November 19, 2009

History repeating?

Disclaimer: this is basically off the top of my head and isn't supported by a lot of "research" and "facts". And no, I'm not sure why those words are in quotations, it just feels right.

I have little experience with Apple's Mac OS, but I can tell you that it's pretty and intuitive, and not all that popular. That's not to say people don't like it, but the number of its users is fairly dwarfed by the number of other OS users (most notably Windows users).

Part of the reason the OS works so well is tight integration with the hardware, which Apple also makes. In the past, Apple reportedly toyed with the idea of making its OS compatible with other hardware but abandoned the idea. This could be chalked up to business sense, as Apple may have felt they would lose out on hardware sales by making their OS available in this way. They may have foreseen a major issue with software compatibility. Or perhaps Apple didn't want to lose some of the inherent control that comes with making both hardware and OS.

Contrast this with Microsoft, who in the beginning, was only in the software business. Microsoft was eager for their OS to be adopted by as many hardware makers as possible. Having accomplished that, it can be said that Windows has shortcomings in functionality and reliability for the sake of general compatibility. The result? Nearly every personal computer is designed to run Windows even if it isn't pre-installed, which it usually is. Equipped with Intel processors, even Apple hardware can now run Windows OS natively. Whereas Mac, unless you want to do some legally-grey-area hacking, still only runs on Apple computers.

Of course, the Mac vs. Windows article/blog post/book/rant has already been done. In fact, I've even done it. The point of this post is that I see a similar trend in the mobile phone market, this time involving Apple and Google--with iPhone and Android, respectively.

Apple reportedly worked with Motorola in the early stages of developing the iPhone, but ultimately decided to go it alone in creating both hardware and OS. The result is--not unlike an Apple computer--a beautiful device that's easy to use. But that inherent control is there. If you want a phone with a hardware keyboard, you can't get iOS on a different phone. If you don't like using iOS, you can't get a different OS on iPhone hardware. Apple even seemed initially reluctant to release a software development kit (though they have since done so and a virtual multitude of apps are available).

Enter Android. Google, mainly in the software business (technically the advertising business but the point is they don't make much in the way of hardware), has made Android open-source and customizable, making it possible for Android devices to be available from multiple manufacturers and wireless carriers. There have already been high-profile hardware releases from T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon. The only major carrier without an Android phone happens to be the one that exclusively carries the iPhone. But depending on which internet gossip you believe, we may be seeing an AT&T Android phone by Dell or HTC or both before too long.

So, what's the future of the iPhone? When it comes to mp3 players (and music sales), Apple is a dominant force. When it comes to computers, they seem to be more of a niche player. Will the iPhone follow one of these trends? A lot remains to be seen until Apple's contract with AT&T expires. In the meantime, Android is gaining popularity, and history may be repeating.

3 comments:

  1. I couldn't agree more. Mac computers, in my opinion, are no more than consoles (similar to the xbox or playstation consoles) with an advanced OS. Everything is designs to work hand in hand, but the consumer looses the options of customization and compatibility. This, however, does appeal to the uneducated masses who don't understand the intricacies of other operating systems that do require a few steps in order to make them run smoothly in any given situation.

    That being said, I do have to say that the iphone is/was very intuitive to the current market. It was highly innovative and could defiantly be called a forerunner in the field of mobile technology. It took everything currently available in the mobile market, bundled it in one package, and added that level of polish that mac is famous for. The only problem I see with the device is the apple logo on the back. I dont like being told what apps, carriers, and file formats I have to use. Ive always been a fan of the open source underdog, and as such, I would love to see the iphone fall to the android.

    In the area of carriers... It is rumored (if not already confirmed) that verizon did win the bid on the new 4g iphone. With that being the case, one would assume that other carriers will be looking to android for other flagship smartphones. Im sure with the loss of the iphone, we will see an AT&T android in the months to come.

    To sum it up, apple will never die. Their commercials are to good and their fanboys are to loud for that to ever happen. Im just glad to see an open source option for those of us with enough sense to research our purchase without committing to a brand name.

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  2. As much as it pains me to say(write), I too agree(not about the part that Apple is a console, bc if my XBox could edit videos, that'd just be awesome!). Though, I doNOT consider myself a mac fanboy, I do see myself as a mac believer. Coming from the video side of things, Mac is the way to go. I've edited on both Mac and PC with various editing software's: Premier, uLead, Windows Movie Maker, iMovie, Final Cut, Avid(on both Mac & PC platforms) to name a few and the Final Cut Studio systems is simply outstanding. Even industry leaders are using Mac based systems to make feature films and animations.

    As for the mobile phone front, iPhone did reinvent the phone for the better. Granted, it's not perfect and it would be silly to believe that there ever will be a device that's perfect - due to greedy developers wanting you wanting more - but that's besides the point. I love the fact that there aren't any keys...it seems so...ancient to have keys on a phone or computer. Already they are making computers with touch screen interface that, lets be honest, isn't actually new technology, but there's just something about it that make you feel warm inside.

    I love my iPhone...but at the end of the day, for me, it's still just a phone. It makes calls, txt and I can watch my downloaded version of Star Trek on it that I got from iTunes. I know everyone like that open market option, but sometimes all of that is just too much to deal with for something that really shouldn't take that much of your time. I like going to my one stop shops to get my movies, music and tv shows. And yes, having digital copies of thing isn't safe with the fear of crashing hard drives...but meh, your CD/DVD could get scratch and then we'd all be in the same boat.

    So do I think history will repeat itself? Yes, it has too. People will always be on one side or another about which is better: Mac or PC(Mac is, duh)? But really the question for you should be: which device is better for YOU? You can build a great PC and edit with Premier(vomit) and still make great videos - if you have the talent for that - or you can get everything you need for sound/video/animation editing from a Mac.

    Though I don't hate the idea of giving George Lucas more money for the Droid phone...that just means he'll make another animated Star Wars movie with the money. So lesser of two evils: Give you money to Steve Jobs or George Lucas?

    ...Razor it is!

    -isaac

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  3. Wow. Im REALLY glad you summed this up for me.

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