Apple Everywhere

The Gloves Are Coming Off: The New Platform War

- 2010.10.21 - Tip Jar

Steve Jobs' bold shots at Google's Android are resonating throughout the worldwide tech community. The troops are arming themselves for open combat. The drums are beating. The battle lines are forming.

Let the Second Platform War begin.

A Faltering Giant

Losing key people left and right, Microsoft's days are numbered. Windows 7 is (finally) the Windows that people were waiting for, but it's too late. The ship has sailed, and though Windows 7 is holding its own, people were disillusioned by Windows Vista and know that another Microsoft flop might be just around the corner.

On every front, Microsoft is getting pummeled. Smashed. Obliterated.

The Kin, Microsoft's response to Apple's popular iPhone, flopped big time. After investing two years and billions of dollars in the project, Microsoft threw in the towel six weeks after launching Kin.

Windows Phone 7 is decent, but consumers have already acclimated to BlackBerry, iOS, and Android.

The Xbox 360 is hanging in there, apparently soaring ahead of Sony's PlayStation 3 and Nintendo's Wii, but if sales numbers are tainted by replacement unit sales, Microsoft isn't going to keep a lot of market share in that area, especially if Apple can get a few more game developers onboard the iOS platform.

Microsoft is seeing its products increasingly moving toward niche markets, and that's not a good sign for what used to be the general computing powerhouse.

And the Surface. Cool, but too little, too late. Microsoft's multitouch table is also a niche-market product and will accordingly sell poorly.

The Courier, a booklet PC project, might have saved Microsoft, but with apparently no intention to continue development, Microsoft is going down the tubes.

A Streamlined Leviathan

Google's biggest asset is its streamlined management. For being one of the biggest companies in the world, Google moves with speed and agility, outpacing every competitor and exploiting every market. It could pull off everything that Apple tried to do in the early-to-mid '90s (Newton, Pippin, Macintosh clones) and profit!

With the Android platform rapidly gaining steam (and feeling no pressure from Windows Phone 7), there are only two challengers to its market dominance - an ailing RIM and an increasingly determined Apple.

Beset by foreign government interference and poorly-showing new phones, RIM is slowly but steadily beginning its decline. Meanwhile, Apple's stunning release of the iPad, gaining a heads-up on the competition, stands as a real obstacle for Google.

The 9.7" Roadblock

Thus far, nobody has been able to produce a tablet that can match the iPad in all three crucial areas: touch platform maturity, battery life, and price. If it's cheaper, like the Archos tablets and the Streak, it has lower battery life or an immature platform - or both. If it has a mature touch platform, like the PlayBook, it either has lower battery life (not likely) or an uncompetitive price (quite likely). If it has better battery life, like the Galaxy Tab, it either has an immature touch platform (debatable) or an uncompetitive price (ding ding ding, we have a winner).

The iPad remains the tablet to beat, and, knowing Apple, somebody will appear to beat it, and then the iPad 2 will blow it away. This is how Apple gained the MP3 player market - build something that's generations ahead of everything else, and then make sure it stays that way. Also, it must be affordable for a large enough demographic.

If Apple plays its cards right, the iPad could be the only thing that holds Android at bay. And if a large group of people like the iPad, then they'd be more likely to buy an iPhone or a Mac - especially if they were all on the same platform....

The Mac/iOS Singularity

It's not a matter of if Apple melds its two platforms together, it's a matter of when. The Mac OS/iOS singularity will blend the Mac's professional power with the popularity of iOS, hopefully at a better price point.

Imagine an iPad that could run Photoshop, Aperture, or Logic Pro, then instantaneously switch to Angry Birds or Need for Speed. Or an iMac that could turn into a multitouch, pressure sensitive drafting table utilizing SketchBook Pro, Inspire Pro, or Brushes, then flip up for InDesign or Microsoft Word with a physical keyboard and Magic Mouse.

Both platforms stand to gain some of the other's strengths and none of its weaknesses.

Not only would merging the platforms result in direct compatibility, it would also attract more developers, which would greatly enrich the "iMacOS" platform. Google's Android, with portable market share only, would be at a major disadvantage.

Begun the Platform Wars Have

There's no denying it: Apple is not backing down this time. With Steve Jobs at the helm, Apple is steaming towards Google at full power, guns blazing. If Apple can keep its products fresh and innovative, Google will be hard-pressed to keep up.

Grab your popcorn, turn down the lights, and crank up the woofer - this is going to be one heck of a fight. LEM

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Austin Leeds is a Mac and iPad user - and a college student in Iowa.

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