History of Apple Inc./Platform Wars

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In 1983 Apple released the Macintosh. Twenty years later, all computers still resemble what the Mac brought to the market. Apple had a long head start on the competition, the first successful competing product was Microsoft Windows 3.1, released in 1992 (GEOS, released in 1986, failed). In technology-years this was an eternity, but Apple failed to capitalize.

See The "Apple Could Have Been Microsoft" Myth[1]

Winner-takes-all Platform Wars[edit | edit source]

Army of users familiar with one platform[edit | edit source]

Suites of integrated software[edit | edit source]


To do:
Discuss Microsoft's "Suite" strategy, how it erected a barrier to entry for Apple and any other competitor.

Someone could build a better Word processor or a better spreadsheet, or a better powerpoint, but they wouldn't be able to build all three at the same time.

Network effects?

Discuss the Apple rip-off myth. Or was it?


To do:

Apple should have had an advantage

Notable platform lesson: Platform ownership makes advancements easier to deliver to users.[2]

Microsoft had to worry about someone eating their MS-DOS cow while they tried to push a move to OS/2 or Windows. IBM couldn't push new hardware. Apple had no such worries -- it could change both.

The Backwards Compatibility Curse and a Solution[edit | edit source]

If it lacked backwards compatibility, Apple would have to convince developers to port all their applications before anyone would buy it. But if nobody had it, why build applications for it? Conversely, if it provided flawless backward compatibility with the Mac, then its new features might never be really put to use by developers.

These same problems were faced by Microsoft and IBM in trying to establish OS/2 as a new platform: how different from DOS could it afford to be? While OS/2 was beginning to offer a much stronger foundation than the aging MS-DOS, developers weren't quick to jump on OS/2 development because it wasn't yet widely deployed.

Notable platform lesson: The catch-22 of development support for new platforms is one of the most significant barriers for entry.[3]

Simulating a complete Mac in Copland was difficult. It took 8 years for the Mac to simulate Apple IIs, with the Apple IIe Card [[4]]. Simulating the Mac didn't happen till OSX.

Apple does an end-run around compatibility curse nowadays. Software works for two cycles, then must be rebuilt. Apple won't support anything older.

The "Universal binary" strategy where software developers build PowerPC and Intel binaries simultaneously and ship them on the same CD. Makes transition more comfortable for software producers and consumers.[5]