Why iPhone could crush Microsoft..

I’m an Mac, and I’m a PC..iphonewindows

We know the story, Microsoft got ahead by locking themselves into the IBM deal and providing developers with the tools they needed to deliver business applications. To capitalize on this, as hardware diversified, they had an operating system that provided a common set of APIs for commodity PCs.

The Mac had better technology, it looked great, and well, never broke the market in the same way. The PC had already become the de facto standard for third-party developers and with ever cheaper and more powerful hardware it simply entrenched Microsoft’s position as the platform of choice for developers.

So how does this compare to mobile? Look at minicomputers in the 70s – lots of disparate hardware and operating systems, no common way for users or developers to universally bring applications to market. Lots of computers out there, and fortunes to be made from them. IBM was analogous to Nokia – the leader in the market with the largest established base – but many looking elsewhere for cheaper or more flexible options.

So, exactly the same as mobile! No common platform (no, Java is not really a platform, and the browser is not deep enough) for applications. You want to sell apps, etc. and make money – you need a real OS to do this. And one that has scale..

Apple has come to market with the iPhone which is first to combine the next-generation phone OS that both users and developers desire with an easy billing model. It has tools and APIs that other phone manufacturers could only dream of supplying to their developers – and is looking at $1bn in revenue from apps. So, Apple can keep releasing versions of their devices, improve their platform and for sure that they can capture a vast portion of the mobile market. But not all.

Hang on then, what if they were to license their OS? They can supply processors and graphics chips if needed, there’s not too much to mess up with the interface – a giant touchscreen and a button. OEMs could develop their own plastics, and compete on industrial design, paying a few dollars to Apple to license the OS.

Sure, this is not a new model. Symbian has been trying it for years, but frankly failed to execute very well. Windows Mobile has had a good attempt but feels old and tired in comparison. Palm? Nevermind. Android is an interesting competitor but (a) everyone is unsure of Google and (b) fragmentation has already begun, and there doesn’t seem to be the same kind of drive to hold the course steady – it’s just a phone guys!

This would give users a choice of devices but maintain a consistent application experience and billing relationship. With the clamor from carriers and users you can almost see them signing up for it. Developers get a powerful platform with deep APIs, millions (billions) of users and an easy way to get paid. Apple would essentially grab a chunk of the mobile market similar to Microsoft’s share of the PC market.

Making totally new phones is hard and the manufacturers know it better than anyone else. That’s why they’re looking at Android, even though it’s made by Google 😉

Can Apple do with iPhone what they never achieved with Mac? And what Windows Mobile has not been able to do, as it’s frankly not good enough? Will Nokia, Samsung, etc. all be making “Apple-compatible” hardware licensed from Mr Jobs? He’ll be laughing all the way to the bank. Or grave.

Scary.

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