Inertia vs. Killer Apps

In which I consider whether platform defining software is more powerful than the inertia of a complex ecology of developers, software, hardware, support and marketplace.

The iPod system is an ecology that all competitors have found impossible to replicate and compete with. Better hardware features on mp3 players haven’t been enough, nor have different models for buying music, or involving social networks. These factors and more apply to iPhone. As well as the iPod factors, there is also the ease of application development, and a market for distributing applications.

The fact that the iPhone can be used to make and receive phone calls is just a way for Apple to make sure you always have their hand-held computer with you.

The inertia that competitors will have to fight against will be the comfort that people have with the user interface, the integration with their PCs and Macs, and the specific functionality of the apps that they’ve downloaded.

Over on geek.com Christain Zibreg says

“Imagine Apple losing the multi-touch patent infringement – the whole iPhone empire would be in serious jeopardized.”

It would mean problems PR-wise, and give competitors courage, but I don’t think the whole empire would be in jeopardy. I think that others will still find it difficult to create alternative ‘ecologies’ that match iPhone.

Apple only have to worry when middle-class conversations go something like this: “I hear that someone created an Android app in their spare time that made a million dollars in a few months!” “Wow, I like the idea of that! I need to come up with an app too. I could find someone to help me, upload it, and wait for the money to come rolling in!”

The only thing that Apple need to worry about is a new platform-saving app appearing on other phones as well as the iPhone. The Apple ][ had VisiCalc, MS-DOS had 1-2-3, Macintosh had PageMaker, Windows has Office and Exchange. This was the original definition of ‘Killer App’ – what will the next killer app be for hand-held computing.

What is inherent about BlackBerry, Android, WebOS or Windows Mobile that will make the killer app start on one of these platforms first? If their owners change these systems to attract that killer app first, Apple might get the competition we are all hoping for.

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