Thursday, May 11, 2006

Apple's Device Model vs. Component Freedom

Walt Mossberg, the personal technology columnist for the Wall Street Journal has an article up today suggesting that Apple's "device model" is superior to the "component" model championed by Microsoft.

Ignoring the giggles that ensue from suggesting that Microsoft is a big supporter of standards-based open computing, Mossberg is essentially arguing that life is easier when one company makes end-to-end systems.

"Apple's Device Model" is the same as saying appliance. One could argue that there is no need to hack the OS on a microwave oven in order to have choice in the market, but in fact the choice is limited to microwave ovens that basically do the same thing. There hasn't been much change since the original appliances were created 30 years ago, discounting annoying voice chips.

The danger with mono-culture in nature or technology is that innovation stops and one becomes vulnerable to change, whether a real world virus or shifts in the business landscape. Microsoft has effectively killed off innovation in a number of software markets with the Windows mono-culture.

Personal Information Mangers used to be a thriving category with companies supplying multiple ways to support the organizational needs of people with many different ways of thinking. Now we just have the rather ponderous and opaque Outlook. Ditto personal databases, spreadsheets, and presentation programs.

Apple is using the components created by the PC revolution (video cards, power supplies, hard disks, interfaces, displays, memory). If they had been successful with their closed strategy from the beginning, we would all be staring at very expensive 10 inch monochrome monitors.

I vote for the component model every time.

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