Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Another Analyst Offers Tim Cook Some Advice

I haven’t seen one of these incredibly idiotic articles in a while, but I also haven’t read MarketWatch in a while. Vivek Wadhwa opines:

In June 1985, Bill Gates sent a letter to Apple CEO John Sculley and Mac development head Jean Louis Gassée, urging them license Apple’s operating system to other companies. Apple ignored his advice, and five months later, Microsoft released its own operating system, Windows. It went on to become the dominant player in the personal-computer industry while Apple floundered. Microsoft saved Apple from bankruptcy in 1997 by investing $150 million in it.

There are many ways to interpret this history lesson, but one thing is clear: building an open platform gave Microsoft MSFT a huge advantage. Yes, by focusing on design and integrating hardware and software, Steve Jobs was able to reinvent Apple AAPL and make it the most valuable company in the world. But this came much later, in the 2000s, after the opportunities were lost.

One has to wonder what would have happened if Apple had taken Gates’s advice.

Okay, rewind that:

Yes, by focusing on design and integrating hardware and software, Steve Jobs was able to reinvent Apple AAPL and make it the most valuable company in the world. But this came much later, in the 2000s, after the opportunities were lost.

All of the opportunities were lost for Apple to… — what, exactly? Not become the most valuable company in the world?

Wadhwa is wrong all over this shit show of an article. Apple did license their operating system in the ’90s, and it resulted in a devaluing of their brand and their engineering, both in hardware and software. Not only that, Macintosh clones barely made a dent in the overall Mac OS market share. Clones were unpopular, usually-terrible computers (see note below) that made Mac OS and — as a result — Apple look bad. Why repeat that?

Apple needs to do something dramatic before the spell wears off and we all begin to question the company’s innovation capability again. It needs to follow Bill Gates’s recommendation and offer its operating system on other platforms. Full-featured smartphones can be purchased for as little as $50 in China and India today; that price will fall to less than $25 over the next three or four years, and billions of people will be purchasing them. The market is still in its infancy. Apple should port iOS to Samsung, HTC, LG, Xiaomi, and other brands of smartphones. It still has a chance to displace Google’s Android and become the dominant smartphone platform—if it acts in time.

[…]

Will this eat further into iPhone revenue? Yes, it surely will, but this revenue is declining anyway and Apple needs to find alternative revenue sources.

Let’s briefly engage in this crazy parallel universe, just for the hell of it. In what world will an OEM choose to pay for licenses to iOS when Android is free? This is the problem Windows Phone has always had: Microsoft charged for it and established minimum hardware guidelines, thereby limiting its potential.

Any notion that Apple should follow in those footsteps is painfully misguided. But this article trips over itself so many times trying to justify its premise that it becomes clear that Wadhwa has no idea what he’s talking about.

And before you think I’m picking on some no-name analyst, he has some serious credentials:

Vivek Wadhwa, a former tech entrepreneur, is a Distinguished Fellow and professor at Carnegie Mellon University Engineering at Silicon Valley.

He’s also made the Time top 40 as one of the “most influential minds in tech”, and been recognized by Foreign Policy. I don’t think Tim Cook will be feeling his influence on this matter.

Update: Shawn King points to several examples of clones that were better than Apple’s hardware offerings at the time. I remember using bad clones, but clearly there were some good ones around, too.