camp on MACS, interfacing with Exchange, etc., but his fundamental strategic view doesn’t seem to have changed. He seems to still believe in complete vertical integration. Apple’s marketing still emphasizes their total integration of hardware and software, ‘we make it all’. This approach, at least in technology, has had limited success, at least since Microsoft and the advent of the PC. Prior to Microsoft, technology companies used the strategy that Apple still uses, i.e., total control. Customers buy the entire solution from one company, who provides the hardware, the software, the training, the support, Microsoft/Gates changed that model. There are obvious trade offs. Customers typically appreciate simplicity. Simplicity in buying using and getting help with a product. Apple’s approach delivers that well. On going innovation can, however, be problematic. You can’t hire all the smart people and therefore by not being open enough you can miss great ideas. Having said that, with 150,000+ apps in the store it would hard to argue that Apple is closed. Has that model run its course now? Time will tell.

    BTW – I have been using my iPad almost exclusively, rather than my MacBook and am having no significant issues. Yes, until Apple delivers a printing solution, hopefully in iOS 4, I do have to print from my MacBook. Fortunately for me I don’t do much printing at all anymore so it is not a big deal.

    Keep the faith.

    • key says:

      Right. I believe the “we make it all” strategy was what killed apple last time, not the rest.

      Back then, I thought Windows 95 felt like more of a “functional” operating system than Mac OS. It probably was—there were few alternatives to a GUI for mac users. Even still, I wanted desperately to use Macs! The biggest problem was the architecture—it simply wasn’t practical. If you wanted a printer, you needed an Apple StyleWriter with the proprietary connection. If you broke your mouse, you had to get one with the right Apple-style jack on it. It was bollocks.

      I worked with a non-profit back then (I was really young—13 or so—but I remember it distinctly) who told me why they wouldn’t support macs: “The hardware costs too much and you can only buy it or repair it at once place.”

      Nowadays, you can throw whatever ram you want into your MacBook. I never thought I’d that happen. (; Apple has tweaked the strategy a bit. Instead of just making everything, they make what needs to be made: better batteries, better designs, etc.

      I have faith that Apple will be around for a while.

      • yoyoyankees says:

        That’s an interesting take Key, thanks for posting. And yup – I had an Apple ][+, followed by a ][GS. Had twin Apple 3.5″ drives, imagewriter, the works. GOD it was a lot of money to sink into a closed system back then. (shudders)

      • hbh says:

        Agree Key. All good points and yes, I too, had a Macintosh SE, with a 4″ monochrome monitor, dot matrix printer, these ‘weird’ programs called Word and Excel, rather than Lotus 123 and WordPerfect, which were the defacto productivity tools at the time, all for the low, low $4,000! It was good fun though!

      • yoyoyankees says:

        That’s like what, about a million dollars in today’s terms? 🙂

  2. There’s a major difference, I think.

    Macintosh was new and revolutionary, but it was still a personal computer. It entered a world that was already dominated by machines running MS-DOS, above all the IBM PC. Yes, it offered a new way of operating in that world, and a *much* better user experience. But it was handicapped by

    • total incompatibility with the vast installed base of MS-DOS software (with the exception, ironically, or MS Word, which was available quite early on the Mac).

    • obvious hardware limitations like a small screen (albeit one with much higher resolution) and initially, at least, low RAM and a single floppy drive.

    The iPad is in a different place. For the moment, at least, it owns the nascent tablet market. (This is not the same thing as being the first tablet on the market, inasmuch as many earlier and flawed products have launched and sunk without a trace.)

    By the time the competing product from Google hits the streets, there will be a substantial installed base of iPad users, a gazillion apps in the store, and a whole lot of word-of-mouth or, if you will, “mindshare.”

    Early experience with the iPad suggests that it really works as advertised, and people really like it. Which suggests that there will be no notable hunger in the marketplace for a better alternative. Thus it will fall to Google — which has never until recently even attempted to position itself as a gadget-maker — to create some kind of user demand. But how? With Android running on a plethora of devices, how can any single one of them command much public attention?

    The better analogy may be iPod vs. Microsoft’s “Plug-and-Play” approach to the music-player market.

    • yoyoyankees says:

      Interesting take. I don’t know though… I think one difference in our perspectives is (what I perceive to be) your focus on the iPad, whereas I was thinking more about the touch ecosystem as a whole – iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad – vs. Android.

      I also think that the scenario you drew for the introduction of the mac has many many parallels to what the iPhone faced when it launched. To sort of quote you:

      “It entered a world that was already dominated by machines running RIM, above all the Blackberry. Not to mention Palm, WIndows Mobile, and every ‘dumb’ phone on earth. Yes, it offered a new way of operating in that world, and a *much* better user experience. But it was handicapped by total incompatibility with the vast installed base of software. The only exception was a general ability to make and receive phone calls.’

      So I think the iPhone managed to do to “the rest of the phone market” what the mac was *not* able to do to the PC market. So . . . why? Is the gap b/t the iPhone and all other phones so much greater than the gap between the original macs and DOS? I think it could be argued either way…

      Whatever the case, I think you raise some great points which point to continued success for the touch OS ecosystem. But I do think there are risks should Apple not mind its flanks.

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