Tuesday, September 17, 2013

In Different Ways, Microsoft and Apple Both Bank on Having the Right Strategy

The best strategy in mobile device or computing device markets tends to change over time, some would argue. In a brand new market, it often makes sense to bundle the experience elements (integrate vertically) to reduce adoption barriers. 

You might point to AOL's success, early in the consumer Internet access market, or Apple's historic focus on integrating experience elements for personal computing. 

Later, when customers and users are well acquainted with a product, that approach can backfire, and a horizontal, unbundled, or "open" approach often can work better. 

And that is the issue both Apple and Microsoft are grappling with, at some level. Some would argue Microsoft is about to pursue a vertical approach in mobile, where it historically has taken a horizontal approach in PCs. 

And Apple continues to act consistently with its vertical approach, though many argue it should at least deviate somewhat from its "premium pricing" approach, as it did with the iPod product line. 

But some might argue that a horizontal approach is better in a mobile device market that increasingly is well understood and mature. When consumers are comfortable with a technology product, the importance of a unified, consistent experience (provided by a vertical approach) arguably is less important. 

Google, by way of contrast, has some "vertical" experiements (Nexus smart phone), but mostly operates horizontally, trying to be relevant on every platform. 

Google wants to offer an integrated experience, but doesn't worry so much about "absolute best" experience on every device or platform, all the time. Google wants useful experience on every platform, all the time, and "best" experience on some devices, some of the time. 

If Microsoft and Apple are wrong, time will tell. Cross-platform performance, some would argue, now is becoming strategic. Microsoft will pursue that some of the time, Apple some of the time, but neither has a cross-platform strategy all of the time. 

For that matter, Google does not have a horizontal approach all of the time, either. But most of what Google offers intentionally is cross platform and horizontal. The vertical efforts are mostly demonstration projects intended to illustrate best of breed use of the platform. 

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