Platforms — Past, Present and Future

Last week, Benedict Evens re-linked to an article written in May of 2013, entitled “Apple, Open And Learning From History“. (All quotes, below, are taken from this article unless otherwise attributed.)

It’s still a good read and it got me thinking about platforms — past, present and future.

Let’s start by taking a leisurely stroll down memory lane.

Corporate

In the 1990s, the PC market was mostly a corporate market (roughly 75% of volume). Corporate buyers wanted a commodity. They were buying 500 or 5000 boxes, they wanted them all the same and they wanted to be able to order 500 or 5000 more roughly the same next year. They wanted to compare 4 vendors on price with the same spec sheet. They didn’t care what they looked like (and they were going under a desk anyway) and they didn’t care how easy it was for non-technical people to set them up because the users would never touch the configuration. Nor did they care much about the user interface, because most of the users were only going to be running 1 or 2 apps anyway.

Meanwhile with no internet, home buyers were mainly interested in a PC that ran the same software they used at work (and all of the games were for PC). ~ Benedict Evans

As an aside, many have suggested that it was the internet, far more than Steve Jobs, that revived the fortunes of the Macintosh, and I think there’s a lot to be said for that proposition. The internet grew to become an independent, unmonopolizable ((Not an actual word.)) platform laid atop the then existing personal computer platforms. The Macintosh — and later iOS and Android — could all access the internet just as much, and just as well, as Windows could.

(Buyers) may have known Macs were supposed to be easier, but Apple had no shops of its own and what TV advertising it could afford didn’t show off the user interface (it’s hard to demo an desktop computer’s user interface on TV).

And, of course, Apple’s computers were ultimately beige boxes and not really that much prettier than PCs anyway. And they were significantly more expensive. ~ Benedict Evans

Strength Against Weakness

Hence, in this market all of Microsoft’s advantages were in play, and none of Apple’s. Apple, in Steve Blank’s phrase, did not have product/market fit.

The Open model deployed by Microsoft and Intel produced a generic commodity product that was exactly what the market wanted: Apple’s model did not. Fundamentally, Apple’s selling points were irrelevant, invisible or both. ~ Benedict Evans

This is a great insight by Benedict Evans and I have heard and read a similar thesis promoted by Ben Thompson too. The essence of strategy is to use your strengths against your opponent’s weaknesses, while simultaneously nullifying your opponent’s strengths.

So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak. ~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The corporate marketplace was a field of battle that played to Microsoft’s strengths and negated Apple’s strengths.

(C)ompete on a battle field where they have no chance of winning. ~ ~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Lessons Learned

The “lessons” we supposedly learned from the 1990s were that:

a) Closed platforms may create markets (see Apple Macintosh); but

b) Open platforms commoditize a market, creating cheaper and ever cheaper versions of the product, which in turn

c) Greatly expands the market that the closed product created; and since

d) Developers follow the platform with the most market share; we can draw two inevitable conclusions:

1) Open platforms always win; and

2) There can be only one platform winner.

These are over-generalizations, to be sure, but it is the simplified —not the nuanced — version of the past that filters down through time to becomes the incontrovertible and unassailable dogma of tomorrow.

Platforms, then, were considered to be analogous to poker hand. A second-best hand was like none at all — it cost you dough and won you nothing.

These two general conclusions — that open always wins and that there can be only one — were pretty much considered to be universal truisms in the 1990s and 2000s. To deny either — especially in the face of the the overwhelming evidence provided by the success of Microsoft Windows — made you, at best, a fool, at worst, a heretic.

That which has been believed by everyone, always and everywhere, has every chance of being false. ~ Paul Valery

The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd. ~ Utterly Russell

Qualms

We should have had some qualms about these seemingly obvious “universal truths.”

…I’ll grant you it’s obvious. Trouble is, just because things are obvious doesn’t mean they’re true. ~ Terry Pratchett, Wyrd Sisters

Does “open” always win in every, or even most, markets ? Does everything ultimately become a commodity?

No, and no.

There are thousands, and perhaps millions, of markets that have multiple vendors and that can be divided into both premium and discount sectors. And market monopolies — like the one Microsoft Windows enjoyed for almost two decades — are not only not the norm, but they are actually fairly rare.

Examples abound. Do we all purchase and drive the cheapest car on the market? Do we all purchase and wear the cheapest clothes? Do we all buy the cheapest food and drink the cheapest beverages?

Of course not.

So, if monopolies, such as Windows, are unnatural and the co-existence of premium and discount products are the norm, then why are computer platforms so very, very different?

Well, they’re not.

The most useful piece of learning for the uses of life is to unlearn what is untrue. ~ Antisthenes

History Repeats?

Today, of course, [May of 2013] Android, combined with chip makers such as Qualcomm and MediaTek, is producing a quite similar flood of generic commodity smartphones.

Hence, there’s a pretty common narrative that ‘we’ve seen this before’ – that the same open approach, producing the same flood of generic commodity product, will crush Apple in the same way. ~ Benedict Evans

Here’s how that narrative played out in the press.

Low priced Android phones are expanding the mobile markets.

Android is the only operating system, modern smart-phone operating system, that exists on devices that cost $200 or less. That is what is enabling the next billion of users of the Internet on mobile in the world. ~ John Lagerling, Director of Android Global Partnerships, Google, 8 August 2011

Android’s cheaper phones are taking market share from the iPhone.

Note that the average Android price is heading toward $200 and the average iPhone price is heading toward $600. Apple is asking the question, do you want to pay three times as much for our phones? Thus far, 80% of the market has answered ‘no.’” ~ Jim Edwards, Business Insider, 31 May 2014

Apple needs to sell lower priced phones in order to increase their market share.

I think they should invest more of it in the margin, in the business. Get lower-priced products out there. Stop going after just the premium piece. Get into the real growth engine of the smartphone market, which right now is Android…. ~ Henry Blodget, CNBC, 3 January 2013

Android’s increased market share will capture all the developers.

Slowly but surely, Android’s dominant market share is causing developers to prioritize it. ~ Henry Blodget (@hblodget) 11/7/14

History repeats, with Android playing the role of Microsoft and Apple playing the role of…well, Apple.

If Apple continues to pursue its current pricing and maximize-short-term profit strategy, it may continue to increase its profits for the next couple of years. … But Apple will also continue to lose platform and ecosystem share in most of the world. … (I)f the gadget platform market behaves the way other platform markets have (think Windows), Apple and its fans may come to regret this short-term thinking in the end. ~ Henry Blodget, Business Insider, 15 November 2013

Apple, indeed, has a history of making fine products that are very expensive and proprietary — only to give the market away to the competition. The problem Apple is facing currently is much like the same problem they encountered during the Operating System wars of the 1980′s – 1990′s, (i.e., they produced a far superior product that was light years ahead of the competition, yet they blundered by overcharging). This allowed a horde of inferior “affordable” and “good enough” products such as Microsoft’s Windows along with the legions of IBM-compatible clone makers like Hewlett-Packard and Dell to overtake Apple. Now we see Apple repeating its past mistakes…but this time with Android. ~ Austin Craig, The Motley Fool, 23 January 2013

Reality Disagrees

The great tragedy…the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact. ~ T.H. Huxley

Open Android was the new Windows and the closed iPhone was destined to become just as niche and just as marginalized as the old Macintosh had been. That was the theory. Reality, however, begged to differ.

(A)ccording to a new study by Canaccord Genuity, as of Q3 2015, Apple is now making 95% of the smartphone profits. ~ Android Authority

Canaccord

“M” is for “Market share”
Of which you like to boast
But “P” is for “Profit”
And we make the most.
~ not Jony Ive on Twitter

And sales are still going gangbusters too.

iPhone Unit Sales
2007 to 2015E: 907 million
2016E: 275 million (30% of previous 8 years)
~ Neil Cybart

What the heck is going on here?

Consumer

If one looks again at all of those 1990s PC market dynamics, almost none of them apply to the smartphone market. Phones are NOT generic, fungible commodities:

Phones are bought by individuals on design and user interface.

Phone are also bought on price, and the iPhone is expensive, but the subsidy system weakens the effect (to a varying degree depending on the market and on the proportion of contract versus prepay). Moreover, the price gap between an iPhone and a cheap Android is much smaller in absolute terms than the gap between a Mac and the cheapest PC.

Apple has a massive retail presence and has premium placement in every mobile operator shop

It is in the nature of a phone UI that you CAN show it off in a TV spot – which Apple can now afford (originally, thanks to the cash from the iPod)

Apple is stronger in apps than the competition, and that shows no signs of changing.

In other words, Apple has product/market fit in the phone market in a way that it never had in the personal computer market. ALL of the key dynamics that doomed it in the computer market are fundamentally different in the phone market – this time, they all work in Apple’s favour, and in favour of the high-end market in general. ~ Benedict Evans

The key difference between the desktop market of the 1990s and the mobile markets of today is that In the 1990s, the purchaser of the computer and the user of the computer were quite often two separate people with two separate agendas.

Part of the emancipation of IT was stopping HR, and legal from making all the decisions. Growth of BYOD and OTT services was part of that. ~ Benedict Evans on Twitter (@BenedictEvans)

Today, the purchaser and the user are most often one and the same person. Buyers who are purchasing a computer for their own use think very, very differently from buyers in IT departments. You might even say they “Think Different“.

Valuing price over the user experience is the most consistent (and easiest) mistake in any consumer market analysis. ~ Ben Thompson (@monkbent)

Now Apple’s, rather than Microsoft’s, strengths, came into play. Microsoft’s interests were aligned with the buyers in the IT departments. Apple’s strengths were aligned with the consumer.

As soon as the consumers, rather than corporations, started making the buying decisions, a premium market developed with premium customers who paid premium prices to purchase premium hardware. And premium consumers spent more money — and supported the efforts of more developers — than did bargain hunters who were primarily concerned with lower prices.

The pundits of the 1990s were right when they asserted that developers were essential for the the creation of a successful platform. (Developers, developers, developers, developers.) However, they were wrong when they concluded that developers always follow the platform with the most users.

Developers, don’t follow end users — they follow the money.

Lessons Revised and Re-Learned

When experts are wrong, it’s often because they’re experts on an earlier version of the world. ~ Paul Graham

So let’s review and revise the “lessons” we learned in the 1990s.

— Closed creates markets (see Macintosh and iPhone);

— Open creates cheap products and expands the market that closed created;

— Cheap becomes ubiquitous; however

— Developers follow the money, not the customers.

Therefore, platforms that pay developers the most, attract the most developers.

We got it wrong in the 1990s. If every platform user were of equal value to developers, then the platform with the most users would win every time. But if premium users are worth more than discount users, then developers will be attracted to the platform that makes them the most money, rather than the platform that has the most users.

You don’t count users, you count dollars. If, for example, platform A has one billion users worth one dollar each and platform B has one-tenth the number of users, but each user spends ten times as much on the platform, then — so far as developers are concerned — platform A and platform B are roughly equivalent.

Never, ever, think about something else when you should be thinking about the power of incentives. ~ Charlie Munger

The age of Windows was an anomaly, but we didn’t know that. So we based our future assumptions on the exception, rather than the rule.

Nearly every tech prediction based on lessons drawn from Windows has been proven wrong. ~ Ben Thompson

What is true for most every other market holds true for computing too. Open doesn’t always win. Closed can win. Or open can win. Or both can co-exist.

An answer is invariably the parent of a great family of new questions. ~ John Steinbeck

Premium

Android may have the most users, but Apple has the most high-end users.

(I)t’s blindingly obvious in every metric that Apple has most of the high-value users. ~ Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans)

Apple doesn’t dominate the premium sector of the smartphone industry — they OWN it. No one else is seriously competing for the top 10% of smartphone buyers.

Apple doesn’t want to corner the phone market. It wants to corner the premium phone market. ~ Charles Arthur (@charlesarthur)

Some people connote “premium” with “failure”.

Apple’s philosophy has always been to be consumer-centric. It wants to make easy-to-use, broadly-accessible products. But on some level, it’s failing consumers when only 18% of the global smartphone population has an iPhone. ~ Jay Yarow, Business Insider, 24 May 2013

Apple is failing consumers by only targeting premium users? Yeah, not so much.

Asking Apple to increase its market share by selling cheaper phones is like asking Tiffany & Co. to increase its market share by selling more costume jewelry.

On Par

App store revenue: Poor disclosure and rounded numbers, but looks like iOS and Google Android “might” be roughly level. ~ Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans) 1/6/16

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This would still mean iOS and Android have roughly the same app spending despite close to 2.5x more active Android devices. Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans) 1/6/16

Google is the new Microsoft but Android is not the new Windows. ~ Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans)

History

Benedict Evans started his article with the following quote:

History teaches us nothing except that something will happen. ~ Hugh Trevor-Roper

With all due respect, Hugh Trevor-Roper is wrong. Just because we don’t always learn from history doesn’t mean that history has nothing to teach us.

Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself. ~ Chinese Proverb

It’s not enough to know history, we have to analyze and understand it too.

Any fool can know. The point is to understand. ~ Albert Einstein

There is a great difference between knowing and understanding: you can know a lot about something and not really understand it. ~ Charles F. Kettering

Why Does Any Of This Even Matter?

So why does any of this even matter? It’s ancient history, right?

Wrong.

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. ~ Alvin Toffler

We are currently being inundated with new platforms. And older platforms are desperately trying to remain relevant in new product categories.

— Apple just introduced three new platforms with the Apple Watch, iPad Pro and Apple TV.

— Google continues to upgrade and alter Android and they recently introduced Android Wear.

— Microsoft is trying to stretch Windows — formerly it’s notebook/desktop only operating system — into a system that works on desktops, notebooks, hybrids, tablets and phones.

— Amazon keeps sticking its nose into the platform arena (where, so far, it has consistently been bloodied).

— Several watch makers are trying to get into the platform game.

— Blackberry has a platform that’s hanging on for dear life.

— Traditional car manufacturers are in a desperate race against new entrants, such as Apple and Google, to create new software both for drivers and for driverless vehicles.

So, who’s going to win and who’s going to lose the new platform wars?

Who knows?

I always avoid prophesying beforehand, because it is a much better policy to prophesy after the event has already taken place. ~ Winston Churchill

I don’t try to predict the future. It’s hard enough just trying to convince those still living in the past that they are already living in the present.

Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window. ~ Peter Drucker

I’ll end with these two thoughts.

Alan Kay once said:

The best way to predict the future is to invent it.

True enough. But as a know-nothing writer who creates nothing and critiques everything, I lean more toward John Siracusa’s take on the future:

The best way to predict the future is to complain about it for 15 years. ~ John Siracusa (@siracusa)

Published by

John Kirk

John R. Kirk is a recovering attorney. He has also worked as a financial advisor and a business coach. His love affair with computing started with his purchase of the original Mac in 1985. His primary interest is the field of personal computing (which includes phones, tablets, notebooks and desktops) and his primary focus is on long-term business strategies: What makes a company unique; How do those unique qualities aid or inhibit the success of the company; and why don’t (or can’t) other companies adopt the successful attributes of their competitors?

771 thoughts on “Platforms — Past, Present and Future”

  1. John, which is more important, to have the highest sales volume or to make the most profits? The only accurate answer I can see is that it depends on who you ask. If Joe the manufacturer says he prefers the highest sales volume, there’s nothing wrong with that, for him.

    1. True, as long as Joe can earn enough $$ to support himself and maintain / grow his business. Sales volume without profit is the race to the bottom, right?

    2. “which is more important, to have the highest sales volume or to make the most profits?”

      Profits are the end, but as many products have demonstrated, sometimes market share comes first and profits later.

      Market share times margins equals profits. Apple has low market share, but high margins. Low (but not too low) margins and high market share is a good business model too.

  2. The great failure of Mr. developers, developers, developers, developers (i.e. Steve Ballmer) was to miss mobile. It cost him his job and made his company lose a vey important market.

    1. Yes and no. Microsoft understood that mobile was important. They sold tablets almost ten years before the iPad appeared on the market. And Windows Mobile was around for years before the iPhone debuted.

      The consensus seems to be that since Windows made so much money, nothing in Microsoft was allowed to compete with Windows. This meant that Microsoft tried to put Windows on phones, tablets and televisions and proposed operating systems that might have worked on phones and tablets were scuttled.

      Two more quick notes. I think Steve Ballmer was like a big kid who couldn’t stand to see anyone else be successful. As soon as a company started to gain some success, Microsoft felt they had to take that market away from them.

      And Microsoft seemed to feel that all they had to do to win was to show up. For many, many years, people talked about how it took Microsoft three tries to get it right, but then they owned the market. The last time that was true was when Microsoft took on Netscape Navigator (and got into all sorts of anti-trust trouble). Microsoft tried to copy search with Bing, the iPhone with Windows Phone, the iPad with the Surface, etc. Ballmer was a “slow” follower. A strategy that gives one little to no chance of success.

      1. Agree with everything you said, except for one thing. The Surface is no iPad. Not even close, regardless of which side of the aisle you sit.

        1. I didn’t mean to imply that the Surface was an iPad, but the Surface was Microsoft’s answer to the iPad and it came to market terribly late.

          1. “but the Surface was Microsoft’s answer to the iPad and it came to market terribly late.”

            And fundamentally flawed (the original RT Surface, not the semi-successful pro edition that MS salvaged from the wreckage of the original Surface launch). Last month in a comment here I argued that the original Surface, especially its marketing and unveiling, showed that MS is fundamentally unable to understand *why* Apple is so successful at the things Microsoft is so poor at, and the original Surface was basically Miscrosoft resorting to cargo-cult tactics in an attempt to enjoy the same success and profits as Apple.

      2. Ballmer wasn’t just like a big kid, he WAS one. The result was that I remember you saying he was pushed out hard. Not surprising.

      3. Ballmer is far from the only businessman that abides by the debasing tenet “It is not enough that I succeed. Others must fail”. Even modern nation states are run on that subhuman premise.

  3. It’s been a delight to see you posting again. A very interesting article that provoked a lot of thoughts. So many, in fact, that I can write a post much longer than the article itself. But don’t worry, I won’t do that…. I’ll focus on a few things.

    The ‘business’ side of the business is not so much my thing, so I’ll avoid financials. This is about market segmentation, from one customer’s point of view.

    Distinction #1
    It now appears the market is ‘double humped’ with Android dominating the ‘value’ end and Apple ‘owning’ (your word) the premium end. There also seems to be some statistical separation between these humps.
    Mind you, I only buy premium priced phones and tablets.

    Distinction #2
    There are technical, financial, and artificial policy barriers separating the two main platforms.

    Distinction #3
    Developers, developers, developers!
    You can still be proprietary, but open. Windows is a prime example of this. The developers on open systems ‘own’ their work. Ownership distills down to total control. There is no approval needed as to content, or channel. There is no ‘mandatory’ store. There is no ‘approval’ by anyone but the customer.

    On open systems customers own their devices. They fully control them and they decide who administers them.

    Closed systems blur the notion of ‘ownership’. Closed systems also make the customer susceptible to manipulation. Example: Why is it that to get the upcoming Thunderbolt 3 in my new Mac Pro, I will need to buy another new Mac Pro?

    So there are at least three major market distinctions, probably more. At what point do these markets get so distinct and separated from each other, that they become markets unto themselves? I’ve long maintained that the iOS market is distinct from the Android market. One has internal competition, the other does not. Being isolated from competition is not a good thing.

    1. I think “open” can have several meanings.
      – I assume the author is using it for “anyone can can play'”, ie any OEM can release an Android phone. I’d call that a layered ecosystem, but from a business point of view it is “open”.
      – there’s Open in the FOSS sense, technical, which enables both forks and OEM tweaks
      – there’s open in your meaning, ie no enforced walled garden
      – there’s probably a softer “plays well with others” meaning, ie uses standard protocols and interfaces

      Agree with you on lack of competition leading to decay, see what it did to MS. Not sure Apple has achieved that yet: (from http://www.ericsson.com/res/docs/2015/mobility-report/ericsson-mobility-report-nov-2015.pdf page 29)

      1. Worse. If it can indeed be considered a market unto itself (granted, a big if) then it’s a blatant monopoly.

        1. There’s some switching going on (0.3% away from each month, 0.6% into), so the case for treating the iOS ecosystem as its own market probably doesn’t stand. And at 15-ish percent share of the overall global market, monopoly rules then don’t apply to what’s happening within that ecosystem.

          Comparing to Windows in its heyday, the figures were probably <0.1% switching out and 95% market share. A completely different situation.

          As a side note, what I find interesting is the increased rate of upgrading on the iOS side: 4.5% monthly vs 1.8% on Android ? I'm thinking that's a short time after the iP6+ introduction.

  4. “Apple just introduced three new platforms with the Apple Watch, iPad Pro and Apple TV.”

    In its current incarnation, is it really accurate to call the iPad Pro a new platform? Seems more like an extension of an existing platform but with the addition of a Pencil UI

    1. Could also be written as “Apple just fragmented their own platform 3 ways”. I’m curious there has been no discussion at all about that.

      1. Personally, I don’t see a fragmentation problem since architecturally Apple’s OS’s share the same technologies but only differ by their UI. I’m just not convinced that the iPad Pro is a whole new platform the same way the Apple Watch / TV is.

        1. Indeed. But that was also true for Android 2 years ago when everyone especially on this site was going on about fragmentation. So I’m surprised at the absence of that topic in those very pages now ^^

          1. To me it’s simple: if the apps run, it’s not fragmented. Which means Android never was fragmented. But my point of view seems not accepted, and Evans et al insist that if the devs have to write a single extra code line (ie for each OS sub-version, physical/screen variant…) then it’s fragmentation. And even if they don’t, just having to validate things work is fragmentation.

            Using any definition, we’re in the presence of fragmentation: the apps don’t run, and the code must be changed. Except maybe for the iPad Pro depending on how hardcoded the UI is and whether you consider multitasking to be relevant.

            I don’t think there’s much discussion about segmentation: it’s a marketing term about tailoring different product mixes (ie, it’s usually the product itself, but it can also be distribution, advertising or pricing) to different market segments (schools, seniors, teens, women… ).

          2. “if the apps run, it’s not fragmented.”

            Oh goody, that means iOS isn’t fragmented either. What joy!

            Klahanas (if I remember correctly) seems to make a big deal about the addition of new hardware features in new iOS devices being fragmentation. In other words, if a given app uses fingerprint authentication, then the lack of a fingerprint sensor on earlier iOS devices means, shock, horror, there is fragmentation on the iOS platform that is every bit as ubiquitous and alarming as any conceivable fragmentation on the Android platform. Yet the app with fingerprint authentication will run on an iPhone 4S and 5. Likewise, many Android devices have hardware features that other Android devices do not. So far, so good. What joy!

            “Using any definition”
            I’m afraid we haven’t exhausted all definitions. There is at least one other that is in view most of the time that “Android fragmentation” is invoked.

            Right now, the latest version of iOS extends back to the 4S (Next version might require an iPhone 5 and above). Right now, the majority of all iPhone’s in active use are on the latest or latest-but-one point update of the latest version of iOS. The uptake to the latest version of iOS is very good and fast, each time there is an update. And of course, the 60M new iPhones sold each quarter come with the latest version of iOS anyway. That means that developer efforts to update their apps make some sense as the benefits would be somewhat predictable.

            There seems to be a very different picture on the Android platform, including new phones being sold with old versions of Android.

            I know, I know. Apparently this doesn’t matter, at all, because Google has ingeniously worked it so that Android updates don’t really deliver any new or exciting features or APIs; all new functionality or improved implementations of previous functions are apparently available for developers to use and target in any Android device whatsoever, regardless of the version of Android that device is running, because that new functionality is apparently available to any Android device through the Play Store, somehow. So, not only will all (new) apps “run” on any Android device, they will run equally well (inasmuch as hardware configuration allows), and just as their makers hoped and intended; apparently there will be no hint of “lowest common denominator” functionality whatsoever, because anything a device running one version of Android can do, so can one running a much older version. What joy!

          3. “if the apps run, it’s not fragmented.”

            Oh goody, that means iOS isn’t fragmented either. What joy!

            Mmmm… you’ve managed to run iPhone apps on your iWatch, aTV and iMac ? Because I can run Android apps on my Android Box, and Windows computer (though not on my aWear). Not to mention the stable of weird stuff I have with versions all the way back to 2011’s 4.0

            As for the difference between monolithic iOS and layered Android, you seem to be starting to get it, kudos. Again, the apps Just Run ™. Also, don’t forget that about 30% of iOS phones aren’t up to the latest major version, so even by your criteria, there is quite a bit of fragmentation, even before accounting the window-dressing of later versions disabling features on older hardware, when they’re not plain overwhelming the phones.

          4. No, that’s what I mean about the double standard. When Android does it, it’s fragmentation, when Apple does it, it isn’t.

            It’s HW/SW requirements, and Obarthalemy is right, if the Apps run, it’s not fragmented. Except when Apple does it. Siri can run on an iPhone 4, it’s artificially not allowed by Apple.

          5. “if the apps run, it’s not fragmented”

            I would think more accurately would be if ALL apps run (short of legacy hardware issues), it’s not fragmented. In which case both platforms have differing levels of issues. The difference being that Apple has more control over the software/hardware integration than Google. So by nature Google’s issue is more pervasive than Apple’s.

            But then, you know my perspective on fragmentation. It’s ultimately a developer issue as to how to deal with it. Consumers are largely indifferent as long as what THEY want works, it doesn’t really matter globally. Apple’s fragmentation, as you define it, is hardly commensurate with Android’s. But that is by design. Google does an admirable job keeping up, considering. Just as MS did with Windows. And, while I am no developer, Google has eased the issue far better today than historically, as long as the developer AND device maker is keeping up with Google, which is the core of the issue, really.

            Joe

          6. The point is mostly moot: a 4 yo version of Android will run all apps, as a 4yo iDevice will run a stripped-down variant of Apple’s current OS well enough for apps to run,
            so practically there is no fragmentation in either case.

            There is undeniable fragmentation when the AppStore is not the same, ie aTV, iWatch, aWear; or when the apps don’t run.

            If you want to drill down from that, I don’t see why “legacy hardware issues” should be more of a valid cop out than anything else. Apple sneakily adds another level of fragmentation by having the OS and apps run in “degraded mode” on older hardware. The PR is “Both run iOS9 so it’s not fragmented”; the reality, well, one supports Live Pics/ForceTouch/Pay/… the other doesn’t, so for the end user as well as the dev, it is different, hence fragmented. You must code for “iOS9 when on an iPhone 5” and for “iOS9 when on an iP6” and for “iOS9 when on an iPadPro”, end users can’t expect the same features depending on which device the app is running on. That’s fragmentation, maybe a less irksome variant than the app not running at all, but still, that non-available feature might be important.
            From a dev standpoint, it probably creates “least common denominator” syndrome: why implement/support features that are only on a fraction of the device:OS pairs ?

            For reference, from http://arstechnica.com/apple/2015/09/ios-9-on-the-iphone-4s-a-stay-of-execution-nothing-more/ , here’s the list of OS9 features not available on iP4S: This list isn’t comprehensive, but it includes some of the biggest features from iOS 9 and older versions.

            The new Spotlight screen,
            predictive Siri,
            third-party Spotlight search.
            Public transit for Maps.
            AirDrop.
            TouchID.
            Handoff for applications,
            Support for OpenGL ES 3.0,
            the Metal graphics API,
            64-bit ARMv8 apps,
            and TouchID/Apple Pay.
            I’m sorry, but this is fragmentation too. My old Android devices run the full version of Maps, Pushbullet, Pay…

          7. Part of that is the legacy hardware issue I spoke of that exists on both platforms. You can’t have a finger print sensor API be relevant if the older hardware doesn’t have a finger print sensor, even on Android!

            Part of the fragmentation is as you pointed out. It doesn’t matter if that 4 year old Android _can_ run the latest OS, it just usually doesn’t. If I am a developer who needs current OS APIs, the likelihood of getting that on Android vs iPhone is a big difference.

            Fragmentation, while certainly wildly different on each platform, is, I agree, moot. (enough commas there?)

            Joe

      2. To be fair, just as I posit that fragmentation is just hardware/software requirements, I have to maintain the same position when Apple does it.

        But I get why you said it, I think we are aligned against the same double standard!

      3. Not sure why you think this is the same issue (or why Klahanas below thinks there is a double-standard)…

        “Fragmentation” has never been about more specialisation. It has been about not enough:
        Stock Android was to fulfil its best on umpteen different configurations. For a while, there seemed to be a version targeted at tablets; but it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Instead, it gets put on thermostats and stuff. Similarly, Windows has converged so that it “supports” more types of devices.

        When just one OS is to support umpteen screen and hardware configurations produced by OEM’s, you get… Fragmentation. I think you have heard this expression: “lowest common denominator”.

        So, iOS devices go from 11 to 12 configurations, three of which are retired and most of which overlap in most hardware specs (iPhone 3, 4, 5, 6, 6+; iPad 1, 2-4, Air, Mini, Pro). And Apple specialises iOS into new platforms for Watches and TVs. Yep, exactly the same thing as on Windows and Android. Not.

        1. Oh come on, if DOS could support the universe of hardware, then a modern computer ought to as well. All this talk of different screen sizes, and variety of features is all about hardware/software requirements and nothing more.

          The one context where fragmentation makes sense is in lack of updates, but that’s the evil carriers, not evil Google.

          You could say that Google sold us out to the carriers. I can accept that. Then you would have to admit that Apple sold us out with not only DRM, but platform specific DRM.

          1. The more input types that are “supported” (x the number of hardware configurations), the more “messy” it gets to provide a consistent and productive UX. And it is more complicated for developers to produce great apps that work consistently well in all situations without extra work. Period.

            DOS had one input type – the keyboard (unless you are talking about all versions of Windows having DOS foundations). Now, we have keyboard, mouse, stylus, touch, voice…

            “If DOS could…”. Great, Android, too, can “support” lightbulbs to cars. Doesn’t mean the majority of apps you can find are automatically any better than a TV remote interface, without a lot of work by the developer.

            You guys are complaining that Apple said, “hang-on, a watch that you use with one or two fingers of one hand requires qualitatively different operation than a tablet or even a phone; we better have guidelines, and specialise the touch UI for Watch (and make a special hardware input via the crown).” And that’s a problem? Oh come on.

            Of course, Apple has the luxury of doing this (specialisation of OS), because it has a modular OS that can be rearranged to suit the device. It didn’t work with Windows and Metro, because Windows really can’t be stripped down enough to make a-Metro-on-its-own that is usable enough. Conversely, Android/Chrome doesn’t make Chrome really robust/powerful enough to truly function as a PC OS, it’s an OS in a browser. Given this situation (Apple can specialise its OS, MS and Google effectively can’t), I can see why you are sour grapes and might take the position that Apple is just “wrong, because”.

            What platform specific DRM are you talking about in relation to Apple? My wife can’t run Windows apps on her Android phone, and my friend can’t put Android apps on his Windows Nokia.

          2. Platform specific DRM. For instance, I can’t play iTunes purchased movies on my Android devices. I can’t use an alternate program to administer my iPad, stuck with iTunes, etc.

          3. Just convert your movies and strip the DRM as needed. Apple doesn’t care. Remember Rip. Mix. Burn.? The content owners demand DRM, c’est la vie. As for iTunes, there are alternative media managers for iOS devices. Some do a lot more than just manage movies, music, photos.

          4. I know that I can convert my movies to remove drm. I do something even better, I just strip the drm. Yes, Apple does mind that we do so, they are on record petitioning the Librarian of Congress (who has jurisdiction over DMCA) saying just that.

            Still, why should I have to, and how is that not selling us out?
            Remember how my question was phrased. If Google sold us out, Apple did too, in different scenarios.

            PS- I recall Apple suing Real Networks over their software managing the iPod’s libraries. Has that changed?

          5. You need to use this thing called “the Internet” and do some research before you make assumptions. You clearly don’t understand how DRM and content deals work, and you don’t seem to be aware that you can manage iOS devices without iTunes.

          6. Well bygollee what kind of sorcery is that gosh darn internet?

            I understand how DRM and content deals work, based on that deal Apple represented the users, by proxy, and agreed to DRM. That’s selling out, compromising on their own behalf, and that of their users. Do you understand you cellular deals work? (Going back to my original statement on Google).

            “you don’t seem to be aware that you can manage iOS devices without iTunes”.
            I believe I said that. Last I knew Apple was suing iTunes substitutes.

          7. So, you’re relying on a 12 year old incident that happened before the iPhone existed, and saying “Last I knew”. I can’t take you seriously.

          8. Yeah, I understand that, which is why I can’t take you seriously. You’re not bothering to inform yourself, you’re not learning, you’re ignoring information that conflicts with what you want to believe. You allow your bias and anger to rule your intellect. You should probably stick to ranting with your MacDailyNews account.

          9. I did not get the information in order to ignore it. Though you have not given me examples, I stopped arguing that point.

            What matters to me is Apple’s interference. I know Real Player got sued to oblivion. What assurances do I have that Mediamonkey won’t?

          10. You don’t play any purchased digital movie “on a device”, you actually play it _through_ software. You can only play Google Play movies through Google Play, Amazon movies through Amazon’s player (Prime? IDK), Netflix movies through Netflix, etc. Heck you can’t even watch CBS shows on Hulu anymore. For Digital content, the software is the platform, not the hardware. They are ALL DRM’d with platform specific DRM, unless the content creator says otherwise (like Disney does for some movies last I read).

            Joe

          11. Just recently I was pleasantly surprised that you can indeed watch Google Play Movies on an iPad. Google released the App, and I am humbly gracious that Apple magnanimously approved it (okay that part was sarcasm).

            So, as it stands right now Google movies plays on Windows (via a browser), iOS, OSX, and of course, Android. iTunes, on iOS, OSX, and Windows. Windows media, even worse, it’s Windows only.

            You’re right that it’s the platform, which is tied to the hardware, except in Google’s case.

          12. As long as Google graciously allows.

            How is iTunes for Windows tied to Apple hardware? Sorry rhetorical. I am sure you’ll find some irrational way to rationalize that, too.

            Joe

          13. I don’t get the Google part, you’re right about the Windows iTunes part.

            Edit:Point is, we went from what “kind” of device to what “brand” of device. Optical media, records, etc. didn’t have this problem.

          14. Google’s not gracious, they are going about their business providing service to customers. It’s Apple that’s being gracious by allowing another party’s efforts to be used by customers.

          15. That’s utter non-sense and it is hard to believe anyone seriously thinks that. How is Apple being any more “gracious” than Google? Apple has a long track record of other parties efforts to be used by customers (KAmazon, Hulu, Netflix, etc.). You’re spewing ridiculousness. Which pretty much means you have nothing real to gripe about.

            Joe

          16. As long as they are the arbiter of what’s allowed, they are being gracious. As long as they’re the only store, it is by their graces that any application exists on the platform.

          17. No less nonsense. No application exists until the developer decides to create it.

            Really, is this all you have? Mischaracterizations? Please find something real.

            Joe

          18. Right. No application exists until the developer decides to develop it. Here the developer decides to develop it and ‘prays’ Apple approves it, through their grace.

          19. What’s nonsensical is denying all the app store rejections, more often controversial (heck, any rejection is controversial).

          20. Based on a mild observation of the shear MAGNITUDE of apps at the App Store, either there are a whole lot of religious people in iOS development or your conclusion is nonsense. While both could be true, you conclusion is definitely nonsense.

            Joe

            Obviously no amount of reason will alter your irrational conclusion. So carry on without me.

          21. Rather that insert an edit, I will add a separate response.
            What we will never know is what was never done or submitted due to App Store policies.

          22. Until you wanted to play that content on a different kind of device. That’s lock-in of the highest order. Want to (legally) play the VHS movie you bought on a DVD player? Buy the DVD.

            Joe

          23. Or what region. The DVD player was still dependent on software. My, you have a myopic, colored view of history.

            Joe

          24. Okay, add region to the list. Still DVDs played on DVD players regardless of who made them.

          25. And who made the rules? And were the rules arbitrarily applied? I don’t know of a single instance of a movie being disallowed other than governmental regulation.

          26. I don’t like the regional thing either. Was a single company, that also sold DVD players, in charge of that? I don’t know.

            But I somehow seem to recall it was done to prevent counterfeiting, and ‘may’ have had governmental support.

          27. Okay. No argument. No defense either.
            Doesn’t change Apple’s actions.

            Edit: I would go further and say that since you can’t use the internet without Google making money somehow, and since they pry deeply into individual behavior and information, those parts should be regulated like a public utility.

      4. Let’s be clear. No one here has actually brought up fragmentation except you and klahanas in quite sometime. Most discussions I’ve seen are responding to you. So maybe you are stuck in the past or maybe you are referencing some other post?

        Joe

        1. I know right ? Since it could be applied to Apple’s line up, and since it has been proven to be mostly bunk on Android’s side, the topic has mysteriously disappeared and we should all forget it was ever risen !

          1. It wasn’t bunk, it was real to developers, they seem to be the ones who complained the loudest. If it was ever an issue with customers, you sure would never tell by sales. But obviously it is less an issue today, very much to Google’s credit. There is no point in discussing it now. It has disappeared because it is being handled, not because it was bunk. So, everyone else has moved on, including Google. Maybe it is time for you to move on, too?

            Joe

          2. well, it is real to iOS developers now: not only different capabilities within the same OS version depending on device, but also different OS version for each device. And to users.
            If it was an issue worthy of discussion then and on Android, it’s probably an issue worthy of discussion today and on iOS ? Or was it a fake issue to start with ? In both cases, I think having a bit more memory than a goldfish is… interesting.

          3. Have you heard from iOS developers to verify your hypothesis? Or are you making the same kind of assumption you accuse others of? If, to you, Android never had an issue, then I don’t see how you can say iOS now does, not with any intellectual honesty. You would also have to show how iOS today is, at least, comparable to Android then.

            IMO, even with the diversification of iOS devices today, it’s still no where close to Android. And isn’t that one of the reasons you support Android over iOS, choice? How is choice good for Android and now not good for iOS?

            Joe

          4. I guess it’s good for Apple users to have a choice between 2 luxury phone models with +0.5″ and OIS and full-day battery on the larger model. Android’s choice is between hundreds spanning economy to high-end and specific niches (rugged, photo, multiple days battery, pen input, watch…), so the level of “good” is not exactly the same ^^

            iOS today is undeniably worse than Android then: iOS and tvOS don’t even have the same appstore. I’ve been running the same apps on my phone, Android TV Box, and in Windows for years.

          5. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t Android fragmentation. Just that it isn’t an issue (except to developers).

            Joe

          6. First it means that there’s iOS fragmentation, but that strangely not a peep about it. Even in your answer.

            Second, have you actually looked at that Ars search ? The first three articles have fragmentation in the title:

            The first one ends with: “Fragmentation isn’t going away any time soon, but I don’t think that the resulting compatibility challenges are seriously damaging to Android. Google has found practical ways to minimize the impact of fragmentation and to keep the broader Android ecosystem marching to the same beat.”.
            That was the conclusion in 2010. We still got such gems as “Being Bearish on Android. A Fragmentation Analysis” in… 2013… on this very site. Also, in 2014 “The Android Paradox and Computing Inequality” That’s well, not quite last year, but close ^^ On an issue that had been dealt with maybe just a tad more objectively in 2010, as you found out. That does beg the question of why the tunnel vision regarding iOS ?

            The second one is about a dev having his apps run on 4k different devices. No issue there ? The app runs on 4K different devices. They didn’t write 4k versions of the app. I’d call that the reverse of fragmentation ? Or maybe the dev has large-number phobia and that’s the issue there ?

            The 3rd one is Android’s browser lagging behind Chrome. Safari also lags behind Chrome, but on iOS you don’t get a choice, so yeah, browsers are “fragmented” on Android because you can choose your browser. I guess they’re fragmented on Windows and MacOS, too.

            So no, the “serious fragmentation issues” are not readily apparent on your Ars search either. All the way back to 2010. Plus for some reason, Windows’ fragmentation and now, iOS fragmentation never get mentioned.

            I’m very curious why such a “key issue” first was manufactured about Android, and second is now so blatantly ignored about iOS/tvOS.

            Edit: various edits.

    2. “(I)s it really accurate to call the iPad Pro a new platform?” – Shameer

      My short answer is that I included the iPad Pro in the list of new platforms simply because others have called it a new platform.

      My long answer is…well, it’s long. Too long to put in the comments.

      For now, I’ll just say that I could go either way on this. In some ways, it seems obvious that the iPad Pro runs iOS, so it isn’t a new platform. In other ways, it’s easy to recognize that the IPad Pro will not be truly useful until developers create new apps that take advantage of its capabilities.

    3. I agree that the iPad Pro isn’t a new platform but I would argue that it should be. Or the iPad as a whole should be. I have a hard time understanding the goals of the iPad Pro (I own one).

      Is it a pro device if professional photographers can’t import raw photos? Is it a pro device if users aren’t allowed access to a file system (or some usable replacement) across multiple applications? Is it a pro device if technical writers can’t record the screen for use in a tutorial or demonstration article? I can go on for a while with reasons why the iPad Pro is currently not really a pro device but if Apple just created a separate platform, most of Apple’s fear of complexity that makes them disallow professional features disappear.

      1. “I agree that the iPad Pro isn’t a new platform but I would argue that it should be.”

        To accomplish that the iPad / iPad Pro would need its own OS fork (ie: padOS). It would still be iOS under the hood but with a UI tailored to take advantage of its form factor. And there are many in the tech community who feel that the iPad Pro, at the very least, should get its own OS.

        “I have a hard time understanding the goals of the iPad Pro (I own one).”

        I don’t see the iPad Pro in the manner that the rMBP or MP are Pro machines. I take Pro, with the context of iPad, to mean an iPad, due to its hardware / accessories allows you to do more vs smaller iPads and will (hopefully) usher in a new class of apps that smaller iPads won’t be capable of doing. Maybe people would understand it better if it were branded iPad Plus.

  5. I’m doubtful about several things:

    1- How does the “open” of IBM compatibles (BTW, that setup was created by IBM, not Microsoft and Intel) compare to the “open” of Android ? One is based on proprietary software and proprietary CPUs, the other one on open software and widely-licensed CPUs. I’m not even sure how you attached “open” to Wintel to start with ?

    2- I’m still not on board with Apple as Premium. Luxury certainly, but the vaque Premium term also could apply to specs and features where Apple significantly lags. Plus you seem to be defining Premium by spending, that’s one more indicator that you mean Luxury ? You seem to struggle between “premium”, “high-end” and “high value” later on. And make a parallel between Apple and Tiffany’s… that’s “luxury” ?

    3- “There are thousands, and perhaps millions, of markets that have multiple
    vendors and that can be divided into both premium and discount sectors.
    And market monopolies — like the one Microsoft Windows enjoyed for
    almost two decades — are not only not the norm, but they are actually
    fairly rare.”. Yep, but how many markets have a much Network Effects and Lock-In as IT ?

    4- User Experience is in the eye of the beholder. Until I see double-blind tests about it, I flatly deny that Apple’s is superior. It’s just an empty term to obfuscate snobbery. The same customers who “chose Premium” also watch The Kardashians, so I’m not sure “Premium” is what they chose. Unless you consider the Kardashians premium ?

    5- The developers debate has ended now: everything (except music creation for technical reasons) is available on both platforms. And the money is on Android’s side these days, look at any app sales data, and remember (unlike Mr. Evans) to count all Android appstores, not just the PlayStore, I heard there’s a country called China … ?

    6- Miscellani:
    “Amazon keeps sticking its nose into the platform arena (where, so far, it has consistently been bloodied).” Source ? I’ve read somewhere they’re quite happy with the long tail, especially with sales to and fidelization of Fire owners.
    “Several watch makers are trying to get into the platform game.” I think the platform game is being played out in wearables and home automation more than in the specific watch market.
    “Blackberry has a platform that’s hanging on for dear life.”. Do they ?

    1. Lots to unpack here. Probably deserves another article. I’ll do my best to provide some succinct responses.

      I2- I’m still not on board with Apple as Premium.

      By premium, I meant: “Relating to or denoting a commodity or product of superior quality and therefore a higher price: premium beers.

      http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/premium

      I don’t want to turn this into a discussion of semantics. If there’s a better term to describe what I meant, I’ll be happy to use that instead.

    2. 3- How many markets have a much Network Effects and Lock-In as IT ?

      My short (and imprecise) answer is that the internet eliminated or reduced the impact of the network effects. Look at the proliferation of messaging apps. The network effect would predict that there could be only one, but instead, numerous competing products exist.

      1. Indeed that’s part of it: the same apps are available on both platforms, so network effects don’t play the same role as they did for Windows which had lots of apps as exclusives.
        On the other hand, they haven’t disappeared completely: getting all devices on the same ecosystem saves on apps (which are mostly bought per-user account, not per-device); peripherals are mostly ecosystem-specific (those cable, headphones, SD cards); and skills are very much platform dependent (“No Mom, you’re on iOS now, you don’t get a Back button”. “No Mom, you’re on iOS now, you don’t get your news and mail right on the home screen, you have to open their app for that…”, “No Mom, you’re on iOS now, if you want to check that the wifi is alright, you’ve got to go to settings, networks, wifi; you can’t get the home screen widget”, etc etc….)

    3. 4- User Experience is in the eye of the beholder. Until I see double-blind tests about it, I flatly deny that Apple’s is superior.

      I’ve collected literally hundreds of quotes from people who feel exactly as you do, Obarthelemy. If one can’t see the rationale for Apple’s success, then one assumes that Apple’s success is irrational. My short answer is that the market votes with its dollars on which products are superior and which are not, and as of today, the iPhone is garnering 95 out of every 100 votes.

        1. The market votes up many, many products that I personally vote down (by not paying for them). One of the beautifully things about free markets is that sellers get to decide what they are going to sell and buyers get to decide what they are going to buy. Your opinion and my opinion matters little.

          Having said that, If you think that Apple is the Kardashian’s of tech, then you are never going to understand Apple’s success.

          1. I don’t think that, I’m not even saying that just that people who like Apple also like the Kardashians, which puts their “premium” sensors into question. Plus I got tired of my Vuitton analogy. But I don’t think either that Apple is the premiumier premiumy thing that people who want premium get (and gave you a few examples of an inferior UX in my Network Effects answer).

            I’m being voluntarily provocative, to show you’re assigning reasons to events in as random a way as I am. You’re assuming Apple is “premium” (itself a vague terms with lots of issues), and that people buy it because of that. I’m toying with the idea that Apple is glittery, and that people buy it because of that. Who’s to say who’s right – and we both certainly are but to what extent ?

            Edit: I’m sure that most thoughtful thinkers on this site have excellent reasons to use Apple products (and it seems all of them do use only Apple products). Yet the last question I had from an iPad user was “how do I get my email to work abroad”, which took a bit of work to unpack, and is probably more representative of the typical Apple (and Tech in general) user.

          2. “You’re assuming Apple is “premium” (itself a vague terms with lots of issues), and that people buy it because of that.”

            The iPhone captures 95 out of every $100 spent of smartphone hardware. I think it would be difficult for Apple to continuously command premium prices without providing premium products but if you feel otherwise, I doubt there’s anything that I or anyone else can say to change your mind.

          3. “The iPhone captures 95 out of every $100 spent of smartphone hardware.”
            ??? iPhone captures 95% of profits, not 95% of spending, far from it.

            If you say high price and margins makes premium, that’s fine. It can/should be argued though, since it also means a Vuitton handbag is more premium than a North Pole tear & water resistant ergonomic backpack.

          4. Also, the Galaxy S6 isn’t capturing 95% of the profits so.. it isn’t premium ? Despite having a better camera, screen, … that the iP6S ?

            Defining premium by profits doesn’t jive at all.

          5. Way to miss the point. Again, when faced with a number of competing “premium” choices (iP 6, SG6, etc.), consumers are voting with dollars by favouring one over others.

            Yet, you want to put all those iPhone sales down to “glittery” factor. That’s what doesn’t jive at all. According to your reasoning, the Galaxy isn’t “glittery” enough. I mean, come on, it represents better value for money, right? (according to you)

            Nevertheless, we are happy to say some iPhone sales are down to the “glittery” factor: Let’s say, the couple of million sales per quarter that Samsung isn’t getting. How’s that? Now, what about the other 60-odd million iPhone sales?

          6. I’m not being sarcastic. I see it more as the ’90s AOL’ of tech, with a major exception. On AOL you had a relatively safe, curated, and organized internet experience. But you could always exit, on the same hardware, and venture into the internet at large. The computer wasn’t tied to AOL, though you paid for admission. When you buy an iPhone, it’s all AOL, all the time.

            But if you prefer Disney, when I buy a TV, it’s not Disney all day…
            (now that was sarcasm)

          7. “Yet the last question I had from an iPad user was “how do I get my email to work abroad”, which took a bit of work to unpack and is probably more representative of the typical Apple (and Tech in general) user.”

            Yes, you mentioned that before. What I think is that your approach to answering his question is more representative of the typical tech user in general, when “unpacking” something for a non-tech user. You seem to have felt the need to make an issue of it and raise doubts about his choice of hardware…. instead, why not just say, “go abroad, and in your hotel or at an internet cafe, click ‘get mail’ as usual”? There was nothing to “unpack”.

          8. Mmmmm you’re in your paranoid fantasy world again. I didn’t discuss ecosystem choices with that lady.

            As for your “solution”. Mmmmm. Maybe check how she’s getting internet connectivity (3/4G, tethering, wifi) and explain to her how to set that up. It’s not just “get mail”, even on iPads….

          9. Ah, “unpacking” includes making sure you are connected. So she really is a non-tech person. If she had never been faced with various connection issues, then iPad was probably a good choice for her.

            Pity you make it sound like an Apple or Apple-user issue every time you talk about it.

          10. True, but remember Ford’s quote about people asking for a faster horse?

            ‘All the people tell me so, what do all the people know?’ -The Monroe’s

    4. “BTW, that setup was created by IBM, not Microsoft and Intel”

      Was it? I thought Bill Gates came up with the brilliant idea of licensing his OS for IBM hardware to IBM, instead of selling it to them? He specified that he could license it to others at the same time. I don’t think IBM had much choice in the matter.

      1. It was more like a blunder on IBM’s part, agreeing to a non-exclusive license for MS-DOS. IBM was probably rendered gun shy by their antitrust troubles then or maybe they thought that they needed to be more customer-friendly given Apple’s early lead in personal computers. It’s certainly not because Bill Gates insisted on non-exclusivity. I don’t think he had much bargaining power back then since CPM, which was generally thought to be a better OS, was also out there. Now CPM playing hard to get with IBM, that was another monumental blunder.

        I don’t think anyone back then knew what the long term ramification of on-exclusive OS was, even though we like to think on hindsight that this is proof of Bill Gates’ strategic and manipulative genius. It took Compaq and folks reverse-engineering the IBM PC’s BIOS for the IBM-compatible industry to take off and eventually overwhelm IBM (and hand control of the personal computer industry over to Microsoft).

    5. “2- I’m still not on board with Apple as Premium”

      Superior quality for a higher price. That’s Apple kit to a T. If you don’t see it that way, it’s not because it’s not true, it’s because you are blind to the metrics (or blind to the importance of the metrics) on which it is true. (Not going to go into whether or not your blindness is willful). Apple provides better built hardware, better customer service, and a better global experience than their competitors.

      1. I agree with better customer service, because shops. I don’t agree with better built hardware, because glass phones, holding it wrong, … and I don’t agree with better global experience, because as I said, that’s in the eye of the beholder until proven (I find Apple’s smartphone UI 10 years backwards, it’s Nokia only bigger). 1 out of 3, hence my objections about premium. Expensive sure, luxury certainly, but even by your own definition, I’m not so sure about premium.

        1. “…because glass phones, holding it wrong”

          And, yet, people are still using (and buying) the iPhone 4S to this day. The breakage or return rates were not significantly higher than any other phone model (especially for a single phone model that saw more unit sales than any other in the world except subsequent iPhones). Therefore, I don’t agree with your disagreement, because, well, reality says something else while you seem desperate to find something to pick on.

          1. My daughter sitting in front of me is using an iPhone 4S, right now. You can still buy them, and second-hand they still go for 100 Euro or so.

          2. And I have a no-name MP3 player from the early aughts that still works, as does the HTC HD2 that went on through the family tree. So we can exchange anecdotes… nice ! All those are very very premium then !

          3. My wife’s 4S is still working great. I’ve got an iPod Touch from 2008 that I still use, it also works great. You can find info on how long various Apple hardware tends to last, if you really want to, but you don’t want to since that conflicts with the narrative you continually attempt to create re: Apple. Even if someone spoon-fed you a source you’d find ways to dismiss the source.

        2. “I don’t agree with better built hardware, because glass phones, holding it wrong,”

          I should have said “build quality” but my brain let me down.

          The way you pull out a pair of anecdotes about a five year old phone to refute a statement about all apple hardware says “willful blindness” to me. Especially since there’s a handful of replies attesting to the durability of people’s aged iphone 4’s and 4s’. (I use mine without a case, and it’s survived several bumps without a scratch. I know if I ever drop it on concrete, it will probably break. The same can be said for every mobile I’ve ever owned. Solution: I am careful not to drop my phone).

          But more fundamentally, you’re being blind to the metric in question. Apple makes their devices as durable and reliable as can be given the materials they choose to use. But that’s just incidental to their goal, which is to make their devices feel *special* when you touch them (and make all their competitor’s devices feel like cheap junk in comparison). See, for example, here.

          1. How can you say that a phone you’ve got to hold a certain way is built better ?
            There’s a bunch of stuff that makes me feel special, most of it because I’m projecting, not because of any reality. iPhones mainly feel slippery and fragile (which they are: 17% of iPhones in use in France have a broken screen !)
            And.. my anecdotes are willful something, but pro-Apple anecdotes are legit ? Who’s willfull, again ?

  6. Good summary of why Apple has succeeded. Sadly, this article will not help the Apple detractors and Apple cynics understand Apple’s success. We can already see in the comments here the same old tired memes being trotted out re: Apple. As Apple approaches one billion active users (Benedict Evans who is fairly conservative on this topic recently pegged active users at 800 million, if memory serves) it gets a bit silly to attempt to attribute Apple’s success to fashion or cool factor or slick marketing or luck or captive audience, and on and on. At some point when we’re looking at a billion customers and very high customer satisfaction, there has to be an admission that Apple is delivering something that has real value. But as I’ve said many times before the anti-Apple argument continues to be “No matter how much Apple succeeds, Apple is not succeeding.”

  7. The iPhone is not premium though it is profitable. There are lot’s of Android phones that have better components and a better OS (Android). iPhone was magical when it came out and Jobs marketed it brilliantly but most people with iPhones now stick with them out of lock-in not because they think it’s super awesome. Developing for iOS, Android and web is expensive. The first one to go is iOS and hence the end of iPhone as we know it. It will of course be re-imagined with Android and a new skin.

    1. Read Space Gorilla’s comment below, and try again. Your comment has been copied and posted every quarter since beginning of 2010.

    2. “The iPhone is not premium though it is profitable”

      I honestly didn’t realize that the word “premium” would prove so controversial. As I wrote in an earlier comment response:

      By premium, I meant: “Relating to or denoting a commodity or product of superior quality and therefore a higher price: premium beers.” http://www.oxforddictionaries….

      That’s the dictionary definition. A premium product is one that is or is perceived to be superior and that commands a premium price, i.e., an above-average price.

      The premium beer in the dictionary definition is a good example. Some beers command a premium because they are imported. Others demand a premium because their supply or their distribution is limited. You and I may not think that a particular imported beer is better than any other beer, but if it’s priced at a premium and if that premium is paid by consumers, then it probably qualifies as premium

    3. Yup. iOS would be the first to go because derp.

      Android isn’t just super awesome. All those better components actually make it super-dooper awesome. Ultra max extreme super dooper awesome, maybe.

      Mega ultra max extreme super dooper awesome, even!

      Words are failing me now.

  8. “Developers, don’t follow end users — they follow the money.”

    To a certain extent, yes. But developers (freelance developers, obviously software firms are going to follow the money because that’s what corporations do) are also human, so they sometimes do things for non-financial reasons. For instance, the mac continued to have software made for it and developers loyal to it even in the darkest (late 90’s) days of the platform, when Windows was finally good enough and Mac OS 7/8/9 was showing its technical shortcomings more and more sharply.

    And with the transition to OS X, the mac started getting mindshare among developers a lot faster than it was acquiring marketshare. One reason was Xcode, with its interface builder. Another was that with the demise of the unix workstation market, the only grown-up version of unix out there (and thus, for people who needed or wished to use unix on their PC, the only grown up OS to choose from*) was on the Mac (cf here and the reference to “alpha geeks” here).

    I’ve read several discussions of the “app gap” between Android and IOS (this is going back a few years when that gap was much bigger than it is now) that pointed out that it was more *enjoyable* to develop for IOS than for Android, for several reasons not having to do with money.

    * Couning Linux as a flavour of unix. Not looking to delve into the whole “linux is/ is not ready for primetime” thing here, but I would note that just last month, an open source worshiper who switched away from OS X for political reasons admitted in his paean to switching to Ubuntu that he is forced every so often to go spelunking in forums to find out why something about his computer is broken and how to make it work.

    In short, it’s still quite true that your choices if you want to avoid microsoft and/or run unix are to: install linux and then tear your hair out trying to make it function, or buy a mac. For those who want to actually *use* their computers rather than tinker with them, buying a mac was the obvious answer in 2005, and it still is today.

      1. Sure, things go wrong and get fixed by companies who want to do well. Yet somehow that doesn’t matter to Apple haters. Just emulating klahanas. I know I shouldn’t. My bad.

        Joe

        1. The Maps API is not public domain, or open source. This isn’t about allowing an app to exist, it’s about whether they get to use the Map data. Very different situation. If they change Map data the App is in.

          Android permits other stores, this isn’t about banning an App from the Play Store. This would still be applicable if the App was on Windows or OSX. In fact it’s like using unlicensed fonts without permission.

          Contrast that with Apple forbidding Apps bearing the Confederate Flag, which they do.

          1. In Google’s case it’s not censorship, it Apple’s it is.

            In fact, I read they guy’s rebuttal, and I respect his position to change over to openstreet maps in his own timetable.

            In this very thread, you may have read that I would regulate Google as a public utility, but that’s not where your sensitivities lie, so I only pick on Apple…

  9. Ha ha, entertaining and informative article, Mr. Kirk! It’s red meat thrown into the middle of the colosseum on bear versus lion day.

    My only complaint is that setting up known and admitted liar Henry Blodget as a bogeyman is like shooting fish in a barrel. Even Henry Blodget doesn’t believe what Henry Blodget says.

    That aside a few more morsels to throw into the arena:

    1. It’s amazing how so many analysts never understood the distinction between corporate and consumer markets and products that you enumerated. All those people who yak about ‘open always wins’, when their only example is Microsoft DOS-Windows. I’ve pointed out long ago that DOS-Windows is an exception not the rule. Even Microsoft abandoned ‘open’ with Xbox. [I realize that ‘open’ has lots of definitions out there. The one I use has to do with non-exclusivity of key components. The OS, in the case of computing devices.]

    2. Corporate purchasing decisions are (usually) based on a highly rational engineering-accounting model of cost-benefit analysis. For consumer products, especially that segment of consumer products that the buyer invests his or her identity in (cars, clothes, accessories, and yes, smartphones), my belief is that the relevant decision model comes from evolutionary biology, in particular that subsection under the heading “sexual selection”. One can say there’s still a cost-benefit analysis going on but the benefits under consideration are different. Wink, wink. And playing the sexual selection game is expensive. Financially and physiologically.

    3. When Android first came out, or when rumors of it first surfaced, my first thought was that there’s your smartphone OS of choice for the third world. That was not meant as a denigration of the third world. There’s nothing wrong with being the choice for the third word. It means you’re inexpensive, widely available, and adaptable even to relatively meagre hardware specifications. There are technologies that spread in the third world that never saw the light of day over here (ex. VCDs) or caught on only after the third world demonstrated their usefulness (texting). One drawback though of being the dominant choice in the 3rd world is that there’s a risk that first world snobs will avoid you. But that’s just sexual selection in play again.

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