At the moment of a major disruption, it’s tempting to view the shift in power as coming from one company or individual. So we act like giggling schoolgirls when we spot Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt having a coffee, measuring the body language and the very fact of the public encounter in terms of war, two generals meeting on horses in the center of the engagement field, etc.
And given the time it takes to make chess moves even in this realtime world, we can guess they’re not talking about today but rather about tomorrow. The time between today and tomorrow has compressed, but the cycles it takes to produce hardware and ramp carrier buildout mandate iterative development as the only way to move forward rapidly. One thing building on the last, anticipating the next, maintaining and extending core advantages while opening up newer ones.
The iPad/Android/Silverlight agendas share many elements and surprisingly few differences. Since Ray Ozzie’s Disruption Memo 5 years ago this month, Microsoft has moved from a landlocked desktop company to one poised to launch its most profitable application suite in the Cloud. Silverlight is now the application development environment for most of Microsoft platforms including mobile, TV, and Web.
If you think 5 years is not a very long time, how about 3 years since Apple announced the iPhone. With the release of the iPad, Apple has in effect done something very similar to Silverlight in moving a considerable part of its development architecture to the new iPhone/iPad OS. The arguments about Flash that so captivated us a few weeks ago seem so irrelevant now that site after site caves to H.264. Google’s odd recommitting to Flash in Chrome the browser may be sold as a pragmatic acknowledgment of the existing Flash base, but it’s got more similarity to the Office team swallowing its pride as Silverlight marches forward across the OS Formerly Known as Windows.
Scratch the surface of the weekend’s I Hate the iPad, And So Must You meme and you’re really looking at the remnants of a view of the computing universe that positions open versus closed instead of two approaches busy nurturing each other along. It’s way beyond strange bedfellows, with Microsoft way out front in guarding online privacy and Apple continuing to leverage their investments in Web Kit and other open source technologies (read OS/10), while Google supports Adobe and its proprietary hairball at the very moment media properties are running away from it.
In fact, it’s a lot like the argument over the iPad (Flash, USB, multitasking): right, I’ll take two. Open technologies are used to advance the ball, then intermingled with closed technologies (the entire Google back end) to produce massive wealth and leverage. If you haven’t been listening to Steve Ballmer recently (he doesn’t get headlines for having Starbucks these days) you may not have heard that Microsoft is all in on the Cloud. Office is soon to ship for the Cloud, just as Ozzie insisted would have to happen 5 years ago. Will they destroy Google Apps? Hell, no. But will Windows Phone get share? Just ask Nokia or Palm what they think.
The polemicists insist the iPad is a consumption platform. Sure it is, but does that mean it’s not a creative one? Hell, no. First get out of the way of the stampede of app developers and then make that case. No camera; I got stinking cameras on my iPad Nano as Scoble likes to call it, on my Nexus One, on several Flip cams, on the MacBook Air, on and on. Can I do realtime video conferencing on any phone right now? No, so why is that a limitation of the iPad? It’s coming, as is multitasking and universal bus adapters and everything except Flash which we don’t need.
In fact, every site that supports no Flash is one more advertisement and network effect multiplier for the new platform, a little reward each day or few hours that says: yes, you made the right decision, and no, you’re not going to regret it. Each app download confirms more of the same thing, that how we interact with these machines is in play, and that the only thing worse than the new OS is having to go back to everything we’re already sick of.
Don’t get me wrong; I love the MacBook Air as I sit here typing, but sure as sure can be I’ll be migrating to the keyboard dock the next time I take a trip to Starbucks. Bluetooth will become the virtual hub for creatives, with the corresponding battery drain distributed in a handy accessory. At some point, I’ll start leaving the Air home. It’s easier to invest in the new architecture; it’s a Clunkers for iPads program. iPadCare. I’m all in.