Fred Vogelstein shares his opinion of the ongoing battle between Google and Apple for platform dominance and how this compared to the platform war between Apple and Microsoft in 1980s.
There have always been good reasons to believe that the Apple/Google fight might not play out like Apple versus Microsoft: Developers seem more capable of writing software for two platforms than they were in the 1980s. The platform-switching costs are much smaller, too. Back then, PCs cost more than $3,000 and each software title cost more than $50. Now the costs are less than a tenth of those. A new phone with a carrier subsidy costs $200, and each app costs less than $3 and is often free. Also, third parties — the carriers — continue to have a vested interest in making sure consumers have as many ways to connect to their network, and pay them money, as possible.
Platform wars tend to be winner-take-all contests. If Apple’s and Google’s mobile platforms somehow harmoniously coexist, it will be a historical aberration.
Fred Volgelstein also quoted Jon Rubinstein, former Apple executive and former CEO of Palm, who said: “It’s like the battle for the monopolies that the cable guys and the phone guys got 30 to 40 years ago. This is the next generation of it all. Everyone — Apple, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft — is trying to build their walled garden and control access to content and all that. It’s a really big deal.”