I’ve been watching the tablet and smart phone products that have hit the world. They are big money makers. Apple and Google really profited, whereas BlackBerry has nearly died.
I want to discuss the near death of the BlackBerry. Why did the BlackBerry wither while Android and iOS thrived? What is next to wither and what is next to thrive? To answer these questions, let’s look at the PC market in the late 80s and early 90s from many years ago.
Microsoft Windows beat Apple PC
Note: Please forgive this massive short paragraph that is a gross oversimplification.
Apple PCs were all the rage in schools mostly. But Microsoft came out with a new operating system, Windows. It could run on a lot of hardware, and wasn’t stuck on expensive Apple hardware. Businesses started using it over Apple because the hardware was cheaper and the experience was as least as good as that of the Apple PC.
Microsoft and Apple both targeted the business and home users. But Microsoft hit the business faster because their operating could be sold on other manufacturers devices, whereas Apple’s could not. Really quickly, Microsoft Windows took over the business market, and then moved into peoples homes. Windows added solitaire for the home user, which was a very big hit and still is today. In the end, very few people ever brought an Apple PC for their home.
Apple tried to beat Windows and tried to add applications. They even had the market on artistic software for a while but they never have reached the Windows operating system market share.
So Microsoft won by winning both locations, home and work. And once they won, it was hard for Apple to catch up because all the software was written for Windows.
Apple and Google beat BlackBerry
BlackBerry’s main problem was that they didn’t have a device for both consumers and business users. Their phone was pretty much focused on business users. Some might argue that they had consumer models, but even if they did, they didn’t market them well. No one I knew had a personal cell that was a BlackBerry. BlackBerry failed to make the push from business to the home. But that didn’t cause them to wither right away. They needed a competitor.
When the iPhone released, it was a horrible business phone. The first iPhone couldn’t even hook up to Microsoft Exchange, the most popular enterprise and business email server. But the iPhone was a quality smart phone experience, and for non-business features, it had a better user experience than BlackBerry phones. However, many employees ended up having two phones, a personal iPhone and a BlackBerry for work. BlackBerry hadn’t lost yet. In the next two years after the first iPhone version was released, all BlackBerry had to do was up their game to meat the iPhone in features and experience. In essence, the BlackBerry phone needed consumer features and a great user experience. They failed to do that in time. Apple, on the other hand, upped their game and added business features to the iPhone. It could connect to Microsoft Exchange. Users only want one device. So the BlackBerry became obsolete because it didn’t move from the business to the home. The iPhone did move from the home to business.
The only difference from how Microsoft beat Apple in the operating system world and how Apple beat BlackBerry in the business phone world was the third competitor. Google entered the competition and provided an Android phone that gives and experience equal to (or slightly better or worse depending on mostly opinion).
All the apps were written for both iPhone or Android.
Google, however, was a little late to the game. Had they released their phone even a year earlier, I think Apple would have lost and history would have repeated itself. Remember, why Apple lost the PC market? It required expensive proprietary hardware. Well, so does the iPhone. Google took the place of Microsoft in providing an operating system that could install on any platform. And any vendor could sell their own operating system with Android. Google’s Android exploded into the world and is the most used operating system on phones by a large margin.
The big difference between the smart phone market and the PC market of the late 80s and 90s is that Apple already had the applications, now calls apps, already written for the iPhone. So when Google’s Android won the majority market share, Apple didn’t lose everyone. They maintain a very good market share of phones and each release is a hit.
Both phones are quite acceptable for business or work.
However, the Microsoft Phone was very late to the game. It would be great for business and home, but it doesn’t have the apps. They are already written for iPhone and Android phones. BlackBerry and Microsoft both lost.
What about the Tablet market?
So who is going to win it? Some might say the iPad has already won. Well, let’s look at what tablet today works for both home and business users? Is their one yet? Or is it in the same position that BlackBerry was in, only reversed?
The iPad is a great consumer device. But input is atrocious. Running a project in a meeting with requires a bunch of special connectors or wi-fi enabled connectors. It just doesn’t do it for the business user. Many people bought their iPads with hopes to use them at home and at work. But really, they are just home devices. Many employees that used to bring them to work are now leaving them home and have gone back to their laptops.
The Android tablets are pretty much the same experience. Input is just as terrible. I gave up on the keyboard I bought for it. Android tablets have all the same problems in a business environment that the iPad has. However, Android has one advantage over the iPad in that Android can be installed on other hardware, while iOS cannot.
Now, enter the Microsoft Surface and Surface Pro. Since version 3 released, it’s business usability is unquestionable. It is the same operating system that has been running businesses for a quarter of a century. The home experience is not quite as good as the iPad or Android, but it is acceptable and getting better. In fact, I just watched a few hours of Amazon prime on it instead of on my Kindle Fire HD and had a better experience.
The Surface Pro is here and is already at version 3 with Version 4 coming around the bend. It works for home and business. Also, Windows can install to other devices and other manufacturers such as Lenovo are releasing devices similar to the Surface Pro, also running Microsoft Windows.
Can Apple and Google catch up? Can they get the business market and the home market? I don’t see how.
I have already seen the Surface Pro 3 turn iPads into paper weights, well actually kid’s toys as parents stop using them and let their kids game on them. (That is what has happened to my Kindles.)
History shows that while there is money in an either consumer-only or business-only solution, if the solution is needed by both, the winner is whoever fills the needs of both.
If history repeats itself, and I think it will, Microsoft is going to win the Tablet operating system market simply by making the existing desktop and laptop operating system their tablet operating system. It makes the tablet usable for both home and work. The only question is, how much a market share will Apple and Android tablets keep?
There over a billion laptops in the world and most people want them to be thinner and lighter, though not necessarily smaller in screen size. I was quite surprised, however, that even though I was a 16″ or 17″ inch laptop screen guy, that I was willing to trade-off screen size for the light weight, slim Surface Pro 3.
So yes, the first tablet that is very usable for both home use and business use is the Windows Tablet. This is history repeating themselves. All the other tablets are like the early Apple PC, or the BlackBerry. There are once again differences to the current situation. Apple and Android own the smart phone markets and those smartphone apps run on tablets too, so Apple will never really loose in the apps department. Microsoft’s tablet has already won in the application (full desktop application) market and so while it doesn’t have the apps, that doesn’t matter anymore, it has the applications. The apps will come because the Surface and similar devices are selling very well and will quickly take over the market share.
By the way, as developers write apps for the Surface (not applications), those apps will work on the Windows phone and Windows might just make a comeback in that arena thanks to winning the tablet market. Oh, and you may not think you will every run a windows phone, but what if your desktop/laptop/tablet is nothing more than a windows phone? What happens in a few years when your phone becomes your only device? Which operating system would you choose in a single device world? Most would say Windows (though there will always be Mac and BSD/Linux users). You get to work and dock your windows phone and it is as powerful as your most powerful desktop today and runs your dual monitors at your desk? It streams wirelessless to dumb screens, which were once tablets, but now just run off your phone.
Welcome back to the top Microsoft. Some might even say you never left.
And thank you for building the Surface Pro 3. I love mine. It is replacing my desktop and laptop.