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Back when Microsoft and Apple were both fairly new to the market, Apple bought out a product (the Apple Mac) that revolutionised the personal computer industry. So popular was the Mac with developers and consumers alike, that the general consensus was that Apple would be the household name when it came to PC's. It didn't quite work out that way however, as Apple insisted on maintaining complete control over its product, including hardware, software, distribution and marketing. It didn't open up its platform to outside developers or distributors. Microsoft took advantage of this, essentially copying the Apple software, opening up the platform and selling it to any distributor, vendor and manufacturer that wanted it. Consumers and developers became extremely excited by the size and scope of the Microsoft platform and they became the biggest name in the PC industry, leaving Apple to a much smaller, niche market.
These days, the innovative and extremely well designed products bought out by apple, most notably the iPod, iPhone and now the iPad, have made them a major player once again and one of the most popular companies on Earth.
However, there are some worrying similarities between the growth of Microsoft over Apple in the early days of the PC industry and the situation Apple find themselves in currently:
Apple have bought out an innovative range of products (iPod, iPhone, iPad) that have revolutionised the industry, with the general consensus being that Apple will continue to be the biggest player in this market. Once again however, Apple is insisting on rigorous control over the hardwarel, software and distribution of its product and isn't opening up the platform to the market. It retains complete control over what applications make it onto the App Store, and isn't trying to achieve a ubiquitous presence in the marketplace.
Google are now trying to do exactly the same thing Microsoft did in those early stages of the PC industry; they have essentially copied the Apple software and opened it up to any phone or tablet distributor that wants it. Now, just as they did about Microsoft, consumers and developers are growing increasinly excited about the size and scope of the Google platform.
Apple supported will argue that the company is still a long way ahead, and that by maintaining a superior product with a higher markup they'll be able to continue to hold on to their immense level of growth and essentially profit. I would suggest however that considering Android's level of growth over the last two years, that this could be pure optimism on Apple's behalf.
As little as 18 months ago the Android platform was nowhere, whereas now it has a higher percent of developers making applications that the iPhone does:
This should be a worrying trend for Apple, but it's one that I just don't think they'll be doing anything about, as they're extremely unlikely to open up the application platform to the degree that Android has.
Not only does Apple censor and control what goes onto the App Store, but you need a high-level of technical knowledge to be able to develop applications for the iPhone operating system. Google have taken the exact opposite approach, allowing anyone to develop apps for the Android OS, regardless of technical ability:
Google Labs now as the Android App Inventor, which allows anyone to create an Android application. It doesn't matter if you have no development experience or knowledge whatsoever, you can still make a myriad of applications, from games to social media platforms.
I've had a play around with the software and it's extremely easy to use, as this example video from Google demonstrates:
Opening up the platform to this degree will undoubtedly cause a surge in the number of applications available for the Android OS, which already looks set to break the 100,000 barrier in the next few weeks.
I think Apple should be a little worried by the growth of Google in this industry - if they're not careful they could find themselves relegated to a niche market once again as Google become the dominant force in the marketplace.