I’m a Windows user and have been since Windows 3.1. I have stayed away from Apple, with the exception of the Newton (go ahead and laugh if you want), in all forms because of one main reason. Lock-in. Apple locks people in to their ecosystem and you have to work hard to get out of it if you don’t like the way some of their systems work. Windows, from a user’s perspective, never locked you in to anything until the development and release of Windows Phone 7. This is a strategy that I can’t get behind and will keep me from buying a Windows Phone in the future.
I’ve owned laptops from Digital Equipment Corporation, Gateway, Dell, Sony, Samsung, and Alienware. I’ve owned desktops from Epson, HP, Packard Bell, IBM, Gateway, Dell, Alienware, and Sony. I’ve used all kinds of software created in all corners of the Earth obtained from mail order and web sites of which most people have never heard. The hardware has come in all shapes and sizes and the software has been everything from easy to use and beautiful looking on screen to unusable and butt ugly. Over the past couple of decades I was able to use and experiment with all kinds of cool stuff thanks to the nature of PC hardware and Windows compatible software.
Apple locks the user in to the Apple universe. If you have an iPhone, iPad, iPod, or one of the few flavors of the Mac then you have the same device as everyone else in that universe. If you want a phone with a bigger screen or keyboard you can’t have one. If you want a Mac that is a different color than silver you have to pay extra to have a company paint it for you. Even then you can’t get a 14″ Macbook Pro if that’s the screen size you’re most comfortable with. The lack of choice in the Apple universe is fine for a great many people. And that’s okay. Not everyone likes to tinker and experiment. A great number of people want their computers to be like toasters where they just use it without having to think about it at all. I’m getting used to the notion of computers for normal people but I haven’t totally accepted it yet.
The difference in the type of customer that exists in the two universes of Apple and Windows is why I think Windows Phone 7 is doomed for failure (or at least it will remain a distant third). People like me that don’t want lock-in will continue to mover towards Android. With Android I have the freedom of using a variety of software to listen to music, watch videos, take and upload pictures and all the rest of the fun things people are doing with their mobile devices. And choice in hardware? Sheesh. Android gives you more choices to find the right device that fits the way you like to use it. For example, I’ve been using an HTC Incredible for the last couple of years. Out of everything that was available to me at the time it fit the way I wanted to use a smart phone. And let’s not forget price. If Android phones were priced the same as the iPhone we would not have seen the wide adoption of Android that we have. Sure Android has it’s problems. The biggest one is that you have no idea what version of Android you’re using. Google iterates too quickly and the manufacturers and the carriers can’t keep up. Android is also a little rough around the edges. That gets me back to price because if an Android phone costs as much as an iPhone most people would just buy the iPhone because it lacks those rough edges.
The bottom line of all this is that if I want lock-in there is a choice for that. Apple. Their ecosystem is complete and fantastic if you don’t mind being locked-in. If you can’t beef up your ecosystem to match that then don’t lock-in your users because they’ll need to get outside your universe of software and/or services. Windows Phone 7 is going the lock-in route and that’s why it has no future.
I’m hoping Microsoft is not moving in this direction with Windows 8 because if they are then you’re going to watch Microsoft go the way of IBM. They’ll eventually have to leave the consumer space and concentrate solely on the enterprise market.