Posted by: jhamon | January 27, 2010

iPad: New Package. Old Fascism.

Mac 128 and Mac IIc

Mac 128 and Mac IIc. Do you recall?

Many years ago, in another life, I started a Macintosh software company.  In fact I was an early KoolAid drinker: I bought my first Mac 128K (that’s “K” as in Kilobytes) for $2,495 in 1984

  • For 11 years – from 1984 to 1995 – Apple ruled the PC realm with its superior windows interface;
  • For 11 years, Apple had the opportunity to license the MacOS to other hardware vendors and rule the PC space, freezing out Microsoft;
  • For 11 years, Apple shortsightedly pursued hardware sales over software licensing;
  • For 11 years Apple partisans mocked Microsoft’s lame OS offerings; and then
  • After 11 years, Apple decisively lost the OS wars to Microsoft with the release of Windows 95 – a non-hardware-specific operating system which, while not MacOS, was “good enough.”

Eventually, when I moved my focus to the markets (around 1995) I found that Apple’s proprietary OS stifled application innovation and oportunity.  I begrudgingly moved to the Windows PC out of necessity.  For me, the OS war was over.

So where in the world am I going with all of this?  A few weeks ago, I had dinner with a dear friend who showed me his new phone, built on the Google Android OS.  It’s nice-looking and has at least two clear virtues over the iPhone:

  1. It’s a portable OS that that is not tied to a specific hardware platform – much the way that Microsoft operating systems have always been hardware independent; and
  2. It’s designed to host web-based applications – not a local, proprietary, store-based solution.

Then, after a long day out of the office, I looked at today’s iPad commentary by the Apple faithful.  Here’s a choice example from I Love the iPad at Slate:

A computer running a phone OS has some downsides, too. For one, the iPad is completely locked down. It won’t run any programs that aren’t approved by Apple for sale in the App Store. Want a browser other than Safari? Want to buy movies from a store that’s not run by Apple? Too bad. We saw a clear example of this during Job’s demo: When he loaded up the New York Times‘ home page, the middle of the screen was blank. On an ordinary computer you would have seen a video there—but Apple has decided not to include Adobe’s Flash plug-in in the iPad, which means that most online videos won’t work. If video sites want in on the iPad, they’ll have to play by Apple’s rules.

Apple’s got a great phone/tablet/whatchamucallit idea.  It’s:

  • Proprietary hardware, with
  • A proprietary OS,
  • Running proprietary applications.

In contrast, Google offers:

  • An open platform, with
  • An open OS ,
  • Running web-based applications.

Haven’t I seen this movie somewhere before?

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  1. I might even pre-date you on the original Mac, and I also drank the KoolAid. Skip ahead a few years and I was now on the “buy” side of the fence as a corporate user, and banned all Macs from the company when we could no longer get the software we needed for their OS.

    I have disliked their ‘closed’ systems since day 1, but when it came to the phone market their model was correct, as much as I hate to admit it. I had run WM for years but finally threw in the towel and moved to the iPhone last year. It’s just plain better, and because Apple takes care of the system you don’t need to go thru the carriers for updates etc. As bad as Apple might be, the carriers are worse.

    Now we have the iPad. Problem here, I agree with you, is that the phone model no longer makes any sense. What worked for the phone market is not suited to the media market.

    I hope Google doesn’t make the mistake MS did with WM, which was let the world get fragmented with different implementations of the OS. Standards work; if Google lets several versions of Android propagate for each carrier it will be a disaster and Apple will the the last guy standing.

  2. Glad to know there’s another old guy out there – btw, I like your blog!

    I think Google gets it, far more so than Microsoft. They seem to think: ubiquity now, monetize later.

    Fast wireless bandwidth seems to be taking us back to client/server and data coherency, which would be great.

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