Apple counters Microsoft's convergence strategy with Continuity

More devices, working together, not multiple devices mashed into one, gives Apple that many more chances to sell hardware

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Yesterday, Dawson pointed to Continuity as the difference between Apple's and Microsoft's approaches.

"The theme of Continuity (not sameness) runs through the new elements of cross-device integration in iOS and OS X," Dawson wrote on his "Beyond Devices" blog. "At the same time, there's really meaningful integration at a device level, too, with the ability to share phone calls and text messages between Macs and iPhones in close proximity."

Carolina Milanesi, chief of research for Kantar WorldPanel Comtech, has long applauded Apple's multi-device strategy, seeing it -- and by extension, Continuity -- as its answer to threats on both the smartphone and tablet fronts. "Apple is more about selling more devices to the same people, rather than more devices to more people," Milanesi maintained last week. "That's not going to be a bad business [strategy]."

After Apple's WWDC keynote, Milanesi brought up that line of thinking again. "Really, if you have an iPhone and iPad, how long will it take you to get a Mac after today?" she asked Monday in an interview, referring to Continuity and its implications.

According to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP), a Chicago-based firm, Apple has plenty of opportunities to, as Milanesi put it, sell "more devices to the same people."

Of those who owned an iPhone, 58% also owned an iPad, and 59% also owned a Mac, said CIRP, citing nearly two years of survey data. iPad owners were less likely to own other Apple gear -- 48% owned an iPhone, 45% owned a Mac -- but Mac owners looked like the most lucrative, albeit smallest, market. Just 28% of Mac owners also had an iPhone and only 25% owned an iPad.

"Owners of a Mac, iPad, or iPhone are more likely to own another of those devices than the population at large, but overall 43% of Apple buyers own only one of the three major devices," said CIRP's Josh Lowitz in a statement today.

Like Milanesi, CIRP's other co-founder, Mike Levin, believed Apple was missing an opportunity to upsell its current customers. "It doesn't sell as many additional devices to existing customers as it probably could," Levin said.

But not everyone viewed Continuity as Apple's statement on multiple devices.

"I think this is about more people realizing the benefits of iCloud," countered Van Baker of Gartner in an interview after Monday's keynote. "Not a lot of people have a real strong sense of iCloud's value. "[The new features in iOS and OS X] make the iCloud sync and retention much more visible and appealing to them."

Baker posited that, like so many other Apple strategies, Continuity is simply another example of the company's attempt to lock customers, once acquired, into its hardware by virtue of software and services. "But I think Continuity will play reasonably well with customers," Baker admitted.

O'Donnell also dinged Continuity, but for a different reason. While he acknowledged that "Apple is creating a great reason to stick with Apple devices across all their main categories," he questioned that strategy's chance of success.

"The fact is that most Apple users don't have all Apple devices. Most people have a mixture of OS platforms -- some Microsoft, some Google and some Apple," O'Donnell argued. "Their vision could be made much more effective if they could somehow bring other non-Apple OS devices into the group."

O'Donnell questioned whether Apple would, in fact, make such a move. Others also thought it unlikely, and touted evidence in Apple's practices. "They've always been moving in this direction," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, talking about OS X and iOS integration and the implied focus on its own ecosystem, others be damned.

"Their strategy is that our devices work better together. They may have over-dramatized it yesterday, but it makes a lot of business sense."

At Apple's WWDC Keynote, the company revealed several big developments. Which do you think is the most exciting?

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at  @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is

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Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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