I think it's probably fair to say that it's important that somebody control the end experience - but I disagree that this means everything should be done by that same company.
I was under the impression that Apple didn't really design and manufacture every piece of the iPod - they're packaging up a bunch of components made and designed by other people, and adding their own bit of innovation to it, mainly centered around the user experience.
I think an ideal metaphor for product with a well-crafted experience would be magazines - various writers, photographers, and advertisers submit their content for consideration, and the agazine editing team has the final in say in how this combines to create the final experience.
I think Apple could maintain the integrity of their user experience and still encourage third-party development if they acted more like a game console maker - provide feedback, standards, support, release testing, and even publishing channels to third-party software and hardware makers.
I think the day when "we" start hating Apple is closer than you think. In the last couple of weeks I've heard variations of "I won't be seen dead with an iPod / iPhone / MacBook" at least half a dozen times.
"This is why the original Apple computers had such a better experience than the IBM PC. On the IBM PC platform different companies built the hardware, OS, apps, devices, etc. Lots of creativity -- but understandably, lots of crap. And lots of complexity for the user/customer."
I'm not sure what you mean by the "original Apple computers." The original Apple computers had lots of third-party software. You were encouraged, in fact, to write your own. If you mean Macintoshes, again, there were plenty of third-party developers (Microsoft and Lotus were among the big names).
In fact, I remember back in the late '90s, being quite proud of the fact that my computer and operating system came from Apple, yet all of my applications came from other companies--large and small: Microsoft for business apps, Metrowerks for development, Mathemaesthetics for resource editing, Netscape for web browsing, Claris for e-mail, Lemkesoft for image editing, etc. This stood in sharp contrast to most of my peers on the Windows side, using Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office, Microsoft Visual Studio, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Microsoft Outlook, etc.
I would have to say that those that read articles about technology and write responses to those articles would probably have to agree with your assessment. I would further present that this is the same group that has the level of hatred for Microsoft that you mention. We are in the know. These issues interest us.
However, when you bring the common consumer into the equation, they could really care less. These people don't hate Microsoft, nor do they love Apple.
They just want their gadgets to work. As long as Apple continues to deliver the best available user experience, their popularity will continue to grow.
At this point in the PCs' evolution, a computer should be as simple to use as your television. Apple, offers the closest experience to that.
Us propeller heads know that the experience could be enriched by open things up a bit more but, my great aunt just wants to turn it on and do whatever it was she wanted to do when she decided to take a seat in front of her computer.
Just step out of your environment and ask a relative or friend that's not involved in geek stuff and few of them will know the difference.
Things are changing a bit as younger generations mature and more become more technically savvy but, in the end, most just want thier stuff to work.
I've never understood how tech-savvy people manage to like Apple; how can they stand running such a control-freak of an operating system?
Yep, I can't stand Apple -- its graphic-only BIOS, its hostility to security researchers, or the fact that so many Apple fanatics still
is the greedier. But the thing that pushed me over the edge, from "quiet disapproval" to "raving, flaming mad" was when they wrapped their OS around BSD.
Nintendo was very similar during the early generations. Remember the NES and SNES days when all games had to be "approved" by Nintendo. They had fanatical control but still dominated the market.
As more systems became available for development houses, jumping through all the bureaucratic hoops and writing software that would only work on a single proprietary platform didn't make as much sense anymore. The later generation consoles (N64 and GameCube) struggled for market share.
Seems like we could all easily hate Apple (or at least not be as enamored with them) someday in the near future as the "cool" factor wears off.
Actually, I think it's just plain old "they have, we don't" with these relationships, but only for small segments of the populations. Throughout history people hate the guy/group who had something (Rome, the Brits, the US, Microsoft). A group that enables a new market across the globe will have segments that say "well, I could have done that!" And Apple may fall prey to this to with media or iPods or whatever.
But I agree with the comment that if they consistently deliver a better experience, people will continue to buy. Having worked in every major OS (remember those OS2 days?) across a variety of industries and implementations, I will keep buying the Apple until someone else develops something simpler with a better experience, and doesn't look like crap when I'm standing in front a crowd or investment committee.
Honestly, I would rather that Apple and Microsoft stay "greedy." Otherwise what's the incentive to innovate?
The biggest reason to dislike apple that is rarely mentioned IMO is their Itunes profit margin. While it is true that they did a great service to music producers and users by facilitating the move to purchasing music online, their usury take of 35% should only be allowed to hold for so long. The web revolution is all about disintermediation, and when apple is taking a larger cut than it would cost to distribute OFFLINE there is a problem. In addition, they limit all files to be played only on IPOD devices off the computer. So it is no wonder that the industry is upset that not only they take a big profit but they use that to sell more IPODS as well. Also, they fix pricing and do not allow content creators to sell for whatever they want. Itunes will only become a larger and larger pure cash cow for them as time goes on, but their monopoly needs to be broken in the next year or two. The profit margin for distribution should be not much more than 10% i would say. This means profit to the rest of the system would increase by about (35-10)/(99-35) = 38%!!! Everyone says that bands should just increase their ticket prices to offset losses from music sales. But by breaking the 5 big monopolistic forces in the industry the creator can increase profits significantly without even raising ticket prices one dime. And Apple is only ONE of these forces.
Now you may want to argue that this doesnt matter because eventually 1) the price of music will go to free OR 2) all music will be distributed via subscription model (a la Rhapsody etc). Those are empirical questions IMO and I am trying to make my point outside of the realities they may or may not imply. Distribution, in the end, is not a value add service unless there is some additional layer ontop of it. And i am just concerned that the profit from Itunes (which Apple refuses to release AFAIK btw) will cease to justify the value they are adding to the system fairly soon unless they add some groundbreaking new component to change my mind.
When the iPhone first launched it was almost laughable when Steve Jobs said, "anyone can develop for it." It was only third party web apps that would be allowed.
Well this allowed the company to control the introduction to the iPhone. Problems with 3rd party apps didn't hurt user experience (not including jail breakers). Now should any 3rd party app not perform to expectations, Apple won't be blamed.
Just a though.
I recently switched to Mac from PC. I have to say my MacBook Pro is great, but the programs from Apple suck! Mail, Safari, iCal and Address Book are all shite. 3rd parties would do a much better job!
I believe Apple has the best business approach, and there won't be any company to even get close to them. Doing the hardware and software at the same time is what keeps them so far from the others.
Mobile phones have been blown away, computers have been blown away, mp3 players have been blown away, and I'm sure they're just worming up.
And to be honest, who can afford an audi, drives an audi - who cannot, won't. It's that easy.
The tide is turning in Apple's favour. I used to be the only Mac user in our little burg. Now I can't swing a mouse without hitting another Macophile.
I Luv Microsoft.. I know so many people, Who are emotionally attachded to Microsoft because of its contribution to the people live. It has reformed the world of unemployment to great extent. I dont think that any other Brands in IT industry has contributed so much like microsoft. All the other brands are good and innovative but Microsoft is the Legend. Thanks
Great insight by Val on their ITunes profitability.
Apple has the advantage of being perceived as a luxury brand, and knows how to capitalize on that. Though I can't stand their "I'm a Mac/I'm a PC" commercials featuring Jimmy Fallon's long lost brother, I have to admit that they're highly effective. (Even though one of the commercials seemed to imply: "Buy a Mac, and Japanese girls will flirt with you." WTF?)
Apple has always had the image of being the weapon of choice for the designer and media producer, but now they've graduated into the sexy, hip gadget for the young, trendy generation. PCs, on the other hand, still maintain that utilitarian, workman-like image. Apple has taken advantage of the fractionated PC market to portray the PC as ultimately unreliable and uncool (and I'm not talking about CPU and HD temperatures here). It's not as if HP, IBM, and Dell will suddenly band together to create their own rebuttal to the "I'm a Mac/I'm a PC" ad. The fact that there's no firm definition for a PC further complicates things. What is a PC exactly? Is it a computer running a Microsoft OS as its primary OS? Is it a computer manufactured by HP, IBM, Dell, Asus, Gateway, etc.? Is is a computer that runs software not designed for a non-Mac environment?
Personally, my next computer will most likely be a Mac only for the fact that Final Cut Pro and Pro Tools are currently only available for a MAC OS. I do feel that Mac is still the better choice for media professionals simply for the available software and industry knowledge requirements, but until Mac can make a dent in the world of big business, Microsoft has no reason to worry.
Woops, that last line of the 3rd paragraph should read:
"Is is a computer that runs software designed for a non-Mac environment?"
I dont understand the reference to "hating microsoft" and the topic of the article. Also, I dont agree that they stifle innovation and they have products that are not innovative.