Just How Does Apple Make its OSes so Desirable?

| Particle Debris

Millions of Apple customers happily upgrade to a new version of iOS or OS X, and the new OS comes to dominate in just months. Meanwhile, many businesses strain to move into the future as they cling to the comfortable belly of Windows XP. How does this happen?


In the days of the PC wars, in the early 1990s, Apple struggled mightily against Windows with a superior OS. But then Microsoft made a giant leap forward with Windows NT in the early-mid 1990s, leaving the technically inferior Mac OS in the dust. To make a long story short, that we know well, Apple struggled, but finally countered with a UNIX OS and a great GUI under Steve Jobs starting in the fall of 2000: Mac OS X and now just OS X.

It didn't help. Despite the technical superiority and security of Mac OS X compared to Windows XP, businesses continued to stick with Windows because Microsoft knew how to check the boxes that IT managers developed.

Once Apple got onto the iPod and the consumer bandwagon it became obvious that the path forward was to appeal to consumers, not businessmen. Consumers have sole discretion, that coveted purchase authority. Once you start designing an OS that appeals to customers who make a personal purchase decision, your whole design mentality changes.

Microsoft never really got out of its business mentality for its bread and butter income: Windows and MS Office. It got so bad that home users would rather buy a new PC than go through the hell of upgrading the Windows OS.

In 2013, the upgrade to a new version of OS X or iOS, which are both free, is as easy as clicking a button or tapping an icon The magic behind that requires some brilliant software engineering, and it's not without its occasional glitches. But, by and large, Apple makes the case that your life will better and then makes it a no brainer to upgrade. Apple makes sure we trust them and things will go well. Our life will be better.

Along the way, Apple ruthlessly (in a good sense) left the past technologies behind and continued to build a modern and elegant architecture for OS X that supported what we need to do on our Macs. That hard work put into OS X became the vehicle to launch iOS and Cocoa Touch and catapulted Apple into the Post-PC era. There, we have a whole new concept of what it means to upgrade our tablet OS.


This explains why millions of copies of Windows XP are still in use and why Microsoft has struggled with its concept of a modern tablet. Apple's path forward is very clear, and first few references below highlight the difficult path for the classic PC.


Tech News Debris for the Week of December 9

How long, oh how long will parts of the U.S. government, businesses, and doctor's offices hang on to the tired and ailing Windows XP? Microsoft is doing everything it can to get its customers off that dinosaur OS, first shipped in September 2001. Maybe this will finally shake the customers awake. "Microsoft bets on Windows XP disaster." If this were Apple, 80 percent of its customers would be on Windows 8 by now.

Recent reports have pointed to the fact that Microsoft spends a lot more money ($10.6B) on R&D than Apple ($3.5B) annually. If you were wondering where some of Microsoft's money goes, here's the answer. "This Smart Bra Will Stop You From Eating Your Feelings. Ladies, Rejoice!" Seriously. Is this how Microsoft should be spending its resources in order to struggle into the Post-PC era?  Hopefully, the new CEO will axe that kind of nonsense.

What is the essence of a PC? What is the potential, the quintessence of a tablet? What is the separation of work between the two? Ben Bajarin explores all that in a nifty essay: "Personal Computers: Defined by Possibilities."

But wait. There's one more. "5 ways the PC industry squirmed deeper into quicksand in 2013." Ok, on to Apple now.

Apple is up to big things. As in the past, Apple is putting together key pieces of a technology puzzle. Taken by themselves, each bit doesn't seem to amount to more than a fascinating technical endeavor. But when you combine Apple's 500 million credit card holders on file, Apple's proven online security for those customers, Bluetooth LE, iBeacon technology in iOS 7, TouchID with its fingerprint authentication, and the built-in security of iOS, what do you get? A superb mobile payments system that no longer exposes the user's credit card to the merchant -- and gives Apple a piece of the action.

It could be a very big deal.

The Wall Street Journal has been on Apple's case lately, but this time, the venerable newspaper has come to Apple's defense in a big way. "Apple's Star Chamber." It all has to do with how much authority a judge can give a attorney-monitor to play watchdog. Read and observe how a publication like the WSJ (professionally) unloads on a judge.

For a long time, Apple presented us with a great proposition in iTunes. Buy single songs for $0.99 or $1.29 and build a nice personal library. Then streaming music came along in the form of Pandora, Rdio and Spotify. So far, those companies have struggled to balance prices with profits and royalty payments, and the now the end may be near for this kind of service, according to Taylor Hatmaker at ReadWrite. "Get Ready For The Streaming-Music Die-Off."

Apple's recent hiring of Radio Ad Veteran Michael Pallad suggests that Apple intends to be the last man standing.

The numbers we hear about Android market share suggest that Apple is being blown out of the mobile market. But wait. There's more to that story, as we already know. Here's a nice punctuation of the situation with online shopping. "Mobile shoppers spending more from Apple devices."

What's interesting to me is that, in the long run, this effect takes its toll. Developers make more money. Merchants make more money. Apple has lots of money for new manufacturing technology that gives it an edge. Eventually, the market share of cheap Android devices collapses like a house of cards.

Just for fun. What if the process of iOS-ification doesn't take the form of functionality, but rather look and feel combined with graceful visual integration of apps like the calendar, reminders, etc. The visual side is fun tho think about, and here's a concept at Cult of Mac that's intriguing. "What OS X Could Look Like If It Gets Jony’s iOS 7 Treatment [Concept]." I think it could be cool.

I am always skeptical of rumor articles that just throw stuff out. But this one has some interesting meat on its bones. And it's fun if it gets us thinking. "Macbook Air 2014 Rumors & Release Date: New Laptop Could Have Retina Display, Better Battery Life, 12" Screen."

The same applies to this speculation on the iPhone 6. There are curves. There's a wrap around screen. "iPhone 6 Concept Unveiled With Colorful, Curved Design [VIDEO] Release Date Rumors, Features."

Finally, the purpose of these last two articles is not to suggest what Apple will or ought to do. I think the value is in helping us form a vision of what we want. Concept articles are like science fiction. They use a technical vision of the future to help us navigate and understand our human nature in the present. Our eyes are opened, and we develop a more mature enthusiasm for the best the future has to offer.


Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro's observations and opinions about a standout event or article of the week combined with a summary of articles that didn't make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holiday weeks.

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In defence (I can’t believe I’m saying this) of XP, I’ve got access to an A0 Canon printer that didn’t come with Mac drivers. And the wonderful nerds @ GutenPrint haven’t included this printer in their wonderful offering.

So, in order to print I’ve created a minimal XP VirtualBox machine that allows me to print.

From this, it makes me wonder if a lot of users hitched to the M$ bandwagon aren’t in the same position, and need to be able to access software and printers and such, and therefore have stayed on XP for this very reason ?

Walter Anasagasti

“Despite the technical superiority and security of Mac OS X compared to Windows XP, businesses continued to stick with Windows because Microsoft knew how to check the boxes that IT managers developed.”

Correction: Microsoft WAS WILLING to check the boxes that IT managers developed. Microsoft didn’t have any knowledge that Apple lacked. They only had the willingness to produce an inferior product in order to sell to IT managers.



I forgot to add that the drivers don’t install in Windows8, and Canon have stopped supporting the printer….



Regarding the smart bra, assuming that it runs Windows (which it could - given MS’s penchant for protecting that cash cow), can imagine the havoc that could be wrought if it were hacked? I realise that MS want to stay abreast of the post-PC competition, but this might be taking things a bit too far. Enough said.

Regarding MS and Windows XP, one can almost commiserate with MS’s vexation lack of migration beyond XP, until you realise that many of these computers sit in low income countries where upgrades are not likely to occur, support notwithstanding, until budgets and priorities align; not on MS’s timetable.

Ben Bajarin’s piece on personal computing and tablets is simply brilliant. His analysis of the personal computer as defined by use is, in my view, exactly right. The fact that the iPad is cannibalising PC sales is empirical evidence that, to the end user, the iPad is functionally a personal computer, despite the difference in form factor. Those who refuse to acknowledge this status, often disingenuously in my view, because the iPad lacks form factor of the 1980s and 1990s concept of the box with keyboard and monitor - the best that technology could do in that century are being too concrete (literal) in their thinking. That the iPad, and indeed the iPhone, are powerful computers, housed in 21st Century form factor is evidenced by their use. Yes, you can make phone calls on the former and Skype play games on the latter, but we don’t dismiss the venerable PC as a personal computer because we can use it to contact someone on Skype or use it play games, do we? It’s in the usage that sets the iPad apart from the horde of cheap and limited consumption devices to which it is often compared, and which causes ill-informed and obtuse analysts to miss the revolution that is happening under their very noses and on their watch. Indeed, this is the central theme of Steve Kovach’s piece on iOS vs Android spending habits, just one of many metrics that distinguish these devices, but more on his piece in a moment.

I never cease to be amazed at how often critics, including some who post here on TMO, dismiss the iPad as a toy simply because of this form factor, despite its functional displacement of what they regard as a personal computer. It reminds me of the parable of the man who turns down multiple opportunities for rescue simply because none of these came in the guise of his conception of the outward appearance of his saviour, resulting in his demise. This is epitome of blindness, that mere externalities blind one to reality, even when it right before one’s face.

The WSJ piece is fascinating. I shared this with my wife, a US-trained attorney who is more than conversant in US anti-trust law. She concurred with many of the assessments in the Journal’s piece, and opined that what Mr Bromwich is attempting to do usurps the office of the US Justice Department. She also concurred that much of Judge Cote’s ruling and authorisations to Mr Bromwich have nothing to do with antitrust. It is difficult to see how Judge Cote’s ruling is not overturned, assuming that the Second Circuit shares that view. Nonetheless, the WSJ review is a scathing post-mortem of a poor adjudication, if not a frank miscarriage of justice.

Back to Steve Kovich’s piece on the divergence between iOS and Android spending practices, this is nothing new, and TMO have covered this before, but it is a reminder that nothing much has changed. The take home, in my view, is one of his summary statements that, if developers are not flocking to Android despite its current marketshare advantage, and given these performance metrics and spending habits, they probably never will. As for Android, I remain convinced that it should not be regarded as a single platform, given its fragmented nature. As for usage, having spoken to lungi-clad Android users in rickshaws in SE Asia, I can attest that Android uptake for the masses of global users is not about choice, but its absence. They are not choosing Android over iOS; they are choosing Android because that is all that’s available. And by the way, they don’t even know it’s Android. Or Google. Just phone with a big screen that takes photos. Ouch.

The two end pieces on the MBA and iPhone 6 curve are intriguing; the latter reminding me that I for one not only am not opposed to a curved phone if done right, I am quite open to it. I am reminded of something that SJ said more than once; how can people know what they want unless they’ve seen it. Remember how people said that Apple would fail in the smartphone space? That remained a popular truth right up until the time that Apple released the iPhone - and people saw and touched it.

Excellent reads, sir.


Mr wab95

Well wrote Sir, well wrote!


“I am always skeptical of rumor articles that just throw stuff out ...... And it’s fun if it gets us thinking. “Macbook Air 2014 Rumors & Release Date: New Laptop Could Have Retina Display, Better Battery Life, 12” Screen.”“

You’re right to be skeptical. The linked article contains some interesting speculation about next year’s Mac laptops, although I don’t think it’s the original source.  The article’s comment section, however, is definitely not safe for family viewing .....


Many thanks, Furbies.

Your comment caused me to go back and re-read what I had written. I must apologise for all of the grammatical lapses in the comment, as I was extremely jet-lagged when I wrote it. Perhaps the lesson here is to get a good night’s sleep prior to posting.


BTW: I think that your comment regarding Apple being up to big things in relation to the confluence of credit card holdings, security, Bluetooth LE, iBeacon, TouchID, etc is spot on. The board is being set for checkmate. By no means is the competition sitting idly by, but most do not have all of Apple’s assets, let alone have them in play.


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