In the old days we used to have great flame wars of PC vs Mac. Back then Apple was going to conquer the desktop. They never even got close of course. Everyone talked about Apple machines but bought PCs. There was always some secret plan, some new technology, a “gamechanger” just around the corner that Apple was about to reveal. There was firewire (much better than USB!) or other Apple-proprietary flops which remained in the Apple ecosystem or just quietly died out. Apple fan boys still talk about them. Apparently the world was wrong to go mainstream with Windows and Intel, “if only they had all picked the better technology” and gone with Apple….
Similar story with iPads. For the second time in Apple’s history, education would be key. Schools apparently would fill up with iPads. The PC is no longer important, check out market share of all devices and iOS is conquering the planet! Well, no, it didn’t. iPads are already retreating big time in terms of market share. Apple’s latest hope, the collaboration with IBM is probably first fanboy fiction which actually has a hope. But only because of IBM infrastructure and serious technology.
Apple couldn’t support going mainstream. Much like Facebook struggled to keep up with demand as it growed. Billions of hits on your servers from all around the world is quite something to handle. On Apple-only technology it would be impossible. Since switching to Intel of course, things are much better. Apple can pretend to be running on Apple hardware, get real software companies to handle the software and actually gradually catch up with Microsoft and Google, SAP, Oracle and all the other serious companies. They use Oracle and IBM for their data centers since 2010. In order for Apple to support its own Content Delivery Network they will need to steal a damn lot of specialized engineers, copy or buy the pop count models of Level3/Edgecast/Limelight or buy them out, figure out how iPhone users are different and then lose money big time for several years until they figure out the optimum configuration.
The plateau reached by iPhones is typical in this respect. While others talk about iOS catching up and iWatches, I watch the total user base numbers. Only Google can handle the number of Android devices around. People nag about the Play store but who else could build an infrastructure able to handle the payload? If Apple made a cheaper iPhone and sold more of them, they would need to outsource even more of their infrastructure. Sooner or later the myth bubble would burst. Apple needs to keep up the fantasy of a “different” and “superior” ecosystem. Have you striving for the “ideal” of living with iPhone, iPad, MacBooks all around you. And this despite the fact that Apple was never able to build a proper retail channel?
In fact, the greatest news about the Apple-IBM deal is that IBM might force Apple to stop changing adaptors, connectors, file formats and everything else they change all the time! Because which corporate buyer in their right mind will invest in a company that suddenly stops supporting a device you bought only 2 or 3 years ago? Steve Jobs might get away with telling consumers to hold their iPhone differently in order to get better reception, but corporate contracts don’t have quite the same patience…. IBM might also provide some much need oomph in terms of Artificial Intelligence through the Watson platform because – let’s face it – Siri has no chance in hell of catching up with Google does it?
The myth of a superior operating system has been maintained by Apple not through real innovation but through acquisitions. They never spent enough on R&D to come up with real technological breakthroughs. Steve Jobs was a genius not in “giving the people what they didn’t know they wanted” but in dressing up technologies that already existed. You can only do that so much though. So he bought in stuff. Look at a the list of Apple acquisitions. When Apple wanted to pretend they were kings of digital video they knew their software was rubbish. It was written by the same guy who wrote PremierePro, the software they made fun of! So they bought other companies and gave it away with Final Cut. Software that used to sell for $10,000 on its own, was suddenly thrown in the suite for free. As long as you buy in to the Apple fantasy…
I have written before that Tim Cook really is Apple’s only hope. IBMesque moves will save the company. But handling their fanboys fanatic approach to everything is slowing them down.