Apple Computer loves a controlled environment. What do I mean by a closed environment? When it comes to their computers it means that they build the hardware, they write the operating system, and they control and update the main APIs that most third party software utilize and adhere to when creating software. The Iphone is a chip off the old block – it has the same benefits and drawbacks.
This view is great for several reasons and bad for just as many. Lets explore the good first – When you have limited hardware to support you generally can maintain very good driver support for that hardware. SO many of Microsofts problems come from poor driver support by hardware manufacturers that have buggy or incomplete hardware support. This makes Windows XP/Vista appear far more buggy than it actually is, and Microsoft is generally blamed by the end user when when this happens. This problem is mitigated when you have a limited set of hardware to maintain. Another benefit to this model is that you can have a clear direction and focus for where you want to take your platform. Do you want to appeal to the very low end cost conscious consumer? Only the high end? Apple has ALWAYS been about quality first – even when it hurt the bottom line. Apple has sacrificed market share to develop products that they think are superior. Let me be clear (Because I know I will get email about this!!) – This is not intentional on Apples part. They want the most market share they can get, but when faced with cutting product quality and producing cheaper hardware vs making a quality product they almost always choose the latter option. I like that about the company. There are VERY few companies that I trust to make a quality product every time, but Apple is one of them. The last reason I will write about is perceived by many as a problem at Apple, but I see it as one of their biggest strengths. Because they control their environment so closely they can and will make “drastic” changes when necessary to take the hardware/software in a new direction that ultimately will benefit their users. Often these decisions alienated a portion of their user base, but overall I see this as a huge positive. Examples of these changes are (Starting from my first experience with Apple at age 14 – 22 years ago EEK) – Changing Apple II OS to a completely different outlook with their Mac 128/LISA computers with a mouse, switching to the 720K 3.5″ drives when everyone still used 35-40 track 5.25″ drives with 90K storage per side, “all in one” design, using 68000 series processors when 6502s/8086-88 were the norm for the time. REAL multitasking with the 68040. Skip forward to their decision to abandon Mac OS, and base a new OS on the rock solid BSD kernel – OS X is born. Other recent “painful” decisions include their decision to switch to Intel processors when all their code was based on the power processor. This change was hard for MANY companies, but necessary. Microsoft is too beholden to other companies to make such a switch – they still are trying to maintain backward compatibility with software that is 15 years old. That is a recipe for software stagnation.
Whats bad – Economics! No competition on hardware makes the cost higher. I don’t care what anyone says, Apple hardware is more expensive. I buy millions of dollars of hardware every year. I used to own three computer hardware stores. I know hardware! To me the value is there so I buy Apple products, but I know I pay more when I buy the machines. This is the number one reason Apple isn’t sitting where Microsoft is now. Cost is king and always will be for the overall marketplace. Second problem – As good as Apple is its “micromanage” everything attitude makes it impossible to grow as fast as it could. You need to “let go” to take over! Steve Jobs is way too much of a perfectionist to ever let that happen. Apples nimble nature with regard to its software and hardware changes also makes it a poor choice for enterprise customers that demand longevity and compatibility with legacy systems. Given the choice between innovation and compatibility Ill choose innovation every time, but that is a hard thing to force on customers that don’t share that vision.
What do you think? Did I peg Apple right on, or am I worse than a clueless pundit?
Matt Heaton / Bluehost.com