In contrast to Android’s openness, the ecosystem wherein Apple thrives is highly restricted. A striking example of this is: One can, in the present scenario, buy and access hundreds of models of Android powered phones and tablets belonging to several companies. But in the case of iOS, the only options are Apple’s iPhone or iPad.
Apple has always insisted in tight control of its products. In this article, we’ll discuss whether this policy of Apple being restrictive in approach can win against its rivals’ policy of being much open in their approach. Apple doesn’t follow the policy of licensing most of its software to other companies, while Google does quite the opposite with its Android OS. The openness of Google’s Android goes much beyond the licensing aspect. In Android, there are multiple ways you can load the software on your device apart from the Play Store. The Play Store itself is quite liberal in allowing apps to run in it. On the other hand, Apple’s iOS doesn’t allow the user to get apps from anywhere else but the App Store. It is also quite choosy in allowing apps on the App store, as there is a great deal of control exercised by the company over what should appear in the store.
So, is this highly controlled ecosystem of apple really benefitting it? First, let’s involve a bit of history. In the 1980’s, the Macintosh, a device with highly integrated hardware-software developed by Apple faced tough competition from Microsoft. Microsoft then, like today, was open to licensing its software to PC makers. It didn’t get itself involved with the hardware. This policy of Microsoft, at that time, proved to be a huge success. In a few years, a huge army of rival products using Microsoft’s platform almost made Apple disappear from the market.
Looking at this aspect of the past, can we say that Apple should be more open in its approach in order to remain successful in the long run? Now let’s look into the present scenario. Today, Apple is one of the most successful tech companies on the face of the earth. The vertical integration followed by the company has given it an edge over its competitors. It has unmatched expertise in the three most important spheres in the tech industry: software, hardware and services, which has given it the competitive advantage. It should be noted that others are also desperately trying to follow suit, with Google and Microsoft acquiring Motorola and Nokia respectively, in order to pursue this end-to-end strategy. However it has, so far, worked only for Apple.
Apple’s ‘closed’ ecosystem might actually be working to its benefit. There are many reasons behind this. The devices and software offered by Apple are designed to work well with each other. It’s pretty easy to sync information across devices. For example, one can access an app on all the devices under one account with just a single purchase, as the user interface is almost identical across devices. It is not so in case of Android, where different models of Android are customised differently which makes the user interface very much varied.
Apple’s policy of not licensing its software to outsiders also help in letting the users get the latest and the best of the experience. Whenever a new iOS is launched, Apple, with its limited models made specifically to run efficiently on its platform which leads to high (mostly more than 80%) adoption of the most recent iOS by the overall users. This means that more than 80% of all iPhone/iPad users have the most recent iOS installed on their devices at any given time, in sharp contrast to Android, wherein a lot of devices are left out as being ineligible to get the latest android version, while many others get the update months after it is launched.
Another advantage of Apple’s closed approach is that it gives them a possibility of quality control. Having a tightly controlled ecosystem means that Apple chooses only the good quality apps to run on its platform. It has a positive impact on the consumers’ experience. On the other hand, Android’s open approach offers less control, which leaves the platform more open to some badly written stuff and malicious code.
With all these benefits that the closed ecosystem provides the company, and with the kind of success it has achieved and its consistency, there’s little reason to believe that Apple should go the Android way. This is partly because Android runs virtually on all segments (low-cost, mid-range, and premium) of devices and due the sheer number of models running on android, it needs to be open to customisation to fit into the hardware specifications and needs of different companies producing android powered devices. Apple, on the other hand, deals in the premium category. So in order to let the consumer have the best of experience for the money they spend, it needs to have strong quality control across its devices, operating system and the apps that run on it. And the unique selling point of Apple is the ‘experience’ provided by it. Like they say, “If you don’t have an iPhone. Well! You don’t have an iPhone.”