By John Gruber
Atoms: We are not selling shoes this time…
Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, regarding this week’s news about Windows for ARM:
And this is why Apple should be worried. So far I’ve been concerned that WOA would offer a cut-down, Fisher Price sort of Windows experience. It would look at a bit like duck, quack something like a duck, but actually be more of a platypus than a duck, and that ultimately this would be its undoing. But now I realize that I was wrong. WOA looks like Windows, quacks like Windows, and is Windows. Microsoft has pulled off what it promised, and has taken its desktop OS and put it across multiple platforms and onto various screen sizes. This changes how we look at tablets.
Apple has maintained a gulf between the Mac OS and iOS on a number of fronts. While we’re seeing some unification (in many ways with the migration of iOS features into the Mac OS), you can’t argue that there’s still a big chasm between the two platforms.
This is a recurring theme. Someone does something different than Apple, has some success with it, and pundits like Kingsley-Hughes start arguing that Apple needs to change course and do what the other guys are doing. Exhibit A: the Kindle Fire. It’s selling well — nowhere near as well as the iPad, mind you, but it’s not collecting dust in warehouses like most other tablets are — prompting some to argue that Apple “must” release a $250 7-inch tablet too.
Now we have Microsoft taking a very different approach to managing the difference between traditional PCs and touchscreen tablets. They’re going with a “one OS for all devices” strategy; Apple chose a “different OSes with specific shared concepts for each type of device” strategy.
Good for Microsoft for choosing a different strategy. Good for Amazon for choosing a different strategy. Their possible successes, however, do not necessarily bode poorly for Apple. There is room in the market for very different devices.
That Microsoft’s approach appeals to some more than Apple’s doesn’t mean Apple needs to respond to it or follow their lead. The fact that the iPad does not run Mac OS X, nor run Mac apps, is by design — not a technical limitation. And the iPad’s success — it now sells at three times the rate of all Macs combined — suggests that consumers see the iPad’s differences as a benefit, not a limitation.
That doesn’t mean Microsoft (and Amazon, and everyone else) should copy Apple’s iPad strategy as closely as possible. But it certainly shows that Apple not only does not “need” to follow Microsoft’s or Amazon’s strategies, but that they shouldn’t. The iPad was not designed to be all things for all people. How much better would the iPad need to be selling to convince these pundits that Apple nailed it, that they struck gold with the iPad’s concept and execution? There may well be gold in other spots on the tablet frontier, but Apple is going to keep digging in the same spot.