From 1977 to the mid-80s, Apple was the king of technology. Visicalc, Apple IIe’s in every school and the release of the Macintosh were all defining moments of the computer market. Then Microsoft released Windows, Excel and Word. Apple tried to sue and famously lost and the next decade was Microsoft’s as the company road Dell, HP/Compaq, Exchange and Office to the top.
By the late 90’s, Microsoft was reeling, attacked in the marketplace by Palm, Sony and Nintendo, Linux, and the Department of Justice. Microsoft seemed to have lost its way at the same time that Steve Jobs was returning to Apple. The iMac captured imaginations, the iPod and iTunes transformed a market, and then the iPhone and iPod Touch changed the way everyone thinks about smartphones.
The difference this time is we have a new behemoth in town, Google, and as Google plays more and more in Apple’s and Microsoft’s turf (with Android and Chrome), we start seeing a potential redux of late 1980’s Apple-Microsoft battles. This stupid patent lawsuit against HTC (really Google?) may be the first salvo but it won’t be the last.
I’m gravely concerned about Apple. The control issues with developers and content providers have been well documented. We have continued to develop powerOne calculators for iPhone and iPod Touch (and soon iPad) simply because they offer the best hope for a developer like us right now. But every misstep makes me worried about Apple, every lawsuit and kicked out app makes me wonder whether Apple can handle its new found success, its market position. It makes me wonder whether the company can keep from repeating the past, dooming itself to this boom/bust cycle it has had for 30 years.
And it leaves me worried that the biggest innovator in the tech industry will drag us all down with them… again.