This won't be a popular opinion, but the inconvenient truth is that Apple is winning the OS wars, setting the agenda for the future of computing. And here's why:
Fragmentation undermines the Post PC age, and Apple isn't fragmented.
The future of computing is being defined by mobile; in future mobile devices will be supplanted by ambient computing. Underscoring all of this is the operating system.
So what's the state of the OS today?
- Microsoft Windows has been dominant on PCs, but PC sales are in free fall. PCs will still be around, but they won't be essential. Tablets, TVs and mobile devices will be suitable for most tasks. Microsoft has no significant presence in mobile (and won't get one) and its operating system is fragmented. People are not upgrading. Look.
- Android dominates the mobile OS in terms of dumb sales but the devices that shore up its share are running old versions of the OS. Worse yet, they aren't upgradable. Take a look at this chart. The majority of Android devices sold in the shops today will never run the current OS version. They are dated the day you take them out of the box. When it comes to defining an OS future, they are a waste of time and money.
- OS X Mavericks, despite Apple's best efforts, remains a tiny player in the PC landscape. Apple is improving the (now free) OS, but its mobile operating system is the heart of OS innovation on its platforms. The Mac will continue to make gains at the expense of Windows, but will eventually mutate into becoming a sub-branch of iOS.
- Apple's iOS is the king of the jungle. This is because an astonishing 70 percent of iOS devices are already running the latest Apple mobile operating system. Apple's is the most modern widely distributed OS in the mobile space. The update is available to devices over two years old.
In contrast: over a third of Android devices are stuck with the ancient Jelly Bean (first introduced July 2012). Tellingly, despite all the hype surrounding the introduction of KitKat, that OS accounts for an achingly small 1.1 percent of Android devices.
[ABOVE: Android fragmentation in a chart, c/o Fidlee.]
Waste and excess
The flawed Android OS distribution system means most consumers purchasing such devices are stuck with whatever Android distribution was installed on their device when they purchased it. Rather than upgrade the OS, customers must upgrade the device to access new features. Android's business model is bad for the planet.
It is wasteful.
You can build all the solar farms you want, but it won't disguise the built-in obsolescence inherent to Google's mobile business plan. Devices are out of date when they come out of the box, can't be upgraded and quickly become landfill. Green? Not much.
While competitors are unable to provide consistent user experiences, most Apple customers will be exploiting the most recent technologies when they use their products.
The ability to deploy new technologies fast is essential to defining the future operating system. That Apple can introduce software that's swiftly used by millions means it already controls a solutions-based ecosystem that is easy to extend.
Apple is in the cat-bird-seat position to extend its operating systems into new device paradigms.
Apple is winning the OS war.
Get over it.
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