Microsoft:Hardware::Apple:Software?

by Ian Rosenwach on 3.12.2014

Summary: Apple’s achilles heel is fast becoming it’s software and services layer. If something is not done quickly, Apple is at risk of falling behind in software just like Microsoft did in hardware via it’s OPM partners. 

Today Apple is the dominant force in hardware + software integration. But they’re at risk of losing their competitive edge as software + services innovation happens elsewhere.

iOS 7.1

This week Apple released it’s first major update for iOS7. I’ve had a few days to use it, have watched the walk-through of the new features, and have one thought – meh.

I see compensation for old iOS mistakes.

There’s the option to adding button shapes to clarify that floating text represents an action, (via the Accessibility menu. Is it just me or is Accessibility becoming the place where Apple sticks switches that address UX mistakes in iOS?).

The ability to turn off parallax for wallpaper zooming (in where else…Accessibility).

The start/end call button smaller (I can’t figure out why, perhaps to fit in with the shape of the numbers on the keypad? Doesn’t make sense to me. These are different actions with different weights- the start/end call action should be given more weight via a larger button).

I don’t see much vision, or even elegance. In fact I see the risk of clunkiness. There’s CarPlay, but it’s useless at this point, and unfortunately seems like vaporware. Tim Cook has been talking about new product categories. This does not quality until Apple makes their own car :)

Keep in mind that Jonathan Ive is now heading software design since Scott Forstall’s departure. He doesn’t have the background in software that Scott Forstall had which will introduce new organizational challenges.

Microsoft lost in hardware – Apple has to win in software (& services)

Microsoft became successful through their software. One could argue this resulted in a lack of intense focus on hardware. Longer term, their lack of a strong presence in hardware made it challenging for them to become a true device + services company.

Apple has always been a device + services company. But let’s face it – the software & services side at Apple has been struggling. I say software & services because software is rapidly turning into services, in the sense that the software connects with various devices to accomplish a certain goal. Software is not stand-alone anymore.

This post by Patrick Gibson documents some of Apple’s struggles with software and web service products. His proposed solution is an acquisition of Twitter, which I’m not sure I’m on board with…

Roger Mcnamee recently stated that Apple is having “an identity crisis.” He also said that Apple engineering has “lost its edge” and they’re behaving “like a cable company” (ouch!).

Let’s hope they figure it out soon. The only thing we can be certain of is that change will come. What that change will be, we can’t say yet.

Summary: Apple’s achilles heel is fast becoming it’s software and services layer. If something is not done quickly, Apple is at risk of falling behind in software, just like Microsoft did in hardware via it’s OPM partners. 

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