Friday, 28 February 2014

Over ripe Apple

This article about debunking Android myths is a good summary of why Apple's days are numbered, unless they can pull another rabbit out of the hat. It ties in to my long-held view that open software will always beat closed software.

Sure, if you're an investor, Apple is a reasonable bet: great brand, awesome margins, great history of innovation. Some might argue that its laurels are getting dusty (if not musty), but the financials are strong, and the innovation pedigree is still ostensibly there.

But Android is like bacteria. It simply evolves faster because it can. Android's biggest competitors are rapidly becoming... itself. Kindle's OS is based on Android. Firefox OS, same. Even Ubuntu, the most popular open source desktop OS on the planet, has a mobile version based on, yes, Android.

Even Nokia have released Android phones, right under the shadow of the Microsoft mothership. Do Microsoft care? Probably not. I think they've realised what Google long ago understood and thrive on: that there's no point in trying to lock people into your platform. It just pisses the customers off when your stuff doesn't work with their preferred stuff, and even if you succeed in cornering the market it just makes you complacent. So, the trick is just to keep evolving faster. That's ultimately what software is all about: being pliable and adapting.

Many argue that, in the age of cloud and devices, the operating system is fast becoming irrelevant. Mostly true, except if you're an app developer. While there are common frameworks, like Titanium and PhoneGap, there is still friction/effort/cost in developing for multiple OSes. More and more voices argue that this friction is needless. After all, what is its purpose? Why should Apple use a different OS to everyone else, and not let anyone else use that OS in their devices? It's certainly not for consumer benefit, despite what Apple may say. Sure, they are good, but better than the entire software industry?

 I use a macbook air and an iPhone 5, and I like them a lot. But my macbook has to run Windows in a VM for work. I have an old android tablet, with SIM, and, from an app perspective, it could readily replace my iPhone. There is nothing the iPhone can do that the Android cannot. The reverse is not true.

The iPad still outclasses its competitors, but for how long? As long as it takes for them to truly permeate the enterprise. Then the iPad is reduced to becoming what iBooks became: toys and ornamental computers for receptionists. The sheer volume and diversity of the rest of the ecosystem will overwhelm it.

Unless Apple adapts, its very incompatibility with the rest of the software world will be its undoing, once again.