Major Tech Companies Are Being Crushed By Their Own OS Strategies

After the Windows 8 debacle, Microsoft has worked hard to arrive at Windows 10 everywhere. Apple has stuck to a purely mobile OS and a traditional desktop OS. Google concocted Chrome OS to solve one problem but now seems to want to merge it with Android. Apple has launched watchOS and tvOS and may be on the verge of carOS. What's going on here? How can these companies possibly cope with the massive technical demands of new/merged/derivative OSes and the aggressive security threats against each new OS?

It's a continuing dilemma. Microsoft wants to showcase the best possible hardware for Windows without upsetting its OEM partners. That's what's happening with the Surface Book, and the tricky part for Microsoft is spelled out with a somewhat dramatic title:: "Microsoft has trapped its biggest partners between a rock and a hard place." A notable paragraph therein:

While Apple dominates the high-end PC market, manufactures such as Lenovo, HP, and Dell (who own Alienware) all sell multi-thousand-dollar laptops. These customers are already primed to use Windows and can easily be converted to a Surface Book.

This is a scary prospect for PC makers.

What's interesting is that Apple's early vision for integrating the hardware and software continues to pose a problem for Apple's competitors. As Microsoft tries to have it both ways, the realization that they're still trapped in the 1980's business model must really annoy Microsoft executives.

Meanwhile, the two OS strategy that Apple is using seems to not be working out for Google. Since this next item was published, "Google is merging its Chrome OS into Android," Google has backtracked a little. But the fact remains, there all kinds of considerations for and tough decisions about why a company should support two OSes on the kinds of hardware they want to build. Adult supervision is essential.

As we saw with the Microsoft example above, technology changes dramtatically over sufficiently long periods of time, and having a vision that can endure is tricky business. Even Apple has been victimized by the declining iPad sales and is faced with, perhaps, rebuilding the mobile tablet concept.

Meanwhile, a modern OS with 50 million lines of code is not something a company just pulls out of the hat. (Samsung found that out with Tizen which it seems to have given up on and is relegating to its TV sets.) What makes it all very hard is that modern OSes must endure massive security assaults from the Internet. And so, changing strategy, no matter how desperate the situation may be, is a major challenge for an company whose ambitions outstrip its technical resources. With modern OSes, TANSTAFL.

So far, Apple seems to have the best of it all, even though they've launched into a delicate dance adding two new OSes, watchOS and tvOS. This OS proliferation would have scared the dickens out of Apple executives just 10 years ago.

And on the horizon is another sobering concept. The Apple carOS (#5, my name), of course, will be exposed to the Internet. Space doesn't sllow me to get into the efforts by other companies. But the scale of effort is staggering, as you can see in this example. "Toyota allots $1 billion to develop new AI, robotics technologies.

Brace yourself.

Next page: the tech news debris for the week of November 2. The lunacy of CurrentC compared to Apple Pay.

Page 2 - The Tech News Debris for the Week of November 2


"The Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) developed CurrentC as an alternative to NFC-based payment schemes because it doesn't require specialized hardware at the point of sale." So starts a fascinating article describing: "Hands On With Apple Pay Competitor CurrentC."

Of course we know the real reason for CurrentC. Walmart's distase for giving up transaction fees to the credit card issuers combined with the desire to know a lot about the customer buying habits and preferences.

In any case, what's interesting about the article is the account set up process. CurrentC requires, according to the author, this information from the customer.

  • First & last name
  • Email
  • Mobile phone number
  • PIN to unlock the app
  • 3 security questions
  • Date of birth
  • Mailing address
  • Home phone number
  • Government ID type (i.e., driver's license)
  • Government ID state
  • Government ID number
  • Bank account routing number
  • Bank account number

The author notes: "As you can see..., it is basically an identity thief's wish list collected into a single database; basically the only piece of sensitive information not collected is your social security number."

This is exactly the set of information that you don't want any one mobile payment system to have. Astonishingly, with the track record of organizations having their systems hacked and massive consumer data collected, MCX exhibits the height of arrogance to think that all that information can be kept secure forever.

To what end? The luxury of having your purchases tracked and losing the federal law protection associated with credit card transactions? My prediction is that MCX's CurrentC will collapse before it even gets off the ground once customers start to walk through the application process.

Compare that to Apple Pay. Take a picture of your credit card to extract the number, enter the CCV code to authenticate physical possession and you're done. For more details, see "Why Apple Pay Is Our Best Hope To Stop Online Fraud."

Image credit: Apple

Meanwhile, as thoughtless, egotistic organizations seek to collect every last bit of financial information about you, Apple is always thinking about how to cope with the modern technology landscape and its perils. In this brilliant patent application, Apple proposes that if you designate one of your fingers as a panic finger in Touch ID, you can trigger all kinds of protections on your iPhone. Read about it here: "Apple has patented a way for your iPhone to enter 'panic mode' when you unlock it with a specific finger."

Finally, I have a growing affection for a very cool website called Cordcutting In this slightly older article, the author lays out: "3 Sample Budgets That Show What Streaming Services You Can Afford By Cutting Your Cable Bill." One of the things I've noticed is that modern viewers, exposed to so many different sources that have provided incremental revenue to the content providers in the short term combined with horrendously bad customer service by the cable companies has let to massive consumer optimization and penny pinching. This has put a dent in prospective revenues and has forced media stocks down of late. "Media stocks take another tumble."

I'm sure Apple has noticed. There may come a day when Apple's offer to guarantee $40/month base rate, instead of looking crazy, could eventually become a salvation for the media companies. After all, it's not about cool tech and specs. It's about which company best uses technology, hardware and software integration, to shrewdly to disrupt the competition. I like Apple's prospects, especially in light of the crushing OS demands described in the preamble on page 1.


Teaser and multiplatform images via Shutterstock.

Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro's observations and opinions about a standout event or article of the week (preamble on page one) followed by a discussion of articles that didn't make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holidays.