I first became involved with computers in the late 1970s. This was before the days of the IBM PC and MS-DOS or Windows. Computing in those days resembled the smartphone market of today -- there was no common operating system. I remember buying my first computer -- it took a week. Because each hardware vendor had their own operating system, you could only buy applications that had been specifically designed for that hardware. In order to buy a computer, you had to first identify all the applications you wanted, then cross-reference all the hardware that these apps had versions for. If you were lucky, you would find a computer that ran everything. However, it was more likely that you would find that nothing ran all your applications. You were then forced to find alternative apps until you found the best compromise.
Eventually Microsoft solved this by creating an operating system which would run on any Intel chip, inventing the concept of "PC compatibility." Now app developers have the entire PC community as a market, irrespective of who makes the hardware. At the same time hardware manufacturers can produce their equipment knowing there is an massive range of apps customers can run.
Apple never joined in the universal move to PC compatibility. Based on the Motorola chip, Apple chose to cater to niche market players with hobby computers such as the Apple II. Apple's day came later when it copied the GUI operating system being developed by Xerox and created the first Mac. The GUI posed a threat to Microsoft's survival and the dominance of the PC, until Microsoft got its own GUI right with Windows 3.0.
Microsoft's strategy was always to open its platform to the widest possible developer community, while Apple's was always to restrict and control. In many ways, Steve Jobs continued to think in terms of the world he grew up in, a pre-PC world -- each computer manufacturer producing its own operating system and strongly controlling developer access.
Apple still continues to think this way, but the success of MS-DOS and Windows have shown that it is not sustainable. At peak, the Mac had 30 percent of the small computer market. Now that share is less than 3 percent.
Mobile, cable, and web access: 1990s
When the web was developing during the 1990s, I was often involved with attempts to extend web services to mobile phone users. We never succeeded, and neither did anyone else. The reason was the mobile phone companies regarded the customers as their property, and they weren't about to let others near them. They accepted that people would want web access from their phones, but thought they could provide all the websites themselves, or license those that would be allowed in.
If you had a mobile at the time, you may recall that for the first few years web access was restricted to websites provided by the phone company.
The mobile phone companies figured they could be more than just information carriers. They thought they could be information providers as well. They didn't grasp the scale or range of demand, and thought they could restrict subscribers to the limited amount of information they could offer. Eventually, of course, they realized this was impossible, that people wanted access to everything -- all 200 million websites, not some restricted subset of a few thousand. It was inevitable that, sensing the scale of the market demand for unlimited access, a mobile company would eventually open up, so they all did. Many cable companies tried the same thing at the time, and eventually learned the same lesson.
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