History, Redux Edition

What follows is an opinionated rant, feel free to browse elsewhere.

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.  –Ben Franklin

As Mozilla finally gives up on the iOS platform, the question that must be asked is who is next?  The constraints that Apple puts on browser developers (straight out of Microsoft’s wettest dream) leads to the crippling of alternatives to mobile Safari.  Apple uses Safari’s webkit browser engine but only allows other browsers to use a crippled and slower version.  Despite this handicap, Google’s Chrome is not only competitive with Safari, but bests it in most usage scenarios.  Apple is just not that savvy when it comes to coding software (hence the need for restrictions to prevent real competition).

As developers begin to abandon the platform we need only look at Apple’s history to see where this is going.  Once Apple made the most advanced personal computer.  But after its release, they sat on their laurels and stopped innovating.  When competition arose, Apple still did not innovate, instead they hired lawyers and attempted to use the courts to stifle the competition.  They eventually lost and the platform languished, never to recover.  While the competition went on to rule the desktop roost.

Fast forward nearly 20 years and Apple had the most innovative phone platform.  But as the competition moves ahead of them, Apple fails to grasp the lessons of history and again fails to innovate.  Once again they attempt to use the courts to stifle the competition.  Attempting to stifle Android’s rapid innovation through a global thermonuclear patent war has so far had the same effect as round one.  One major win (which still can’t be counted due to not being finalized and under appeal) and an entire series of losses and pyrrhic victories which has done little but tarnish Apple’s own brand.  Innovation wise, Apple trails badly.  Still the kings of gorgeous hardware, Apple struggles with mediocre software and even worse web services.

The only thing keeping Apple’s iOS at current levels is consumer lock-in.  People have invested in the app store and they are loathe to abandon that investment.  But, sooner or later, they will cut their losses and move on; and history will have made another revolution.  More important is that teenagers, the bellwether of what’s cool, are fleeing the platform.  When Apple was the small underdog they were cool (well, at least hipster cool if not truly cool), but with their popularity and ease of use they now appeal to the elderly.  Can a device really be cool if your grandmother has one?

A recent report suggested that 96% of all mobile malware is targeting Android, still 7 out of 10 consumers choose that platform.  Apple’s share is falling rapidly and now rests at around 20%…history redux, indeed.

Which brings us back to that Franklin quote above.  It would seem that most people agree with Franklin.  Most would rather have a little in-security in exchange for the freedom that Android offers over the closed, locked down, proprietary, and innovation stifling platform offered by the  fruity company.

Just like in the platform wars of old, Apple’s supporters are loud and rabid.  They will gnash their teeth and claim to be superior (just like they did last time around), they will claim that Apple has somehow been cheated or even stolen from.  And still, their platform will slide into irrelevance.

Perhaps Apple will have better luck with watches.


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