Android vs iPhone: Have the Laws of Software been Overturned?

A recent GigaOM post about iPhone’s momentum vs Android was interesting, because it suggests that the Laws of Software may have been overturned.

Since the early days of the PC, the software industry has operated according to a pattern described in Michael Cusumano’s classic The Business of Software: The successful software companies are the ones which gathered the largest number of users.  The best practitioners were Microsoft and, later, Google.  Both followed similar strategies: lower costs, add distribution partners, add users, and branch into related products.

Apple was the oddball.  Its dogged attempt to make hardware and software together made it look like a throwback to the age of the minicomputer.  Its quaint insistence on user experience and quality made one want to grab Steve Jobs, shake him, and yell — “Can’t you see the user base is all that matters?”

So… what happened?  Could it be that

  1. Low switching costs (suggested in the GigaOM) article made it important for software companies to keep the users happy?
  2. Computing has become so inexpensive that users can and will pay for a product that made them happy?
  3. The emergence of consumer computing over corporate computing made the user’s happiness important?

Are software companies finally in the user-happiness business?


  1. Maybe not:

  2. Absolutely and nobody does it better than (IMHO) Google, followed by apple. I say Google first because you said Software, and google is excellent at providing excellent software in a staggeringly wide range of fields either at minimum cost or entirely free, and it is almost always of excellent quality (or quickly develops into excellent quality).

    Apple is a bit more more touch and go on the software happiness front, but they do get the hardware joy right, so their software’s shortcommings are often forgivable.

    Microsoft is slowly getting into the consumer happiness business, but doesn’t seem to fully get it yet (and if they do, they should take a page from apple and send out the windows 8 upgrade over the air and for minimal cost).

  3. A nice find and a very good point. Students don’t WANT to use Blackboard just for the sake of using it. They want to learn tinghs in an interesting way. You can do that with Blackboard, but it’s not customizable enough to make it easy.