The Future of Apple and Closed Development

I just saw an New York Times article by Miguel Helft about whether Apple's model of tightly-controlled development can work any longer now that Android devices are selling in larger numbers in the US than Apple's iOS-based products. The article talks about how while Apple releases a new or refreshed product every few months, there are a couple new Android products released every week. Furthermore, the iPad is also facing competition from Android-based tablet computers. Finally, the article discusses how the last time Apple's products (Mac OS) were challenged by competitors (Microsoft Windows), it was almost driven out of business. The article also discusses how Apple isn't likely to even be put in a bad business situation because the iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad all compete in the market for touchscreen mobile devices, so they aren't just banking on one product to succeed. Plus, to call Apple cash-strapped is to say that unicorns exist: it isn't (and they don't).
While I sort of agree with the article's overall assessment of Apple's situation, there are a few points with which I beg to differ.
First, the comparison to the previous episode of Mac OS X vs. Microsoft Windows isn't especially apt. Unlike Android, Microsoft Windows cannot be modified by manufacturers for use on their devices. That was true even then (for Microsoft Windows; Android obviously did not exist). Furthermore, Apple's development process was far more open then than it is now. The Apple ][ was known for being the computer of choice for computer hobbyists everywhere due to its simple design and huge flexibility in hardware and software. As far as I know, this was true for early releases of Mac OS, though to a lesser extent. Hence, Apple's troubles weren't because of closed development (although I guess this could be a reason if this is the reason why they refused to adapt to a changing market in the 1990s); they were because Microsoft bought enough companies in the 1990s to form essentially a monopoly and grind sales of Mac OS (though not directly) to a relative halt.
While I don't disagree with the assessment that Apple will soon bring the iPhone to Verizon to bolster sales, I actually think it's good that it has so far been only available on AT&T; if the iPhone was available to all networks, it would have probably killed Android before Android could even try to compete. Verizon, not having the iPhone, looked to alternatives, and that alternative was Android; since then, Android has flourished and spread to other networks because it started with the largest wireless network in the US (I think).
While I don't disagree that apps in the Apple App Store are generally of better quality than in the Android Market place, I think it's a little surprising that the author doesn't link this to Apple's tightly-controlled development process.
Well, that's all I have to say about that. Stay tuned for my next post about my respins!

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