Apple Screwed Again?

As a disclosure – I am an Apple shareholder and without a doubt understand the magic the brand and its devices have created. Furthermore, I know many Android users who are unhappy and looking to get rid of their smartphones for the latest iPhone.

Yesterday though I had a chance to use the Samsung Galaxy S II samsung-galaxy-s-2-skyrocket.pngSkyrocket and was blown away by the fact it had a dual core 1.5 GHz processor, 4G and a 4.5 inch Super AMOLED Plus display. It was gorgeous, light and the specs say it is fast. Consider that the iPad has a dual core 1 GHz processor and iPhone 4S has a dual core 800 MHz processor as comparisons. Truth be told, I could only test its browsing speed over the WiFi in the store as the cellular connection was not active. And the store’s network was very slow. TMC ordered one of these devices and it will be here soon – and at that point I will give you more feedback on how it compares in the real world to an Apple device.

It is worth mentioning however that even with slower specs the iPhone 4S has been shown to beat every other Android device in certain speed tests in the past.

Last July when I had a chance to use the Motorola Droid X I was so impressed I immediately thought back to the early days of the PC market when the IBM standard allowed a thriving ecosystem of competition which forced the $/computing power curve way down. This eventually led to Apple computers being an ever-smaller portion of the market and then developers started flocking to the PC space instead of Apple. The rest is history.

And yes, this may be happening again because even though I have an iPhone 4S and am happy with it I am less happy after my trip to the AT&T store.

And this gets us to the fact that in the history of tech, open seems to have always won. Some exceptions in the past were Nokia, RIM and Apple. It is interesting that at least in the world of smartphones, for the first time, closed beat the pants off Microsoft which was open.

The success of Android however shows the tide has turned dramatically and once again, open is winning.

Does this mean Apple is doomed? Hardly but I can’t for the life of me understand how Cupertino can compete with the onslaught of incredible devices coming out from the Android camp. There are even 3D phones on the market – I am not saying people will buy them in large numbers but they exist, meaning consumers have yet another non-Apple choice.

The challenge for Apple remains the same as it was in the eighties. How do you compete against an entire industry with a simple product line? After all, I think we agree that Apple’s small number of SKUs is a big part of their success. Is it possible for them to take on an entire industry with this strategy remaining intact?

My view is they need to go downstream with the iPad and come out with the iPad Nano to take on the Kindle Fire and upstream with the iPhone 5 – it needs a 4.5 inch screen ASAP. Perhaps they can keep the current form factor for a cheaper phone and call it the iPhone Classic.

I realize there are rumors of curved screens in the future for Apple devices and perhaps there is some new innovation which will be a game changer. I can tell you I don’t believe it is Siri – at least not yet.

History has shown us that open wins and moreover that when many competing companies use a common standard, they eat closed ecosystems alive. How Apple responds to these threats will determine its future.

Ironically it is three decades later and the battle is the same – can a single company with a closed ecosystem take on a cadre of tech heavyweights spewing out innovative product after product? To paraphrase from the classic movie Highlander – “In the end there can be only one [winning platform].”

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