How the Mobile Industry Is Similiar to Yesterday's PC Era
We all know the history of the PC industry. In the 1980s, IBM's MS-DOS character-based operating system dominated the industry on its acceptance in the business world. The company’s near monopolistic position resulted in little or no innovation. Then, Apple, led by Steve Jobs, burst onto the market with a truly different operating system with a graphical user interface but maintained a closed proprietary system for both its hardware and software. As a result, Apple left an opening for Microsoft to enter the market with Windows, a low-cost knockoff product, which evenutally dominated the market.
Apple then attempted to hold its market through the use of lawsuits and patent challenges. However, the licensing of the Windows OS allowed numerous hardware vendors to enter the market, thus commoditizing that side of the market. After Steve Jobs left, Apple’s market share began to take a slow dive. At the same time, IBM experienced the same decline in its share of the industry.
Now see if this sounds familiar. RIM dominated the smart phone industry primarily due to its acceptance in the business world. Apple, again led by Steve Jobs, exploded onto the market with the iPhone and changed the way people interacted with their phones.
Apple again chose to use a closed system, making their own hardware, OS, and only using AT&T as a network provider. Google saw an opening and developed a low-priced knockoff called Android. Numerous hardware vendors jumped at the chance to be low-cost competitors of Apple, and the other network providers were happy to support these phones. Android eventually overtook Apple in market share, and Apple attempted to hold their market through lawsuits and patent claims. When Steve Jobs passed away, the industry was left wondering if Apple can keep up with its competitors without him.
The two eras are eerily similar, but based on how far the PC industry has come since the 1980s, we are looking at the tip of the iceberg of the mobile industry. For example, most mobile apps are OS specific, installed locally on the phone much like applications were on PCs. Eventually these mobile apps will become much more lightweight and OS independent.
Mobile hardware is already becoming commoditized as phone prices continue to plummet even as features continue to be added. Software is driving the industry, and how these apps are monetized is still taking shape. The essential point of this comparison is that industry professionals should view the mobile market as immature and make strategic plans according to how the PC industry changed in the 1980s.
The opportunity to position your company is right in front of you. After all, what would you do if you could teleport back to 1986 knowing what you know now? Because that is exactly where we are in the mobile applications industry in 2013.