Thursday, August 28, 2008

A World Without Microsoft and Apple

Sometimes I really feel like I'm slow to pick up on things, but then suddenly it hits me and strategies other companies have been working on make complete sense. I mean, I always thought the strategy was a good idea, but I typically didn't see the undeniable compelling reason for the strategy... until later. Today it revolves around the World Wide Web.

The web is an amazing thing. Yes, it's amazing because of all the user generated content, the copious amounts of tutorials, the ability to buy something from the other side of the world and much more. However, the most amazing part is that they're all built off the same language: HTML. Unlike current operating systems, everyone uses the same language when programming a website. Sure, sites get to HTML differently, but in the end it's all displayed exactly the same. That's amazing!

Thanks to this standard, this means is that if you create a product that can display HTML, you can display web content. That's why there's Internet Explorer, FireFox, Safari, Opera and many more browsers. However, we're also starting to see browsers on other systems as well, like our cells phones, Unix and our gaming consoles.

This means that you don't need Windows or OSX to view web sites.

Furthermore, as bandwidth becomes faster and web programming becomes more advanced, we'll be able to do more and more within our browser. We can already do everything Microsoft Office offers (though not as feature rich... yet) and even Adobe has aPhotoshop capable website now. Eventually, we'll be able to do 90% of we normally do on our computer within a browser, and then the device we use won't matter.

Furthermore, the browser itself might become antiquated for something more robust. Widgets are already starting to blur the browser line and I'm willing to be that something else will come along which will act as the tipping point for the death of our Microsoft-Apple Duopoly.

So as the web becomes more advanced, I fully expect to see competing operating systems that only offer a browser. I expect Microsoft and Apple to specialize in high-end programs while people do regular activities on a myriad of other devices andOS's. For consumers this is awesome.

This is why the strategies of these companies suddenly makes sense:

Microsoft wants to establish itself on the Internet. They realize that the value isn't in the browser, as I just showed, but in what people view through the browser. Now, I don't think Microsoft is executing their strategy very well, but I like where they're headed.

Apple is trying to establish their operating system on other devices with iPhone and AppleTV. They've also created MobileMe which is an attempt to bridge the gap between their operating system and the web. I think they'll do a good job establishing an ecosystem for media, but beyond that I'm not sure.

Google realizes that they are rooted in the web and are trying like mad to create similar applications found on desktops. They want to be that driver of change in the hopes of neither Microsoft or Apple catching up. This is partly why Google is making Android - they want to show people that it's about the applications and they can be operating system agnostic.

Of course, then there's XML which is an open-standards way of saving data. Imagine this: I can view my data (say, email) on any web page that will accept my data (Gmail,mobileMe, MSN , etc.). Then the competition will be for browsers that perform the best and websites that let me work with my data the best. I should be able to flow freely between browsers, websites and devices without any change in my data.

Obviously, current website owners, and operating system owners, don't want this to happen because there's value in hooking customers in. Of course, this raises an even more fundamental question: Who does the data belong to anyways? Gosh, this sure sounds like the same question the music industry is facing...

What I do know, is that the web is enabling standards to be set which will enable data to be shared freely. This will promote innovation to improve web applications because they can't lock customers in, but instead must genuinely offer a better product consistently. As applications get better our dependency on Microsoft and Apple based applications will decrease. Good-bye Duopoly.

For consumers this is the best outcome. For businesses, it's probably scarier because it's not as easy, but it'll be good for them too.

No comments:

Post a Comment