Reimagining Personal Computing

As a person who tracks the ebbs and flows of the computing market—in all its various forms—the last few weeks have been interesting, to say the least. First, we saw Apple extend the iPad into its most compute-friendly (or computer competitive?) form, with the release of the iPad Pro and its accompanying Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil. Then, Google unveiled the Pixel C, an Android-based 2-in-1 device with a detachable keyboard and a high-resolution screen (308 ppi) 10.2” screen. Finally, today saw the release of the much-anticipated Surface Pro 4 from Microsoft, as well as the unexpected Surface Book.

The clear takeaway from all of this is that, despite early criticisms, Microsoft clearly struck a chord with the Surface devices—particularly the Surface Pro 3—and the future of computing is looking increasingly like a combination notebook/tablet. This is ironic in several ways because many people wrote off these 2-in-1 devices as a fad, and arguably, the 2-in-1 category didn’t really exist until Microsoft brought out the Surface.

But now, several years, several iterations and several similar competitors later, it seems Microsoft may have been onto something after all. In fact, the Surface Pro 3 has done surprisingly well, and nearly singled-handedly rescued the clamshell form factor from tablet-dominated oblivion.[pullquote]Several years, several iterations and several similar competitors later, it seems Microsoft may have been onto something with Surface. after all.”[/pullquote]

Of course, I say this despite the fact that Microsoft insists on calling Surface a tablet and refusing to bundle the keyboard that nearly every single Surface purchaser ends up buying and using anyway. In practical, real-world use, however, essentially every single Surface Pro 3 I’ve ever seen is used like a clamshell notebook with a detachable keyboard.

Microsoft gave people interested in this unique design even more compelling reasons to consider one at their launch event today. The new Surface Pro 4 builds on the heritage, design, and even peripherals of the Surface Pro 3, but adds important extensions of its own. First, the company reduced the bezel size of the display and increased the screen size from 12 to 12.3”, all while maintaining its 3:2 aspect ratio. As expected, the company also updated the Windows 10-only device to Intel’s 6th generation core (codenamed “Skylake”) CPUs, offering variations with a Core M, Core i5 and Core i7. In addition, the company added a redesigned, magnetic Surface pen, and a Microsoft-designed IR camera that can do facial recognition for Windows Hello. There’s also a new set of improved keyboard options, including one with a fingerprint scanner, and all of them are backwards compatible with any previous Surface.

The real surprise of the day, however, comes from the company’s new Surface Book—what they call the first Surface notebook. Housed in a sleek, 3.5-pound aluminum design, the device offers a 13.5”, 6K resolution display (3K by 2K), the infrared facial recognition camera, the redesigned Surface Pen, and Intel’s latest CPUs. In addition, however, is a detachable metal keyboard that houses an additional battery and optional nVidia GPU. The “tablet” portion of the device—which the company claims is the thinnest core i7 computing device in the world—holds enough battery for 3 hours usage, but connected to the keyboard, you can get 12 hours, as well as access to the optional GPU (connected via PCIe over Microsoft’s proprietary Surface dock connector).

Pricing starts at $1,499 for the sleek new device, and ranges up over $2,000 with GPU and high-capacity (up to 2 TB) solid-state storage. Microsoft claims they’re going directly after the MacBook Pro’s bread and butter audience—creative types, graphics professionals, and other highly-demanding users. While it remains to be seen how well the new Surface Book does, my brief time with the device suggests that PC vendors and Apple have some serious new competition in the more “traditional” notebook space.

Given that Microsoft also used this event to unveil more details about its HoloLens head-mounted computer, as well as showcase how their new high-end Windows 10 Lumia 950 smartphones can function like a PC, by connecting directly to an HD monitor (or TV), and leveraging Bluetooth or USB keyboards, this day truly has shown the range to which Microsoft is extending the concept of personal computing.

All told, it was an impressive display, and one that will likely be looked back on as having started some important reimagining of what personal computers can and should be.

Published by

Bob O'Donnell

Bob O’Donnell is the president and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, LLC a technology consulting and market research firm that provides strategic consulting and market research services to the technology industry and professional financial community. You can follow him on Twitter @bobodtech.

513 thoughts on “Reimagining Personal Computing”

  1. They don’t solve WinRT/UWP’s (Mobile) “there’s no app for that” issue, and I’m also still wary of Microsoft’s obvious lack of a user-0 tasked with looking past management checklists and making sure the actual user experience is nice, flowing, unbuggy.

    But looking past these 2 caveats, darn the hardware and OS seem nice. These products feel like the current cream of the crop both features-wise and aesthetically. I know a lot of home users who don’t really need more than a way to plug their phone into a screen, keyboard/mouse/webcam/printer, and storage; and a lot of pro users who’ll love the ability to either use their laptop as a tablet, or their tablet as a laptop, especially with a real dual-screen desktop setup to plug into when at their desk (actually 3 screens with the tablet’s integrated one).

    With Apple’s outrageous prices, these innovative dual- or triple-scenario gizmos don’t even cost more than a single-scenario iPhone, iPad, or MacBook. How far will the app chasm sustain iOS ?

    Google will probably feel some heat too, with their redundant dual OSes, security/updates issues, and weaker Desktop ecosystem, though they’re mostly not playing in the same price/capabilities range.

    Maybe the real competition is the race to the bottom hodgepodge: it’s still less expensive to get a cheap Android tablet ($250), a regular Ultrabook ($700), and a midrange desktop ($700) than a $1,500 Surface Book + $200+ (?) dock, and you get a lot more screens, CPUs and batteries for your money ?

    1. No doubt Apple will feel some heat, but more so, I think it’s the Windows OEM’s that will feel the greatest heat.

      1. I think you’re right. So be it. Vaio is coming out with some really interesting stuff too. It’s good to have price tiers within an ecosystem, from multiple vendors.

    2. “With Apple’s outrageous prices…”

      …that have made them the most valuable company in the world. So, the public as a whole does not appear to agree with you.

      Microsoft appears to disagree with you, as well, since their new hardware is similarly priced.

      Meanwhile, most of the sellers of the cheapest computing hardware that you mention at the end are struggling.

      But oh yes, any day now and that hodgepodge of cheaper iPod-killer/iPhone-killer/iPad-killer/MacBook-killer/etc. devices will yet triumph! It’s only been 14 years since the first iPod, 8 years since the first iPhone, 5 years since the first iPad… and it’s not like Apple keeps bringing out hardware updates on a yearly cycle or anything… (Wait, they do? Oh. Well.)

      1. Success des not make prices un-outrageous. Ask Louis Vuitton.

        The difference in this case I think is that MS aim to replace not one device, but several. For the price of an iPad Pro you get a tablet ($950+100+170 = $1220 w/ pen & keyboard), for the price of an SP4 you get a tablet, a laptop and a desktop ($900+130+200=$1230 w/ pen, keyboard, and dock assuming the dock is $200 like the other 2 ones). Value is not just price, it’s service/price. Of course each device has its own merits and limitations, and Windows especially sorely lacks tablet apps, but Surface seems to aim significantly higher for the same price.

        The hodgepodge stuff is triumphing on the user side: it’s by far the biggest unit sales. I’m not judging (as opposed to you), just stating that the overwhelming choice of the market is to go for price, and that it’s probably what the Surface lineup is mostly competing against. Not everything is Apple vs ROW ? Actually, most things are cheap OEM vs cheap OEM…

        1. “Value is not just price”

          Agreed. I get a ton of value from Apple gear, hence for me Apple gear is actually cheap.

          1. I’m not getting the gist of the question.

            – yes, as a gag gift. I’ve also bought lots of non-Vuitton bags ?
            – I also bought true luxury stuff for people who wanted that for their bdays, even sometimes for me. Most frustrating experiences of my life: between sexist sellers (the women next to me is *not* a potted plant), self-important and loquacious watch salesmen (just give me the thing and let me goooo), and my bad judgment (I’m not a gold bathroom type of guy, the goldiness outlasted the joke by a good 10 years).
            – I also bought stuff that was expensive but due to specs, not brand. Not often though, my life or pleasure rarely depends on it, and I find there’s a huge hike between good enough and top-rate. Rarely worth it.

          2. Most knock offs are pretty crappily built and last all of a week. I haven’t purchased any, but I know people who have (both the real thing and knock-offs). The LV brand promises things that are not just about looks. For instance read this:


            There is a lot of attention to detail in an LV bag. It doesn’t mean anything to you or me, but it does to the people who want them and it isn’t always just about appearances.

            To someone like you, this may still seem superfluous. But to some people it has real meaning. Value is about meaning. As with art, meaning varies from person to person. Just because it has no meaning to you, regardless of your perception of reason, doesn’t mean it is meaningless.


          3. There are a lot of very practical, very durable bags, for a tenth of the Vuittons’ price, and not spray-painted with tasteless logos to boot…

            The “well-designed and well-made” alibi for luxury rarely ever works.

            And… they don’t even smell like leather ^^

          4. Sure, but all you are highlighting is where you place value and meaning vs other people. For you, I am sure the very Modernist you are (my guess) barest Benthamite utility is sufficient for meaning. For others, not so much.

            One thing a real LV provides is also important to art collectors, provenance. That doesn’t mean anything to you. It does to others.


          5. But luxury isn’t art, it’s commerce.
            And do you really want to raise the provenance theme in an Apple discussion ?

          6. Well, as someone who makes his living in the arts, I can’t say I agree.

            Provenance isn’t an argument, it is an analogy. The idea that different things have different levels of meaning to different people.


          7. Speaking of making a living in the arts, I remember my first time applying for a grant. I didn’t have or want help. I’ve been in the industry long enough, I thought. As I filled out the application I kept asking myself “If I were reading this, what would I want to read?” Needless to say I was not awarded the grant.

            A friend of mine went over the experience with me and when I told her that, she said that was my biggest mistake. I should not be thinking about what _I_ would want to read. I should be thinking about what _they_ want to read.

            Your biggest mistake in trying to understand Apple users (if you are sincerely trying and not just being argumentative) is that you are looking at it from what you want out of tech, not what they want.

            Of course, if all you really want to do is argue, I’ll bow out and let you carry on.


          8. I work in marketing and sales and cannot count the number of times I’ve thought “if only I worked in Art and could say what I think instead of what they want to hear”, so thanks for crushing my dream :-p

          9. Especially to the people with money! 🙂

            Of course, it works best when what you are saying thinking happens to be what they want to hear.


        2. “Success does not make prices un-outrageous. Ask Louis Vuitton.”

          You’re comparing apples and Romulan ale. Apple’s gear carries a healthy markup — according to their financial statements, they make around 35-40% margin on their devices (not counting the expensive versions of the watch here). In contrast, luxury fashion items typically have a markup of several hundred percent or more.

          It’s not that Apple’s prices are too high, it’s that the rest of the computer industry’s prices are far too low. By selling computers at a decent profit, Apple is able to invest heavily in R&D, is able to deliver high quality customer service, and is in no danger whatsoever of going bankrupt. Contrast to all the rest of the PC industry, which makes, what, 1% profit per computer? And as a result is unable to spend on R&D, has customer disservice that is simply a joke, and are always desperate for more cash that leads them to preload all kinds of crapware and even malware on their machines for a few measly pennies.

          I bought an IBM desktop way back in 1999/2000. (At the time I still used Wordstar and so I needed an IBM bios because the autosave feature on Wordstar only worked on genuine IBM BIOSes). I paid more for that desktop than I would have paid for a comparably specced Imac.

          After Jobs returned, Apple slashed its prices from the gouging levels that they had been charging to something comparable or even below the rest of the brand name PC industry. And then they maintained those margins, while the rest of the PC industry followed the white box no-name competition into the pricing basement.

          Note that the industry has been trying to escape from that low-price basement ever since — IBM bailed on PCs, Dell has gone private, Compaq and a bunch of other companies merged with the competition or went bust, and HP would dearly love to ditch its PC division except they can’t because despite being unprofitable, it’s the gateway drug for bringing in new clients for their very profitable business computing service products)

          I don’t have the budget to buy new computers (so I buy used), but if I did, given the choice between buying computers that come with user-hostile preinstalled malware and Philippine callcenter-based customer disservice, or computers that cost more but don’t have any crapware on them and are backed by real customer service, I would choose the latter every time.

    3. We actually agree on the apps/user experience concern. I like much of what Microsoft is doing with the Surface, but it’s still the Windows/Microsoft ecosystem, and I just don’t want that, not in the slightest. Some do of course, the question is how many.

      1. I’m not sure “ecosystem” is a criteria for anyone but people already locked in (or the very few who try to not get locked in). For all the hooplah, OSes are mostly launchers for apps: if the apps are there and the devices are nice, ecosystem is irrelevant to most of users.
        OSes by themselves don’t differ much: you get a smoother UI vs no widgets, cachet vs choice of device, … but all run FaceBook/Twitter/Clash of Clans, and that’s what counts for most. Even cloud services are equivalent but in small details. Maybe content (videos, ebooks, not music) does add a level of lock-in, for people who let themselves get locked into a single-ecosystem supplier.

        1. Obviously we want different things and value different things. What you describe as an ecosystem isn’t what I’m talking about. I want a whole, curated, closed, abstracted, simplified, Designed, and supported solution from a single vendor, and I want a specific kind of value and user experience. Currently in tech there’s one company offering what I want. If there were others I’d look at them, but there are not. There are certainly individual devices and services here and there that are quite nice, but the whole package is still missing. I’m not interesting in putting together my own package, I have more important things to do with my time.

          1. Yes, that’s one thing I have time to do when I take short breaks from work a few times throughout the day. I’m also a writer, I think you are overestimating the time I spend on comments. It isn’t actually very much time.

            I understand that you see no value in Apple’s solution. But that doesn’t mean the value doesn’t exist for others. You often compare features or tasks, re: you can do all the things your iBrother can do, and while that is true you really are missing the point. Just as When isn’t as important, What also isn’t as important as How. The How is the user experience, and it matters. But again, you are looking for a different kind of user experience than I am, which is fine, but you cannot discount what I value.

          2. The user experience is mostly the utter same. You click on an app to launch it, you click on a movie to watch it. That’s 90+% of on-Mobile time.
            Also, I find it strange that Apple users never ever acknowledge that straight up branding and looks are a factor, same as for handbags and shoes.

          3. “O, reason not the need! Our basest beggars Are in the poorest things superfluous; Allow not nature more than nature needs, Man’s life is cheap as beast’s.”

            A brand is a promise. Some promises are worth more to some than others. Some promises are worthless to others.

            I find it strange that you are hung up on Apple users.


          4. As I alluded to previously, you and I have different needs and expectations when it comes to user experience. What you describe as the user experience doesn’t cover my expectations. Again, you’re attempting to discount what I value simply because it doesn’t match what you value.

            Of course branding and looks matter, that’s part of Design. I’ve never said otherwise. I love well designed things. As Joe already mentioned, a brand is a promise. Good design is also a promise. Your mistake is that you give far too much weight to looks and fashion when it comes to understanding Apple’s success.

          5. Of course branding and looks are a factor. No Apple user denies that.

            And EVERY non-Apple brand tries to imitate Apple in that regard (with varying degrees of success).

            Many of us in the Apple camp have long histories of using Apple devices during times when we were mocked for not conforming to the herd. We saw then, and still see now, that one of Apple’s strongest assets is its single-supplier status: a lone company, making non-mediocre products, for more demanding and discerning people.

            Many of us view our Apple purchases as investments; these products remain supported, viable tools AND hold their value FAR longer than “competing” products.

            I find it strange that some people settle for less.

          6. I find it stange that some don’t realize that no widgets, mediocre battery, mediocre storage, no pen, no multitasking, fragile casing, no choice of default apps (and many of those mediocre), etc etc… is less.

            I find it strange that some people pay more for less.

          7. All you’re doing here is demonstrating what you value. That’s great, good for you, but you aren’t making an argument, you’re just telling us what it is that you value.

          8. I don’t think that’s what he’s doing. If it were, he’d strive to be accurate. He’s trying to make himself feel better by using the lame/tired argument that Apple limits “choice,” creates lock-in, is evil and controlling, blah, blah, blah.

            Not worth the effort to correct him. Apple = bad. Android = good. He’ll never get past that worldview.

          9. Sadly, you are correct. I do still think it’s a useful discussion to have re: different people finding value in different things/ways. It’s not okay to discount or mock the values of others simply because they’re making different choices.

          10. And your obsession with this lock-in evil is tiresome and trite.

            EVERY tech company is trying to create lock-in.

          11. Well, first, you’re the one that brought it up.

            Second, not so much: Google have an actual Takeout tool to facilitate moving on with your data (emails, conacts, calendar,…); no rules barring “transfer to ” apps from their appstore; and (sorry, old canard), a FOSS base OS.

            I’m not surprised tthe difference doesn’t register with you though.

          12. It’s so cute how you still believe Android is free open source and that Google is but a benign overlord serving all your needs and desires and asking nothing in return.

            You’re just a darling!

          13. So, no real arguments then.
            Going down to denial and mockery when facts don’t fit doesn’t fool anybody, heh. Putting words in my mouth in unacceptable, but Iguess you have nothing else to fall back on.

          14. How can anyone make a “real” argument with you?

            When you offer up the existence of Google Takeout as proof that Android device makers don’t seek to lock-in their customers, all I can do is shake my head in somber sadness.

            Are you really so naive as to believe there are no data migration tools in the OS X/iOS ecosystem?

            And do you really believe that the massive advertising/private spy agency that is Google will “forget” you after you’ve downloaded and archived your data from Google’s servers?

            There is no point in debating you, obarthelemy. What seems to count as evidence in your world comes up woefully insufficient in mine.

            And by the way, you bought up “lock-in” in your first response to Space Gorilla when you puked up this hairball: ”I’m not sure “ecosystem” is a criteria for anyone but people already locked in (or the very few who try to not get locked in). For all the hooplah, OSes are mostly launchers for apps: if the apps are there and the devices are nice, ecosystem is irrelevant to most of users.”

            Ecosystem’s are irrelevant. How can anyone argue with that?

          15. To be fair, obarthelemy doesn’t seem to understand that I chose a closed, curated solution, what he or she would call lock-in, and I did that while being fully aware of what I was getting. I am just as smart and capable as obarthelemy, I simply value different things and made a different choice. That’s the problem with obarthelemy, and also klahanas (and others), the discounting of what others value simply because it doesn’t match what they value. That kind of intolerant behaviour needs to end.

          16. You’re being disingenuous:

            “Are you really so naive as to believe there are no data migration tools in the OS X/iOS ecosystem?”: Yes please, point me to the Apple-made tool to that effect.

            “And do you really believe that the massive advertising/private spy
            agency that is Google will “forget” you after you’ve downloaded and
            archived your data from Google’s servers?”. Did I ever say or imply so ? I just said I could move out way more easily.

            You have no points to debate, only smoke and mirrors, and, increasingly, misrepresentations if not outright lies.

          17. I don’t take kindly to being accused of lying.

            You can export calendar events directly as a .ics file.
            You can export contacts directly as vCards.
            You can export your emails directly as .mbox files

            All built-in from Apple. No smoke and mirrors. You know absolutely nothing of which speak.

          18. Oh, and there’s a centralized utility to do that, as well as the dozen other services google takeout takes care of ? You don’t even understand what I’m talking about.

            And since you’re raising that issue, I assume there’s a public and verifiable commitment form Apple to delete your data if you take it out from them ? Where is the commitment and verification procedure publicized ?

            You don’t even know what the defintion of lock-in is. Hint: It’s not erasing one’s history.

            As for being a “knuckle-dragging halfwit”, usually the insult reflects on the insulter, if only for its influence on the level of debate.

            Edit: oh, you edited that out, what a surprise.

          19. Guys, I really love you for having such a heated discussion with interesting tidbits, and only a small bit of personal insults.

            We should do a podcast sometime 😉

          20. From what I can see Google Takeout lets you get a copy of your data from 18 services, all Google services. So if you use non-Google apps for various things, you’ll need to export that data separately. Google Takeout is certainly handy, but pretty much all apps are working with standard formats for data. Apple has for a long time, it has always been very easy to get your data and export/import as needed. As far as deleting data, Apple is on record about gathering a lot less data than Google, so they don’t have nearly as much in the first place. Apple is betting on privacy as a competitive advantage, they are financially motivated to gather less data. That’s one of the advantages of selling hardware for a profit, Apple doesn’t need to monetize data.

            That said, Google’s model has its own advantages, you get a lot for free in exchange for your data, and Google is betting on a personalized experience. I prefer Apple’s model, you obviously prefer Google’s model. They both create lock-in in different ways. But lock-in really is a silly term, I’m not locked into anything with Apple, I made a choice and I’m enjoying the value and benefit from that choice. I can leave anytime I want and take all my data with me very easily.

            The same is true of you, you made a choice to use Android and Google services, but you can leave anytime and take your data easily. Does it really matter if it takes me an hour more to get all my data? Is it a race?

          21. I’ve actually had a harder time transferring Google mail than Apple. Apple’s is straight up IMAP. Google’s is a proprietary variation. I’ve lost information getting my email off of Google’s server before.


          22. Thanks, I’d forgotten that, Google Mail isn’t a standard format. I wonder why?

          23. Google is IMAP too, but the advanced features (tags, mostly) are not IMAP-standard.
            So don’t use tags, use folders. Most people don’t use multiple tags anyway, so folders+search work just as well.

          24. Ah, so Google does use some proprietary features after all 🙂 But as I’ve been saying, I doubt it’s very hard to transfer data out of Google Mail, perhaps it requires a bit of massaging, or using the product in a specific way from the start. So again we see that switching is reasonably easy.

          25. Indeed, Takeout is simply a convenience. But also embodies a philosophy: Google actually try to make it easier to leave, as a way to battle complacency I’d guess.
            Ditto with allowing a “Move to iPhone” app on the PlayStore. Apple specifically disallows a “Move to Android” app on their AppStore (guilty of mentioning a competing mobile platform)

            As for Apple not monetizing data, not even Apple are saying that: they’re saying they monetize it, but anonymously. Remember, they’re the ones selling Beacons to retailers, they have their own Google-like ad platform…. The main difference is that one says “trust us, but we won’t let you do anything about it”, the other one says “Just replace our services with others’ ”
            As for how strong that anonymity is… hopefully stronger than their screen lock, app sanitation, etc… Not that Android is perfect, but Apple have had as many issues, probably more, in the wild. They do get fixed quicker ^^
            Also, assurances of security/anonymity are only worth what the penalty is for failing to deliver as defined in the contract/EULA. What is Apple’s ? I think: none, as for Google. And they don’t have a shining transparency/trustworthiness record ( ).

            On to lock-in. It’s sad lock-in is so misunderstood. It’s not about user satisfaction. It’s about switching costs (in time, money, skills,…). It’s independent of whether you actually want out or not, it’s about the costs if you wanted to. Same as you can be stranded on a paradisiac island and happy to be… you’re still stranded.

            In Apple’s case, switching phones not only requires a lot of work on the phone side (18 export procedures then ?) but also has a lot of externalities (nonstandard ports, protocols, DRMed content with no viewer on other platforms, proprietary formats with no app on other platform…). Wikipedia explains it better than I do:

          26. If lock-in is about switching costs then it’s a non-issue for everyone, since switching costs are quite low today. Even with Google Takeout, once you have your data you still need to import it into whatever new thing you’re switching to. Switching is about more than a one way data dump. I can switch just as easily as you, as can everyone else. Heck, I bet it’s not even very hard to switch from Windows these days.

            As for happily using Windows, I’ve never known anyone who was happy using Windows or Word or Excel, etc. I’m sure those people exist, but I haven’t met any. Even you complain a lot about Windows/Microsoft.

          27. ??
            You’ll need to buy anew most everything vaguely IT-related : cables, almost all peripherals (even wired headphones are not compatible, if you want a remote), smartwatch, your router should be OK (though different defaults than Windows routers), but not your Time Machine.
            Also, you’ll lose your iWork docs formatting, lose access to your apple-bought ebooks and videos, have to switch from iMessage; have to use a bunch of specific 3rd-party apps if you want to keep using Apple cloud services (iCalendar), and those apps won’t be available for some services (or, you must switch all PCs/phones/laptops at the same time)…

            Again, I complain about MS *now*. 30 yrs ago, I was all happy with them ^^ I’m aiming at not repeating history… (not that I’ll be in a state to care in 30 years ^^)

          28. Yes, thanks for the keen insight, if I switch to new hardware I have to buy it. Look, your switching cost argument just doesn’t work, it’s very easy to switch from any platform to any other platform and whatever you do there’s going to be some amount of work and cost involved, but not a lot of work and not that high a cost. Thanks to lots of standards in the industry switching has become reasonably trivial.

            I do lots of work with clients on Windows, transferring many different file types back and forth. It is very easy to share and/or convert files between platforms. It is nowhere near as difficult as you’re trying to make it sound.

          29. Are you being intentionally thick ?

            – “if I switch to new hardware I have to buy it.”. Way more than that: if you want to switch 1 phone out of the 10 IT gizmos you have, you run into all the issues listed above: either have to buy a whole bunch of related hadware (not the phone, stuff around it: chargers cables headsets…), struggle with hardware, software, cloud issues, and/or switch all your gizmos. All for just 1 phone. That’s switching costs, and that’s lock-in.

            That’s incommensurably more than “if i want a new phone I have to buy it”. It’s like having to change house because you want a new sofa. And change everything else in the house too.

            Also, compare to the alternatives, say Android:

            – you can change OEMs (say switch from a $100 to $1,000 phone) with nary a blip: get you new phone, enter your credentials, run the device xfer tool, and that’s it. Peripherals work, app data and content move over… None (zero) of all the work and expense listed above. You’ll cry it’s cheating, it’s not an ecosystem change. Well, you’re partly justified, but only partly, it’s a fully different OEM, a different class of device (probably real shiny and powerful and a whole different new me to go with it, and I need to upgrade my friends now).

            – you can switch out of Google-Android to AOSP-, Amazon-, Xiaomi- or whatever- Android mostly the same way. I know, I know, still not a real switch… but because neither that switch nor the previous one can happen in iOS world, we don’t have to discount them for all others too: it’s still a switch out – of an OEM to a fully different one, and of an ecosystem to a tangentially different one). Different devices, different brand, different ecosystem… yet no need to change all the hardware, peripherals, apps, content… as when doing anything but going iOS->iOS, Apple-Apple, iPhone->iPhone.

            – you can switch Android -> iOS with a lot fewer issues because the apps+data and cloud services are available on both platforms, even your movies and books have a Google “app for that” in Apple’s Store. You still get to buy all prorietary cables and infrastructure because that’s Apple’s decision.

            – Switching Android -> Windows is a lot more similar to switching iOS -> anything, because Google seem to want to be assholes to, but selectively towards MS, rather than towards the whole rest of the world à la Apple ^^ Also, I’m betting we’ll see Google apps on Windows Phone if it breaks say, 10% wwide ?

          30. So we agree, switching between platforms isn’t much different no matter where you’re coming from or going to. And of course switching within a given platform is much easier. But still, switching between platforms doesn’t carry a high switching cost. You’re exaggerating the amount of work and cost involved. At one point in time, many, many years ago, you would have had a point. Today switching is fairly easy. Is it free and magic? Of course not. But it isn’t hard. Time to move on.

          31. No we don’t agree: switching costs are way higher for switching out of Apple+iOS than out of say Samsung in particular and/or Android in general, and those costs can be quite high in the case of moving out of Apple+iOS: everything you ever bought for/around your phone (peripherals, ebooks/movie content), plus several hours and head-scratchers to move your data over.

            Ecosystems are certainly NOT equal that way, there’s actually a lot more difference between ecosystems for the moving-out dance than for the actual daily ecosystem use.

            1- “you can switch Android -> iOS with a lot fewer issues because the apps+data and cloud services are available on both platforms, even your movies and books have a Google “app for that” in Apple’s Store. You still get to buy all prorietary cables and infrastructure because that’s Apple’s decision.”

            2- switching costs are fairly high if you’re invested in the iOS ecosystem, say have data in the iCloud, peripherals for your iDevices, an iWatch, and iContent for rainy week ends, because you have switch all that too, which costs time, money and effort.

          32. Of course switching from platform A to platform B won’t be exactly the same as switching from B to A, or C to B, A to C, and so on, but the differences in time/cost aren’t dramatic. I already have all my data and content in standard formats, it’s easy. Now, I could certainly invent an edge case where the switching cost was high, but as I’ve had to point out more than once to amateur debaters, edge cases are a logical fallacy.

            You seem to want to compare switching from A to B to switching from B to B. Again, logical fallacy.

            If lock-in equals switching costs, then you have no argument since switching costs are not dramatically different. Are they exactly the same? No, that much is obvious. But you’re being quite dramatic about the differences. Tone it down and move on.

          33. The B to A case is also described in detail, significantly (ie several times ie dramatically) less costly than A to B. I can’t be more pedagogical.

          34. It’ll depend on the individual case, there are many variables. I could invent a scenario where the opposite of your imagined scenario is true, quite easily. Switching costs simply are not the dramatic tragedy you’re inventing.

          35. So, to recap our lock-in discussion.

            First, lock-in was inexistant, because you can’t be locked-in if you’re happy. Right ? Wrong.

            Then, it was immaterial, because look, I can drop my phone and pick up another one. In the same hand. The very next second. But, wrong, again, if you want anything inside and around your phone, which is what ecosystems are all about.

            Then, it was irrelevant, because Android-to-Android shouldn’t count, and iOS-to-Android costs the same as Android-to-iOS. Double wrong this time.

            Now it’s too complicated and variable to assess. Well, I’ll beg to differ, again. Apple locks all apps, content, services and peripherals to their platform, Android and Windows don’t. Switching costs will overwhelmingly reflect that 99.9% of the time.

          36. I have no doubt that you imagine this to be an accurate recap of our conversation. You defined lock-in by citing switching costs. I simply pointed out the reality of switching costs, which doesn’t gel with the narrative you’re trying to create. Your reaction was (and is) inevitable.

          37. I wish *I* defined lock-in by switching cost, that’d make me a brilliant economist. Unluckily, vendor lock-in has been defined for a few decades, which doesn’t make me brilliant for knowing it, but does make those who don’t know it rather unqualified to discuss it.

            What reality did you point out exactly ? That your movies, documents, iWatch, ebooks, docks, custom maps, … has no value, as well as the time it’ll take to transfer over the fraction of your stuff that *can* be “liberated” (Google’s terminology, not mine) ?

          38. I wonder if Ben has some idea of average switching costs. What if it’s a couple hundred bucks and a few hours of time? Even at three or four hundred dollars (which I don’t think is likely to be the case), given the resale value of Apple gear the money will be a non-issue, you might even come out ahead. Note that I didn’t say switching costs were zero, only that they were low enough to be considered a non-issue.

            As for documents, files, etc, all my stuff is already in standard formats. It’s quite simple to do that, so that is also a non-issue. I’m certain that you know how easy it is to transfer/convert files, so let’s not pretend that it is an issue.

            No matter what switch you’re making, you’re going to have to invest some of your time. Even Google Takeout doesn’t magically do everything for you.

            So now we’re just down to the details, lost in the weeds of an hour or two here or there and nitpicking the out of pocket cost in real dollars. Still, none of that gets us beyond a threshold where I could consider switching costs to be high.

          39. You’re probably in the right cost ballpark. That’s several times what people typically pay for a phone, either because their phones are cheap, or they’re subsidized/financed, or both.
            Also, a single iWatch, or Time Machine, or Mac desktop/laptop multiplies that cost several times over.
            And the resale argument doesn’t apply: if you’re going te resell, you’ve already assigned that money to the new purchase. There’s nothing left to apply to switching costs.
            End scenario with your figures is “get new phone for $200” (including resale), vs “get new phone for $200 + new peripherals for $200-$600 (total cost $400-$800 ie 2x to 4x more) + a few hours of fiddling with export/import”.
            2x to 4x more + stressful/complicated transition is the very definition of lock-in.

            Also, what standard format ? Anything beyond a letter (say something with a table of content, footnotes, multicolumn, a polished layout or pictures) is still very prone to issues even nowadays. The only 2 standard formats I’m aware of are RTF and Open something, and nobody uses those (RTF is very limited, OpenXXX is mostly not implemented outside LibreOffice).
            What actual formats are you using ?

          40. As I predicted we are now lost in the weeds. Have fun tramping around, I won’t be joining you. There are switching costs, no doubt. But you really have to stretch to get those above a threshold where I would consider the switching costs to be high for an average person. We’re all locked in to some degree, but since switching is easy enough, I consider it a non-issue. You’re free to disagree of course, and you will, obviously.

          41. The other most important thing is this discussion, at BEST, is rhetorical hypothetical. I would guess that most people who switch do so long before they are too deep into a vendor’s ecosystem.

            And even then most people will likely switch a little at a time to decide if the switch is even worth it. And if they do decide it is worth it, then the costs are irrelevant.

            Even if someone does decide to do a whole sale switch after such a huge hypothetical investment of time and money, then they have decided the costs are irrelevant to motivate such a monumental change.

            In other words, this discussion is moot.


          42. Yes, and that’s my point. Probably the only thing we can say with certainty is that switching isn’t hard. I could invent some scenarios where switching was more difficult, but generally speaking, switching is not difficult.

          43. Your response(s) makes you seem immature. I am not sure what your point is. However, it seems that you like to be argumentative without a goal. I could make the assumption that you must be a difficult person to be around, but it would not be fair. However, I can say I would find you or any person that constantly nags an issue to be difficult. It might be possible that you are ADHD? Your theme is consistent and incessant.

          44. Well, given the definition of adhd, which is about the exact opposite of the behavior you describe, you yourself are unwittignly saying I don’t have it.

            Thank you for your contribution.

          45. My son is adhd and the repetitive and incessant behavior is a very common trait. When he takes his pill, he’s able to move to different topics, not labor over the same argument and just cope better. And, please don’t ridicule the condition for your amusement to feel clever.

          46. And what do you think you’re doing ?

            The starting point of the conversation was “those devices satisfy more scenarios by being keyboard+mouse equipped and dockable”, to which the I guess inevitable segue was “yesss but ecosysem” and “whole, curated, closed, abstracted, simplified, Designed, and supported
            solution from a single vendor, and I want a specific kind of value and
            user experience” We can go back to discussing use cases, at last ?

          47. Indeed, I did tell you what I value. The difference is I’m not discounting, mocking, and arguing against what you value.

          48. I find it strange that one thinks one company can do it all, and do it all well. You get what they choose to sell you.

          49. iOS and OS X are platforms, as you know. Apple doesn’t try do it all, and you get what you choose.

            If find it strange that you would make such a strawman argument.

          50. The broadest choice you have is in or out.
            “Apple doesn’t try to do it all”
            Right! They can’t if they wanted to. Where we differ is that they DO try to do is take you exclusively under their umbrella, once you choose that pill. Breadth and diversity is good.

          51. As a windows user with an SP3 I find it strange but no one I talk to with a Mac would ever consider switching back to a PC. So what you say about the user experience being utterly the same rings true to me, but anecdote-ally there is definite lock-in with OSX just as there is with iOS. I’d say the basic “actions” between OSX and Windows are similar but the experience is quite different. As someone who grew up using Windows I cannot discount the “magic” that the Apple user experience offers.

  2. 2-in-1’s have obviously become very powerful computing devices. There is certainly a degree of convergence happening in the inner workings of ultrabooks, 2-in-1’s, tablets and phones. It is tempting to assume that it is therefore “only logical that” consumers would prefer to have only one device instead that subsumed the function of all those devices. However, that misses the bigger point that there are considerable differences between the categories in terms of:
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