Gadget Labby Brian X. Chen, wired.com
June 8th 2011
Apple CEO Steve Jobs set off a bomb in Silicon Valley on Monday, and companies all over the world are still assessing the damage.
The new features in iOS 5, Mac OS X Lion and iCloud that Jobs introduced at the Worldwide Developers Conference affect a long list of companies big and small. Some are direct competitors of Apple, but many come from the legions of iOS developers whose apps have helped make the iPhone and iPad popular.
To start with the giants:
- The iOS 5 Notifications Center is a direct response to Google’s superior (for now) Android notifications system.
- The iOS 5 systemwide Twitter integration flips a middle finger at Microsoft’s Facebook-integrated Windows Phone 7 platform.
- Apple’s internet-based iMessage messaging client is a copycat of RIM’s BlackBerry messaging client, and it should inspire millions of iPhone customers to downgrade their text-messaging plans when iOS 5 lands this fall. That will put a dent in carrier profits.
(Let’s not even speculate about the death of SMS from iMessage.)
As for small startups:
- The “Read Later” functionality baked into the Safari browser for iOS 5 and Lion seems to render the popular Instapaper app unnecessary. Creator Marco Arment, however — at least for public consumption — is keeping up a brave front that he is “tentatively optimistic” that the new feature “will improve sales dramatically.”
- The upgraded Mail app included with OS X Lion (a $30 operating system upgrade) makes the $10 Sparrow mail app look like a raw deal.
- And iOS 5’s photo- and document-sharing features, combined with 5 gigabytes of free online storage offered through iCloud, may compel many Dropbox customers to cancel their subscriptions, or downgrade their storage options.
That’s just a few.
“It was like a forest fire cleaning out the brush,” said Phillip Ryu, principal at Tap Tap Tap, developer of the bestselling image-editing app Camera+ for iPhone. It’s worth noting, coincidentally, that Apple’s next iPhone update will also include a built-in photo editor, which competes with the likes of Camera+, too.
Now, here’s why iCloud, iOS 5 and Lion pack such a deadly punch against so many companies: Together, they strengthen Apple’s lock-in strategy with vertical integration. Many consider Apple to be the most vertically integrated company in the world: All Apple hardware and software are designed in-house, and Apple also runs its own digital content store, iTunes, along with the App Store and iBooks store.
The new feature set in iOS 5, iCloud and Lion tightens Apple’s vertical integration of its software ecosystem by amplifying its “lock-in” goal. The vast majority of the new iCloud tools introduced Monday are exclusively for Apple customers, designed to bridge the iOS and Mac operating systems to make the experience more seamless, convenient and irresistible than ever.
The idea behind this strategy is: If you’re an iPhone customer today, how can you resist buying a Mac or an iPad now, and why would you buy a Windows PC or an Android device? And if you’re already plugged into Apple’s “cloud” ecosystem, why use a cross-platform solution like Dropbox or Google Docs to store your media, when the Apple-only experience is bound to be more optimized for you?
Apple’s software news this week was designed to make people feel like crap if they aren’t already Apple customers. If you use Apple’s Pages word processor, your documents sync with Pages on the Mac, iPad and iPhone.
When you create a calendar event on your Mac, that event automatically appears on your iPhone calendar, too. You can also share the event with another Apple device.
If you snap a picture with your iPhone, the PhotoStream feature pushes the photo to iCloud and syncs with the photo folder on your Mac, Apple TV and iPad. (There’s a photo folder for Windows PCs that will work for this, too, but it looks considerably less polished than the Apple PhotoStream.)
And Apple’s lock-in strategy works like this, too: If a lot of your friends have iPhones or iPads and you have neither, you’d feel left out. With iOS 5, they’ll all be able to message each other for free with the iMessage app rather than the traditional rip-off SMS plan offered by Verizon and AT&T. So if you’re lured in, it’d be hard to give up an iPhone or iPad for a competing product, because you’d be leaving an entire network of iMessage chat contacts.
Google can only dream that its own “lock-in” were this tight. It’s halfway there: Google Docs, mail and calendar work well on Android devices. But Android still suffers from the recurring issue of hardware fragmentation. You can’t even be guaranteed to have the same version of Android on one Google-powered handset versus another, much less an Android Honeycomb tablet, nor can you be assured that the apps you’ve downloaded work the same on every Android device.
(Do I even need to bring up Google TV? Why even bother at this point.)
Apple said its big push Monday was “the cloud,” as in, snipping the cord and going truly wireless. But the real story was “lock-in.” Who would ever leave the Apple universe now? It’s up to Apple’s rivals now to find a solid opportunity here to compete with Steve Jobs’ widget.
Shared from Read It Later