It’s difficult not to respect all that Apple has achieved both as a computer company and as a consumer electronics crack dealer. They have great products and hugely loyal
fans customers. Their terrific execution has allowed them to buck the trend of openness by providing what a wide swath of consumers want – a solution that, more often than many others, just works and looks great doing it. Part of the reason that the company has been able to do this is that they haven’t gone it alone. Apple moved from completely proprietary hardware and operating systems to defacto standards (at least at their core, adopting Intel processors and Unix); Parallels/VMWare have opened the Mac up to popular Windows apps; Firefox is the Mac’s primary window to the web world; Adobe, makes sure that Macs have access to the most widely used document and photo formats; and Google inclusion makes sure that Mac users have top notch access to the search giant’s internet tentacles. Apple has wisely leveraged what’s available in the market so they don’t have to take on the entire world at once.
But not so much anymore. It seems that Steve Jobs and Co. have expanded their battlefield beyond just Redmond to the folks at Adobe (Flash, who needs it? Acrobat, we can do that, Lightroom, nah, we have Aperture), Intel (through Apple’s acquisition of PA Semi), Amazon (eBooks, iTunes) and, especially, Google. That’s a lot of fronts to do battle on. Good, aggressive business practice . . . possibly. Hubris . . . likely. While small battles have been brewing for a while with Apple supplying applications that compete on the fringes with several of these players and some of these “partners” pushing onto Apple’s turf, there hasn’t previously been an all-out war. The question is, can Apple maintain its success going it alone? They’re going to have to if they’re going to “go to the mattresses” with all the big guys they have relied on in the past.
A big test will happen this year with tablets. The iPad (the iPhone XXL), will have to rely on the strength of its base of iPhone apps to differentiate it as we will be deluged with a tidal wave of new tablet offerings from a variety of vendors. We’ll see multiple operating systems housed in hardware taking many shapes and forms. Some of these will be strongly supported by Google and will leverage a broad array of Google services, technologies and overall openness. Some will leverage the economies of scale of large PC production to create lower cost offerings with more features. It’ll also be interesting to see what Amazon does at it defends its ebook turf.
I’m by no means saying that the king is going to be dethroned anytime soon, but I do believe that it’s one thing to flank your competition by being different and another to attack frontally going it alone. As a consumer of all the crap these guys produce, I’m loving sitting on the sidelines watching this melee. In the end, it’ll just mean that I get more, better toys. To that end, I’m fully in Apple’s corner for once.
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