Apple’s iPhone And Google’s Android: Mac Vs Windows All Over Again

September 14, 2008

So it’s become clearer that Apple’s iPhone is “Apple’s playground” and they intend to micro-manage the platform, providing the conduit for installs and approving what ends up on the iPhone.

Even to me, an Apple fan for whom this control is annoying, this is no big surprise. Apple, relative to other technology companies, has always been a company of control. The list of past examples endless – the way they’ve wanted developers to conform to the Apple look and feel, and the blatant lifting of promising shareware apps (Watson -> Sherlock, Konfabulator -> Dashboard).

Steven Hodson asked me a while back on one of his podcasts, why, as an Apple consumer, I put up with this stuff. Well, generally speaking, in my particular case, the benefits have outweighed the annoyances. Apple presents a more unified front where apps behave similarly. The “user experience” is touted as a big advantage on the Mac vs. the PC where there is a veritable free for all regarding how a program is supposed to look like and behave. I find this argument to be true (I use a PC at work).

Anyhow, Apple’s closed, more controlled mentality was on display all the way back the Mac competed with Microsoft’s Windows on PCs. Apple kept its OS and computers closed, and lost big time to the PC and Windows which basically took over the entire computer ecosystem with clones and low cost computers. The Mac’s huge market share was eventually destroyed. In retrospect, Apple’s closed mentality is looked upon as a huge mistake, which nearly killed Apple in the mid nineties.

So anyhow – to fast forward to today, we have Apple making serious inroads in the “smart phone” mobile computing space, with a closed, controlled system – and doing remarkably well. But Google is coming around the bend with Android – their mobile cellphone OS – that like Windows was back in the day, is more open, designed to run on a variety of cheaper hardware and with less restrictions on developers.

Needless to say, it will be interesting to see how this situation plays out. I can already sense many people are hoping history will repeat itself, and the closed Apple will once again end up with egg on its face and the “free market” will again prevail.

I’ve already chosen my side by buying an iPhone. It works pretty well despite some grumbling and annoyances. At this point – just as it was on the Mac in the mid-nineties – the only thing that will drive me from Apple is an iPhone that failed to work at all – just like how OS 9 sucked serious wind with daily system crashes, extension conflicts, and no clear advantages when compared to Windows. The recent 2.1 update has alleviated some of my concerns. But that decay in the Mac OS took several years, and I’ve already signed a contract that locks me in to Apple / AT&T for two years – yet another check in the Apple column.


  1. James Katt says:

    Android will just be like Windows. Wide open and the bugs and malware that come with it.

    The iPhone, of course, is very much like the Mac. The development environment is the same. The core OS is the same.

    I'll take the iPhone for the cleaner, quieter, mal-ware less environment that works.

  2. rd says:

    What is Nokia, RIM, Microsoft in this analogy?
    and What are the Carriers in this analogy?

    if you can't answer the above then
    you don't pass the smell test.

  3. jcieplinski says:

    Don't fear the repeat of history. Apple is older and wiser, and it's so-called “closed” strategy is going to offer a huge benefit in the area of security—a concern that was non-existent back in the Mac vs. Windows days. Apple also has the Retail presence and the commanding success of the iPod and iTunes (which is a closed platform as well).

    The other thing that is greatly different this time around is that mobile phones are already mass consumer devices. Remember, PCs started out as business tools only, and only a few rich people had PCs at home. So MS was able to corner the business market, which is pragmatic and economically motivated above all else, with a product that was “good enough” and cheap. Once they owned big business, MS was able to penetrate in the home by convincing people that what they had at work had to be compatible with what they had at home. Recent Mac sales and surveys suggest that this notion no longer exists in most people's minds, and consumers, who are style and usability conscious above all else, are gravitating toward Apple products for personal use.

    Android has three major obstacles in its path (and several other minor ones, too):

    First, it has to win in Business over RIM, who has a commanding lead at the moment. Considering Google's “openness”, the security question is going to be a hard sell for them with IT professionals, who now spend most of their time with security concerns. They want a closed system they can control. Android won't provide it.

    Second, Android has the same problem Microsoft as always had, in that it will be offering dozens of models with a large degree of variance in features. Not all Android phones will have touch screens. Not all of them will have motion sensors. They will have different screen resolutions, processors, etc. This makes it very hard for developers to make apps that work on all Android phones, and it confuses consumers when trying to purchase applications which will only be compatible with certain Android phones. Apple wins here in the consumer space big time.

    Third, Google will have to compromise in the open-closed debate occasionally (as evidenced in the recent revelation that some developers are getting advance copies of SDK updates while others aren't). The more Google does this, the more it will lose its most vocal evangelists in the open-source community. Without them, there won't be a whole lot of people trumpeting the benefits of Android over iPhone.

  4. MOin says:

    no no no no not now i can't argue on this one reason i have 2 laptops and one mac mini 2 laptops are running windows and linux so i am all the way multimedia guy and have to write about each and everything so had to live with all these three.

  5. I think James nailed this one right on. Apple keeps things closed and tight because they know how to manage their market (you and I), and because of that we get virus-free, error-free, great-looking, functional software. Android will be full of problems, without a doubt.

  6. Martin Hill says:

    “The Mac’s huge market share was eventually destroyed”

    Actually, the Mac never had a “huge” marketshare. The Apple II managed 15% in 1984 while the Mac only ever captured a maximum of 11% (in 1991).

    Of course the market is now far larger than back in the 80s and 90s and Apple is growing at rates three times that of the rest of the PC industry and is worth more than every other PC manufacturer and

    As such, Apple's “making the whole widget” policy is making real dividends in the OS market and is doing even better in the smartphone market beating Windows Mobile, Palm and by the looks of things even RIM this quarter.

    Also, remember that Android is at the mercy of the carriers and looks like being severely hobbled by the walled-garden policies of many of them – witness Verizon's forcing phone manufacturers to limit features that impinge on it's profit streams. Android may not be the panacea many are hoping for.


  7. iPhone says:

    Mac is Mac and Google is Google. Totally two different stories. Any sort of comparison is meaningless.

  8. Chester says:

    My question is how soon can I wipe the Apple OS from my iPhone and replace it will Android?

    Being “malware-less” because of fanatically standing by a closed system might be great for the “Tall brained” morons that make up the Apple fanbase, but this damn thing is just an irritation for anyone who's capable of doing more than turning something on and off, e.g. the only advice any Apple advocate can give you is either “restore” or “turn it off and back on again.” Absolutely brilliant! I hope you guys didn't have to spend 4 years in school to figure that one out.

  9. vitamin cafe says:

    mac vs window!?! r u kidding me?