The Seemingly Invincible (and naive) Idea Apple Should Open Up Their Software

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 2 min read

I saw this bizarre piece today and have just a few comments. The overall theme: Apple should license iOS and start raking in the cash.

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.

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

Yes, Apple turned into the most valuable company in the world by doing things there way and controlling the hardware and software of their platforms. But can you imagine how much better it could be?!

History isn’t exactly repeating itself, but Apple is at another crossroads. Its innovation engine has essentially stalled; its last big product release was in 2007, with the iPhone. Apple has reported two quarters in a row of declining earnings because of falling iPhone sales.

Because of course new products only matter if they live up to the iPhone. The iPhone is only the most valuable product of all time by some measures. If 2010's iPad and 2015's Apple Watch don't count as new and exciting products, I don't know what does.

Chinese competitors such as Huawei and Xiaomi Corp. are selling devices with hardware comparable to that of the iPhone, for a fraction of the iPhone’s price.

You're telling me Apple's hardware doesn't stand up on paper to the competition? Forget that the iPhone is objectively faster and has a better camera than any of these low-price phones (and even the top of the line Android phones as well).

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.

That's a truly innovative idea.

The most misguided part of this piece is that it assumes that the ultimate goal of Apple is the exact same as most companies, to make as much money as possible. Apple has certainly done incredibly well for themselves in the past decade, but to think that the driving force behind every decision Apple makes is about how much money a certain decision could make is to completely misunderstand Apple.

Maybe you can say I've drunk the KoolAid, but I don't see how you can look at how Apple has conducted their business for the past few decades and think this is a company who's only in it for the money. No, Apple doesn't have a $50 smartphone sold in drug stores, and no they don't have a tower Mac built for enterprise. If you think the only way Apple will be "successful" is if they have a product in every category that's selling more than the competition, Apple will always let you down. Apple's not playing that game.

If you think that Apple should be doing things differently, that's fine. You have every right to think Apple should be doing things differently1, but don't be surprised if people get a little snarky when you suggest Apple should be pushing for huge market share by unbundling their hardware and software.

  1. Pun not intended, but I'm not removing it.