Faculty & Leadership Blog / Faculty in the News

Apple Reveals New Mountain Lion Operating System and Potentially Shoots Itself in the Foot With 5 Billion Global Users

Apple today proudly announces that if you buy their Mountain Lion OS, it will connect you to many unprotected sites, beyond your control, without your even knowing that you are so connected.

You log in, and you are linked to iCloud, three social networking sites, calendars that float through space to datebooks of others, many file sharing sites, and photo sharing that takes some effort to control.

We Have Seen This Failing Strategy Before

Watch this space. Apple is emulating Microsoft’s integration of Internet Explorer and the Windows operating system of the 1990’s. This kind of monopoly, barrier-to-entry thinking is precisely what slowed Microsoft’s growth rate, killed Bing with a $6 billion write off, and is taking Nokia out at the knees in a global mobile OS market they dominated for years.

Large, successful companies fail all the time for simple, ego-driven reasons.

• They start trying to control massive user networks (we used to call them “markets” now we call them “social networks”).
• They attempt this control by making their corporate systems too complex, and thus more costly and harder to change.
• And if they are American, they start making silly mistakes trying to boost their stock prices.

This means their management focus shifts from entrepreneurial experimentation with users, to control-oriented high-fixed-cost integration strategies.

If you track Apple’s migration from a clean, bombproof operating system, to the 3-platform (PC, Mobile, TV) serpent it is now pushing through mandatory upgrades, you will see a textbook case of increasing complexity, and of management moving toward dangerous attempts to control closed networks in an open network world.

This is exactly what killed AOL in the late 1990’s. Apple will survive, but at what cost?

Apple is Risking a Position in the Global Entrepreneurial Market

Apple’s risk today is that by building its operating system around current American trends, it might be hurting its chances to be a major player among the new forms of networked commerce dominating the world outside the US.

Apple penetrated the global Microsoft and cellular monopolies with personal devices that were much easier for users to control than those from Microsoft and Nokia. Apple has been on its way to being a preferred provider for the entrepreneurial companies in the developing world, who now dominate growth in the global economy.

But today they are telling the world that business users from all cultures will have to behave like American teenagers if they want to use Apple products.

Most Global Mobile Users Do Not Act Like American Teens

Apple managers appear to be designing their core DNA around a small market – the American mobile user. They are assuming all users want mandatory “social media” integration, but they are wrong.

Americans are the few people who think they need to be connected every second to mega bandwidth across PC’s and mobile devices. Recent evidence suggests even this trend is slowing (see Facebook IPO and traffic, Groupon, etc).

More importantly, there are fewer than 300 million American mobile accounts.

The rest of the world has more than 5 billion mobile connections, literally. And most of those people like to text under their control, have much stricter privacy laws, and don’t value the “I have 4,000 friends” American thing.

Why build an OS for one of the smaller markets in the world (USA)?

Online “Social Media Promiscuity” Does Not Mix With Serious Business

I’m a global commercial user and love Apple for their ability to handle video, images, complex presentations, etc – across many different platforms worldwide. My Apple laptop runs Windows better than the 500 flavors of Windows computers around the world.

I buy, or cause others to buy, lots of Apple gear, and I am precisely the kind of business user Apple needs to help penetrate modern entrepreneurial business around the world.

Mountain Lion’s mandatory, “integrated” real time connectivity to notoriously insecure social networking sites threatens Apple’s global growth among the new forms of enterprise bringing new growth to the world.

American teens don’t seem to mind revealing all on Facebook. Most of the commercial world feels otherwise.

I have to sign non-disclosure agreements for my work, like many people. I am not allowed to have “live” apps (we used to call them TSR’s) on my PC’s used with confidential company information. When I go behind a company firewall, I need to make sure my PC is not searching for my cousin’s dog on Facebook.

Why would anyone in their right mind build this kind of public access into the core operating system in a multicultural world?

Apple built its current scale on simple systems that let users do complex things on their own, as needed.

Why would Apple try to guess at the insanely complex networked behavior of 7 billion global citizens, when they already have the formula for success in their hands?

Why Doesn’t Apple Management Stick to What They Proved Works?

Penetrate 15% of the world user community (that’s 1 Billion users) with simple devices, and simple operating systems that don’t need huge amounts of maintenance.

Then, provide simple Apps that users can change as users’ lives change.

Then make those things run on someone else’s Cloud, with very simple connections. Can Apple really hope to compete on the network level with Google, the global telco’s, the media empires, etc? That’s a different kind of competition. Big pipe. Boring industrial software. Energy-intensive server farms.

Apple does not do fixed networks well. Why would they try to make their OS more like ATT?

What would be wrong with creating a “mega communications App” – separate from the core operating system that could be turned on or off at will? Users could choose between “public” and “private” operating at the click of a button.

This way one could use the amazing functionality of OSX and IOS without the developers and Apple management freezing a supporting network architecture in place.

Apple has so many other choices in front of it.

They already have the world begging for the kind of simple social design Apple used to conquer giants.

Just because you call an Elephant a Mountain Lion does not mean it can jump smoothly from cliff to cliff.

Marty Anderson
Senior Lecturer in Management