Apple can be criticized by its customers because we’re all family, right? We certified Apple watchers and customers defend the company to the death but feel free to let the powers that be in Cupertino know what we think. Think of it as tough love.
Apple lives in a hardware echo chamber.
An echo chamber is a metaphorical description of a situation in which information, ideas, or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by transmission and repetition inside an “enclosed” system, where different or competing views are censored, disallowed, or otherwise underrepresented.
Back when Apple was synonymous with the Mac there was plenty of discussion as to whether Apple was a software company or a hardware company. When Mac OS X became a free upgrade a few years ago, and the iWork suite of Pages, Numbers, and Keynote lost their price tag and became free to use on every Mac, iPhone, or iPad, the question was settled.
Apple is a hardware company.
Everything Apple does is designed to make profit, yes, but it all starts with hardware. Apple’s burgeoning Services division may rake in $20-billion or so every year and it’s growing fast, but it wouldn’t be that big or grow at all if it were not for massive hardware sales.
Therein lies a problem. Apple only thinks about hardware. Sure, there is software to run on that hardware, but Google and Microsoft marginalize Apple because both make software for their own devices, and for Apple’s Mac, iPhone, iPad, Watch, and Apple TV. What does Apple make for other hardware platforms?
For Android, Apple has Apple Music. For Windows, Apple has iTunes. With the exception of utilities here and there, Apple remains a closed hardware and software company whereby the profits come mostly from the former, increasingly less so from the latter. And, no, app store sales don’t count.
What’s interesting when making a comparison to Google and Microsoft is to note how both companies have worked to diversify their revenue streams and remake their core business, while Apple remains mostly like Apple of yesteryear.
Google is a search engine company that provides users with free software in exchange for culling their personal information which is used to provide ever more personalized advertising. Yes, Google is all about software, but it’s an indirect relationship. Software is mostly free, and the revenue stream comes from indirect advertising sales. Now Google is in the hardware business thanks to the Pixel smartphone, but even a device that works more like Apple’s iPhone from last year isn’t going to turn the company’s revenue stream into something different than what it has been.
Google makes plenty of software for Apple’s hardware.
Microsoft is different. No company has lost more money attempting to diversify the revenue and profit stream which remains anchored to Windows and Office, but it has move well into cloud software services and has a highly acclaimed hardware division with the Surface notebook tablet hybrids.
Microsoft makes plenty of software for Apple’s hardware.
As a contrast, Apple just doesn’t make much software for anything except Apple hardware, Apple Music app for Android, and iTunes for Windows being the major exceptions.
Why not make software for other platforms?
Apple is a hardware company. Apple Music and iTunes thrive on Mac, iPhone, and iPad, but the profits come from having applications on all major platforms, and that does little to diminish Apple’s hardware business.
Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was criticized incessantly because everything under his reign of terror was Windows centric and that stubborn refusal to expand the company into other revenue streams of opportunity held the company back for a decade.
Is Apple missing opportunities by limiting itself to an Apple-centric hardware platform? Can Apple compete with software development on Android and Windows? What’s the benefit?
To answer, I don’t think the company is limiting itself to its own hardware, because Apple software helps to differentiate the hardware– all of it; from Mac to iPhone to iPad to Watch to Apple TV. Can Apple compete with Android and Windows software? Yes, but only where it makes sense, and both Apple Music and iTunes are good examples.
Apple lives in a hardware echo chamber and that’s not likely to change, despite smartphone users clamoring for iMessages on Android.