Not a week goes by without the Internet vomiting out articles purporting to offer advice to history’s most successful consumer electronics company. One analyst, evidently named after a former governor of New Jersey, has argued this past week that Apple should start offering its “better apps” on the Android platform. As a fun exercise, let’s tear this down premise by premise.
For of all, better? Better in the sense of the better apps Apple has made or better in the sense that Apple’s built-in apps are better than Android’s? For the latter case, I don’t think anyone would argue that Apple’s own apps are better than others available on either iOS or Android that perform comparable functions. There are plenty of wish lists for improvements to Apple’s apps that are also published on a weekly basis (and in convenient slideshow format). For the former, the specific examples he cites are iBook [sic], iTunes, Siri, iMessage, iWork, iPhoto, and FaceTime. Working backward: FaceTime wouldn’t work on most hardware running Android and would probably require handset manufacturers to negotiate with carriers for the use of all that extra bandwidth, and anyway there’s Skype; iPhoto is not awesome; iWork is not awesome; iMessage isn’t an app; Siri isn’t an app; iTunes and iBook [sic] I’ll get to in a moment. So which of Apple’s killer apps are going to blast a hole in Android’s market share? Pages? Find Friends? Maps??
In the author’s defense, he is aware that Apple’s business model is different from Google’s. I know this because he says so. What I don’t know is whether or not he is aware that Google does not make phones (not phones that anybody really buys, anyway). What I don’t know also is whether or not he is aware that Android exists in multiple versions across innumerable platforms, few of them having anything to do with Google, and that the cost of translating Numbers and iBook [sic] into versions that will function on all of these devices (and iCloud?) is probably going to outweigh any benefit to Apple. I do know that the author thinks some built-in OS services (Siri, iMessage, arguably FaceTime) are the same thing as apps, and this threatens his credibility as a tech analyst.
Ultimately, the major premise here is that Apple “might be selling itself short by not showing off its software on other devices.” When he says software, however, he obviously means iTunes and not, e.g., Mail or Weather. Google makes money when its software is used on iPhones, he reasons, so why wouldn’t Apple want to rake in all those potential extra billions by porting iTunes to Android (as it once did, reluctantly, to Windows)? I can actually answer this question without using Siri or referencing an iBook [sic]! First, iTunes has always been run at a loss. Its whole purpose is to get people to buy Apple hardware. Recently, it has started to make a profit, but that profit is an absolute meaningless pittance compared to what their mobile devices bring in. Author, you pointed this out yourself! Second, there is statistical evidence that even though more Android devices are being sold than iOS devices, iOS users pay out far more money for apps than Android users. Even if that weren’t the case, what sense does it make for Apple to “show off” its software on other devices? If the whole point of the software is to add value to the hardware, porting it to other devices sort of defeats the purpose. Why would you buy an iPhone or iPad to get access to Apple’s ecosystem if you can just have it on your Android device? Also, if the hardware is not very good, the software is not going to look very good, either. Apple controls its own hardware and can therefore calibrate the performance of its software to match. It also—crucially and uniquely—controls its software updates.
Too many commentators on the Internet discuss Apple without any inkling whereof they speak. Informed opinions I can either agree or disagree with are one thing, but this sort of writing is as dangerous as the ignorance that spawned it. Apple may have problems, as any large organization tends to, but it’s hardly the Titanic, and Android is hardly an iceberg.