Apple delineates its ecosystem: The Mac's new advantage vs. Windows

Apple delineates its ecosystem: The Mac's new advantage vs. Windows

Summary: It's all about the Apple Ecosystem — as if elegant industrial design, an innovative operating system, and top-end hardware weren't enough goodness to persuade Windows users to switch to the Mac. Apple's new iOS-OS X, right-left punch to WWDC attendees was really aimed directly at switchers from Windows.


Apple executives at Monday's keynote for its annual Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco rolled out the latest in Mac laptops and showed off forthcoming Mac Pro workstations, as well as offered a glimpse at the future OS X and iOS versions. While over the past few years, Mac hands at WWDC may have felt a bit neglected, this year's pitch sounded a new push for the Mac platform bringing it into what Cupertino calls the "Apple ecosystem."

At recent conferences in the spring, Apple CEO Tim Cook used the word "ecosystem" loosely, a shorthand for a market "the iPad ecosystem," or as a term for leveraging cloud services. However, from the WWDC demonstrations it was clear that the Apple Ecosystem is the deep integration of Apple hardware (for both mobile devices and computers), Apple operating systems (both OS X and iOS), Apple software (from Apple and third-party developers), Apple's iCloud services, its various online and bricks and mortar stores.

This rich tech stew was aimed squarely at potential "switcher" customers who are currently running Apple products with Windows machines. Apple is, after all, one of the world's biggest Windows developers. While Windows users are Apple's predominant base for its iOS platform, Apple wants to give them new reasons to join the Mac fold, making them full members of the ecosystem.

What drew my eyes were the many new pieces of expanded integration between mobile iOS devices, Mac applications and iCloud services. This was clearly seen in the iCloud integration of bookmarks, iCloud Keychain password security that syncs across Apple platforms, Notifications on OS X Mavericks, and in the integration of Maps data in calendar events that are then presented across devices. The 1.8 million iBooks will soon be able to be read on a Mac.

So, iOS apps will be able to send push notifications directly to a Mac and vice versa. When you check out a restaurant on your Mac, the location information will be automagically added to the Calendar, along with a map, directions and notifications. All of this will automatically sync across devices. This Apple Ecosystem is approaching a seamless, integrated workflow between mobile and desktop computing environments.

The Mac advantage has always been about integration between hardware and native software. Apple hardware was and continues to be better than that from PC makers, and Mac users believe that the software is also way better than Windows. Those can be a religious debate.

However, it is with the combination of hardware and software as an integrated platform that we find the real Mac advantage. The Wintel model has never been able to approach the level of Mac integration, especially now after PC vendors have spent the past 5+ years driving to the bottom of a commodity market hole, the reputation of the PC platform is in sorry shape. Microsoft's OS strategy is both roiling and confusing the market. All this makes the Mac look even better.

Apple has spent years checking off the problems Windows users have expressed with the Mac:

Wintel compatibility. Migration to the Intel processor and support for virtualization let Windows users run their programs if they must. Only the Mac can run Windows, Linux and OS X. Check.

Niche platform. The installed base of Macs is now 72 million, according to Apple at WWDC. That's small potatoes compared with Windows but it's a secure and solid base. There are 6 million Apple developers with millions using Apple's IDEs. You can run your Windows programs or even better, Mac programs. Check.

Niche player. Sorry, Michael Dell, Steve Ballmer and company. Apple is the leading technology company in the world, even when its stock has fallen 30 percent in the past year. It sells products that people want and love. Check.

Before the WWDC announcements of OS X Mavericks and iOS 7 there were plenty of great reasons to buy a Mac. Now, the Apple Ecosystem integration and services must be at the top of that list. There's a new expectation that this fall, all of it will work better together. And much better than with the Windows competition.

Topics: Apple, Apps, iOS, Laptops, Operating Systems, Windows

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  • One question

    when you have the original at affordable price, why do you want to go for a clone at higher price?
    Ram U
    • Author is a blind fanboi

      Who still cares about Apple's hype other than these iTards? The new iOS7 looks like a trickless pony. MAC is flat. iPad is flat. Apple runs outta ideas clearly, and these fanboi are in denial.
      • That last paragraph was a little odd

        "Apple is the leading technology company in the world, even when its stock has fallen 30 percent in the past year. It sells products that people want and love. Check."

        And yet Mac is a niche product at 72 million, which doesn't align with "products that people want".

        If people really wanted them, wouldn't the installed base be far, far higher? Sure people want their iPhones, but that doesn't mean people want their desktops or laptops, like the author is implying.
        William Farrel
        • @William Farrel, You are correct

          Apple is the only seller of Apple products, unlike Microsoft, Google and Linux-based companies which make heavy use of resellers. So Apple has 100% of a large but niche market, making them extremely profitable and well run but not the majority technology.
          Their's nothing wrong with that, but it is self-limiting.
          Spatha Spatula
          • I'm not saying it's bad either, Spatha@...

            If a company makes more money selling 100 products the 1000, more power to them!

            But just because people want the iPhone in great numbers doesn't mean they want a Mac to the same degree.
            William Farrel
          • What equates?

            30% fall in market share means dollar value in stock. and a 72 million computer sales point isn't ridiculous considering that it's their product, and only one of a hundred. Corporate wise, they are in good shape, and for their future computer systems, well, right now I'm thinking the new Mac Pro is a generation killer that will take the PC another 5 product cycles just to try to catch up.

            The problem is that Apple makes commodity products, some of which happen to be computers, but they are not, nor have they ever been a computer systems vendor, although with this new go 'round of system/OS/X they seem to have struck an environment where real work can get done albeit with some handy updates, not innovation. They leave the innovation with companies like Avid (the street where I live) whilst still achieving that "COMPUTER for the rest of us" idea. If it costs a ton of money to dump thousands of dollars on older audio plugins, forcing software/hardware upgrades on the vendors and ultimately the customers, well, that's their problem, and ours for buying computers that are not a part of a systems design package. And they couldn't even have done that without Jobs, Next, or even good old UCSD Unix extensions.

            But I'm not going to fault Apple for their company's choice of business model. It has made a lot of people rich, and one heck of a lot of people mad, and it looks like they just might have gotten the timing on both hardware and software right.

            Roger W. Norman
        • The fallacy of numbers

          There is a trend, started before the first dot-com bubble — so about 1997 or so — that all that matters is the number of users you have. It doesn't matter if you don't have a business plan, or if most of your users don't pay for your products or services: all it matters is: how many people use your product or service?

          This lead to the dot-com bubble. But we're still not wiser. At least, the media is still propagating this false meme that companies are allowed to be incompetently managed and throw their business model out of the window so far as they got "billions of users" (or at least hundreds of millions). Right?

          Well, think again. Niche markets have always created solid, dependable, and highly profitable companies. BMW comes as a typical example (and an even smaller niche are BMW bikers), but I'm sure you can add a few more — fashion and luxury items come immediately to mind, but remember that AutoDesk's AutoCAD and even Adobe Photoshop are niche products for a very small and targeted audience which grows very slowly but is willing to pay premium for extraordinary products (or their perception of what an extraordinary product is).

          Apple is not different. Becoming the largest (in terms of stock value) company in a niche market is an awesome feat — specially when the next largest companies are in the oil or banking industries. Apple does not *need* to become a mainstream product in order to succeed: all they need to do is to slowly enlarge their niche market and upsell to their *existing* customers, like all success niche market companies do.

          Of course, this doesn't mean that a company selling to the mainstream cannot do well; of course they do! Walmart is a good example; and so is Microsoft. But selling in the mainstream is not "better" nor "worse" than selling to a niche market. It just creates a different company and requires a different way of dealing with their customers: namely, niche market companies usually have to work hard at dazzling their customers. Apple is good with that since Steve Jobs invention of the Reality Distortion Field® :) (and let's face it: the new Mac Pro definitely looks like a Reality Distortion Field generator... :) )
          Gwyneth Llewelyn
          • The problem with niche markets

   that they are very susceptible to game changers. And Apple themselves demonstrated that. When a paradigm shift occurs, a company serving only a niche market risks being completely sidelined whereas one serving a broader market can generate stability out of their other fields while they play catch-up.

            This is also why the example of BMW is so darn wrong. First, you mention BMW motor bikes yourself. They are PART of BMW's portfolio. (Did you know BMW also does veritable bicycles?) But that's not where it ends: While their experiment with Rover failed, they still retain Mini - and Rolls-Royce. And they've broadened the portfolio of the BMW brand itself quite a bit as well.
      • The author makes points that matter to me

        it is about ecosystem. I have a lot of Apple gear. It all works together very well. When Apple tightens the integration points like this (how searches coordinate across devices to do different things), it adds value to the overall platform in a way that makes it worth my while to maintain the full stable of products.

        Why this should surprise anyone, I don't know. Microsoft and Samsung are clearly attempting to do the same, with Microsoft leveraging XBox's ties with Windows. Why should it surprise anyone that Apple would leverage the very same thing to try and expand its' customer base?
        • ON the contrary...decreases not adds value

          Most people don't want to go buy a Mac just because they want to use an iPad, iPod, or iPhone. They want the option to select different brands for different devices they use. The vast majority of all the iPhone and iPad users I know use Windows desktop PC's too. If you tell them "look how wonderful our new iPad is only get the full value if you buy our desktop computer too" that actually decreases the value of Apple's products in my book. For pretty much everyone I know that use iOS devices they like the fact that they can keep the desktop they have but still use an iPhone etc.

          A lot of the tech press keeps talking about the "post pc era" but that also works against this idea of the desktop being included in the "ecosystem". Follow me here...Jane gets an iPad and really loves it. As a result, her usage of her desktop PC drops by say 40%. Since she uses her desktop PC a lot less now, she is a lot less inclined to go out and spend a lot of money on a new one. So she keeps her current one clunking along a lot longer. This factor has really hurt sales for companies like Dell and HP, but it works equally against Apple too. Jane's now low usage of the desktop makes her less likely to buy a new Mac too....but she is a lot more likely to upgrade tablets. So she wants her upgraded tablet to work with the old clunker under the desk and doesn't much care if a new Mac would be a better "ecosystem".
          • I disagree, these moves by Apple are bringing value back to the PC market

            You raised some very valid points. It is true that many average users are getting more out of tablets than what they traditionally used a PC for... which is email, browsing, simple games and basic productivity apps. All of these tasks can be done on a tablet, so the point of owning a PC has diminished, unless you use one for high end gaming, design, photography, video editing, or other applications where tablet technology doesn't yet cut it... yet.

            There needs to be a "reason" to own multiple devices, including PCs, and the developments between OSX and iOS are providing plausible reasons to average consumers. If someone owns an iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple TV, they will all work seamlessly with one another and they have interactive purpose together. In the Windows world, I see the home entertainment wing taking a slightly different direction with console gaming, which right now is what I predict will be their strongest suit to staying in the race. Windows has always reigned supreme in the console and PC gaming industry and if Microsoft is smart, they will foster relationships with game developers to leverage their platform in the hopes of retaining this "exclusivity", instead of sitting back and watching their developers migrate to include Apple products.

            I can't say what Google's interest is in all this, other than to continue to have an all-encompassing approach to create solutions for both platforms and cater to the techno-geek linux and android crowd as they have done. They are still very heavily dependant on third party hardware, just as Microsoft is for the PC landscape, which gives them less overall control in hardware stability and compatibility for their software (as was noted in the Keynote when outlining Android versions currently in use).

            Hardware will only ever be as good as software stability, predictability and reliability. Developers are going to be drawn to a platform which is seamless, works with them, supports them, and helps them to enjoy continued success with their products. I just don't see Microsoft or Google being capable of this with their lack of Hardware reliability.

            Lastly, let's not forget security. It is no mystery that when it comes to the spread of viruses, malware and phishing... more often than not the victims are Windows and Android users, and to protect yourself is costly, not always reliable, and reduces overall system performance. Security is a multi-tiered element of the Apple ecosystem including a vetting process of software released through the App Store for iOS and OSX, and software updates which address security issues in the OS's themselves.
          • When it comes to security

            Do you trust the guys who are constantly on the watch and patching things and who are open about security flaws or do you trust the guys who deny there could ever be a problem. Denial doesn't make you safer, just more vulnerable.
          • Security

            If I understand you correctly @gr8178, it sounds like you don't believe Apple has sufficient security systems in place. I beg to differ, as not only has personal experience with PCs and Macs proven otherwise to me, but Apple does have the following systems in place:


            In other words, I don't have to pay a 3rd Party Software developer money in hopes that the 3rd Party Team that they rely on for their pattern files are top notch. Instead, it's supported efficiently and effectively by the company that makes my Operating System, and it doesn't cost me monthly or annual subscriptions to have access to that security... it's just "there".

            I have lost countless hours of productivity due to PC based malware, viruses, trojans despite whatever anti-virus program was deemed "the best" that year. I have lost zero hours due to these annoyances on my Macs. I'm not saying it never will happen... human ingenuity is a marvellous thing. But, I stand by a product that cares about my security... rather than having to obtain it on my own from a changing landscape of capable software manufacturers.
          • Security doesn't have to be costly to be effective

            I use a suite of free products combined with smart browsing/usage habits that everyone should be using regardless of their platform. And i have not seen any malware in years...I've seen it on other people's machines but not mine.

            As to security updates and patches, well that's another thing you need to be doing regardless of platform. The main difference between the Microsoft and Apple do this is that Microsoft has "Patch Tuesday" on the second Tuesday of each month where Apple tends to store up updates and release them as mega-patches just every so often.

            The non MS crowd tends to poke fun at Patch Tuesday but its there because corporate IT departments demanded it. And we demanded it because we want these thing to happen on a regular and predictable schedule. Storing them up for months and releasing them all at once is not really an acceptable way of doing things for us. A lot of the reason doesn't necessarily have to do with security at all. Its the disruption that major updates can cause even when they work correctly. This is one area where Apple really could learn something from Microsoft.

            Like I said, if you aren't patching you should be and I don't care what platform you are talking about.

            Costly? I use a free anti-virus product + fee anti-spyware product + religiously apply updates + smart usage habits all of which cost me nothing, are easy to do and take little time. I don't get malware.
          • Only one problem....

            Windows has spyware built in. Microsoft spies on the endusers, and has for decades.
            Troll Hunter J
          • Sorry but...

   can something that inherently reduces a user's need/desire to use a PC somehow bring value back to the PC (using PC in the generic Personal Computer sense which applies to both Mac and Windows)?

            The other major reasons the PC market is flat? People stopped needing new features (at least the new features being offered) a long time ago. Also, about the time of the Core 2 Duo, processors got "fast enough" for what the average home users needed to do with them. so the old motive of wanting faster hardware more or less went away for our hypothetical emailer/web browser/office app user.

            PC's are not going away for a long time to come and are still my primary means of getting my actual work done (as opposed to entertainment which is a separate issue). But people just have no need/desire for new ones and no ecosystem is going to create a demand for something people don't need in the first place (or most likely need but consider the one they have to be just fine and don't want a new one).
          • 2 words why you need to update hardware

            Software Updates.

            It isn't that the machines we use get out of date, it is that the software we use is constantly innovating and relies upon current technology. You may say, "but my Windows XP, Explorer 7 and MS Office 2003 work just fine!", but software support for both of these programs has been reduced to a bare minimum and those that do get pushed through are largely security updates rather than feature updates. Without them, you are vulnerable.

            This story is also true for the Mac landscape, as users of older OS's are no longer able to update simple things like their Web Browser, and without being able to do this they are unable to access favorite websites because their code was recently updated.

            It is a snake biting its' own tail. You cannot exist on 10 year old hardware and software. Just try to look at the Internet on a Pentium 4 running Windows NT, or on a G4 running OS 9.2... it sure doesn't look pretty and several sites won't load at all.

            Don't think devices such as tablets or phones are immune to this either. They follow the exact same rules as their PC counterparts. Applications become slower or more unresponsive as our devices age, and eventually support is dropped altogether. A user of a 5 year old device today often experiences the frustration of not being able to load or open a favorite app... largely because an update to the software made it too powerful for their device.
          • Not sure if people care

            Especially Apple users. Google does all this now, and sometimes it's amazing sometimes it's not. But it will get better. Sometimes it's weird, as in "how did it know I was going there?" weird.
          • Decreases value?

            So how does your iPhone suddenly decrease in value, when Apple adds better integration with the Mac, but not so much integration with the Windows or Linux PC?

            The iPhone stays exactly the same. You could use the additional integration if you used a Mac, or not, if you continue to use your other platform. It's all about the choice *YOU* make. Like the choice to use a non-Mac platform in the first place -- there was some reason you chose this, right?
          • Older phones use older hardware

            Because software is being innovated and updated with today's and tomorrow's hardware in mind, older software eventually cannot support it. This is the reason why our devices and computers seem "slower" over time, even after a complete OS re-install. The device is probably perfectly fine, but the software relies on more powerful hardware.

            You cannot exist on non-updated software either. Generally software updates include security enhancements and bug fixes as well as enhanced features, and often these updates are unavoidable in order for the the application to function.

            This is why tech decreases in value every time a new wave of product is introduced into the economy.