Apple becomes more closed with each new device...

Summary:Apple seems to be moving backwards to its proprietary roots with each new device it makes... Will it's fans approve?

In the early days of the microcomputer industry, every company had its own proprietary hardware and software. When IBM introduced the PC, in its rush to market it adopted off-the-shelf components and an operating system un restricted to IBM and the PC industry was born - an open platform that became a huge platform for innvation. Apple stayed with its proprietary hardware and software. Over time, it eventually moved onto industry standard Intel chips, it adopted PC standards such as USB, and made its disk operating system files compatible with the PC world. With the arrival of the Internet, the browser on the Mac offered the same user interface as on the PC, and it became a common software platform. At that point, there wasn't too much difference between the Mac and PC worlds. And that's still true for Macs and PCs today -- In fact, you can (unofficially) port the Mac OS to a PC systems and it runs Mac apps. Since the introduction of the iPod, iPhone, and now the iPad, Apple is becoming less and less open, it using fewer standard components and chips, and far fewer Internet technologies common to Mac/PC desktop and laptop systems.

The iPhone and iPad, for example, doesn't support common Internet platforms such as Adobe Flash or Microsoft Silverlight. That means you cannot watch streaming video from Hulu, or Netflix.

And while iPhone chips are available from other manufacturers, the iPad runs only on the A4 processor -- an Apple designed chip that no one else can buy.

Why is Apple becoming more proprietary and closed? A proprietary system means you can only get it from Apple. If you have great apps, content, and a great user interface (user experience) you can charge more money than if you produce a copycat system that is easily available from many manufacturers.

There's money in closed systems...

It's a lucrative formula and that's why with each new device, Apple is moving further back to its proprietary roots because that's where you can make a lot of money.

Thanks to iPod, iPhone sales, Apple is now a $50 billion a year revenue company. Since the iPod was introduced in October 2001, its share price has multiplied by more than 23 times from $8.78 to $207.88.

What's puzzling though, is that Apple has a very enthusiastic, early adopter customer base, which consists of people that are big supporters of open standards, and open platforms.

Yet these "Fanboys" haven't seemed to have lost their enthusiasm for Apple products despite the increasingly closed nature of Apple.

Maybe that will change with the iPad, which is a much more closed system than any of Apple products from the past ten years. Will the Fanboys rebel? Will it matter if they do? Probably not.

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Disclosure: I've owned Apple systems since the Mac 128K "Tombstone," I currently have a Powerbook, Macbook Air, and an iPhone. I've also owned PCs, Thinkpads for many years.

Topics: Apple, Apps, Hardware, IBM, iPad, iPhone, Operating Systems, PCs, Smartphones, Tablets

About

In May 2004, Tom Foremski became the first journalist to leave a major newspaper, the Financial Times, to make a living as a full-time journalist blogger. He writes the popular news blog Silicon Valley Watcher--reporting on the business of Silicon Valley.Tom arrived in San Francisco in 1984, and has covered US technology markets for leadi... Full Bio

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