A Closed Apple Platform is Inevitable But Temporary

A big thanks to Chris Dixon for writing “Should Apple be more open?” I was going to write basically the same thing but he saved me the trouble. If you don’t understand what he’s writing, read The Innovator’s Solution. The short answer is that see how the primary criteria customers use to choose a product changes over time because technology improves faster than customer needs.

Dang it, now I’ve started writing so I might as well say the other thing that people haven’t been saying about the iPad. If you can spell “vim” or “emacs” or “ssh”, this computer isn’t for you. It’s for people who don’t use computers much because they’re hard to use. I think this could be as important as the original Macintosh for changing the way people use computers for the next 30 years. Computers as we know them are a super optimized expression of 40 years of progress. (No, seriously, name one thing we have now that wasn’t in Engelbart’s 1968 demo besides more horsepower.) This is wild speculation, but I think the iPad demo could be a similar moment, an expression of another path for computing. Obviously hardware makers think so because everyone with a soldering iron is pushing whatever flat, keyboardless device they threw together in time to ride the iPad media wave.

But to those that already heavily use a computer for specialized tasks, we’re the ones who need to be scared of the Innovator’s Dilemma and Innovator’s Solution. The axis of choice has already shifted away from power to price, and it is in the process of shifting from price to convenience and usability. Arguably there’s no way to fix the major problems with complexity and security that modern OSes have without breaking decades worth of legacy apps. So a clean break, whether it be iPhone OS, Android, ChromeOS, or other, is likely to be the platform of the future? Which one? iPhone OS is clearly the new platform for the immediate future and the iPad is only going to strengthen that, but the convenient, touch-based media consumption model of computing will go through a similar cycle of plausibility, power, price, then convenience. When it shifts from power to price, an open platform will gain advantages over a closed one and Apple will either loosen up or become a profitable niche player in mobile computing as well as legacy computing.

EDIT: Someone else also did a better job of writing what I wanted to: iPad: An Apple for Mom. Thanks, Daniel!


  1. says

    Somehow, to me, the iPad just seems to be just a cross b/w an iPod touch and an iMac. Other than being a touch optimized Mac, does it really change much (other than the ‘missing’ keyboard and mouse) ?

    Now, if I could put two iPads side-by-side (or and iPad and an iPhone), grab a picture on one with my hand and drag it to the other without caring about networks or protocols or mounting drives, that would be something !

    Or maybe they could take something like MS’s Surface or Natal and integrate that with the all their iStuff. That would be even better !! I could go on…

    On the other hand, I can spell vim, emacs and ssh…

  2. bud says

    Gautham, that is the secret sauce I think the iPad needs. Grab GPS coordinates from iPhone, become second monitor control surface for iMac and Macbooks. Could be done, by Apple, easily, without cannibalizing their other markets- it would enhance them, and add value to the iPad, especially for those wanting MORE.

  3. says

    I agree 100% with you. I wrote a post about how the iPad could attack the boomer market here: http://tylerwillis.net/blog/ipad

    I also wrote about how I believe this is ushering in a new disruptive innovation in computing. Desktop computers are now so powerful that they have outpaced the general consumers need — I think this product represents a new type of machine that has better mobility and accessibility that will grow to support the needs of the mass market (in the form of a secure/simple platform that goes from off to usable VERY fast).

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