Apple picks a fight it can't win

Safari on Windows will fail, argues Mike Elgan

Apple rarely competes directly -- with anyone.

Instead of slugging it out with other hardware and software companies on a level playing field, Apple historically creates its own playing field from scratch, then dominates it utterly.

While nearly the whole industry participated in what used to be called the "IBM-compatible" market, with clone hardware running DOS, OS/2, Windows and, later, Linux, Apple refused to play. Instead, the company always built its own computers that ran its own operating system.

Those funny "PC vs. Mac" ads create the false impression of direct, one-on-one, mano-a-mano competition between PCs and Macs, but it's a marketing sleight of hand. While a Mac is a unified, tightly controlled hardware-and-software product from Apple, a PC contains an unpredictable mixture of hardware components integrated by any number of companies, lorded over (usually) by a Microsoft operating system.

If PCs were made by Microsoft, and Microsoft didn't allow anyone else to make PCs, then you could make an apples-to-apples comparison, as it were, between PCs vs. Macs. But they're not, so you can't.

While Dell competes directly with Hewlett Packard and hundreds of other companies in the PC space, Apple does not compete directly with anyone in the Mac market.

Don't get me wrong; this isn't a bad thing. There are advantages and disadvantages to Apple's approach, and the success of Apple brings welcome choice to the market.

Likewise with the iPod. The portable media player market is the House That Apple Built. The company owns the iTunes platform and largely controls digital music distribution. Steve Jobs is the most powerful man in Hollywood, and he doesn't even live there. Apple doesn't compete directly with anyone in the media player market because, like the Macintosh market, Apple created the media file management platform (iTunes), the content marketplace (digital file distribution through iTunes) and standards, and doesn't let anyone else play.

With the iPhone, Apple is once again refusing to compete directly in the cell phone market. While some handset makers compete directly with each other in the Windows Mobile, Symbian and other "open" platform markets, companies like Research In Motion, Palm and, soon, Apple all play in their own respective, self-created sandboxes. Controlling your own platform has proved for RIM and Palm to be the way to go, and will also be successful for Apple.

Apple is once again creating its own category -- call it the Mac OS-based cell phone category -- and I'm sure Apple will win 100% market share.

I can think of only one example in which Apple competes directly with other companies on a level, open playing field: the software media player market.

Apple's Windows version of QuickTime competes directly with Microsoft's bundled Windows Media Player, RealNetworks' RealPlayer and others. Although QuickTime holds its own, Apple doesn't dominate market share. But from a quality and usability standpoint, QuickTime is by far the superior player, in my opinion. For video quality, sound quality and ease of use, QuickTime rules in every element of the user experience.

So why do I have such a bad feeling about Safari for Windows?

By announcing a Windows version of Apple's Safari browser, Jobs uncharacteristically entered a mature market not created or controlled by Apple.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Mike Elgan

Mike Elgan

Computerworld
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?