Mossberg: Apple’s end-to-end model beats Microsoft’s component model in post-PC era

“For many years, there have been two models of how to make computers and other digital devices. One is the component model, championed by Microsoft. The other is the end-to-end model, championed by Apple,” Walter S. Mossberg writes for The Wall Street Journal. “In the component model, many companies make hardware and software that run on a standard platform, creating inexpensive commodity devices that don’t always work perfectly together, but get the job done. In the end-to-end model, one company designs both the hardware and software, which work smoothly together, but the products cost more and limit choice.”

“In the first war between these models, the war for dominance of the personal-computer market, Microsoft’s approach won decisively. Aided by efficient assemblers like Dell, and by corporate IT departments employed to integrate the components, Microsoft’s component-based Windows platform crushed Apple’s end-to-end Macintosh platform,” Mossberg writes. “But in the post-PC era we’re in today, where the focus is on things like music players, game consoles and cellphones, the end-to-end model is the early winner. Tightly linking hardware, software and Web services propelled Apple to a huge success with its iPod. Microsoft, meanwhile, has struggled to make its component model work on these devices and, in a telling sign, is using the Apple end-to-end model itself in its Xbox game-console business. Now, Apple is working on other projects built on the same end-to-end model as the iPod: a media-playing cellphone and a home-media hub.”

“Even the Mac isn’t as closed as its critics charge. It’s still designed to work with Apple’s own operating system and software. But it can handle all the common files Windows uses, can network with Windows machines, and can use all of the common Windows printers, scanners, keyboards and mice. The Mac gives you the same access to the Internet as Windows. Heck, the newest Macs can even run Windows itself,” Mossberg writes. “You do get a choice of more software with Windows. And that’s great for hard-core gamers and users of corporate, or niche, software. But for mainstream users doing typical tasks, the Windows choice advantage is illusory. Mac users can choose among thousands of third-party programs, including multiple Web browsers, word processors and email programs. They can run Mac versions of popular software like Microsoft Office and the Firefox browser. How much more choice do you need? Microsoft is hedging its bets. It has, in effect, created a little Apple inside Microsoft with the Xbox group. The Xbox team shunned Windows and wrote its own operating system and user interface, and built its own hardware. (The new Xbox was even developed using Macintosh computers.)”

Full article here.

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Related article:
Apple was right all along: vertical market quality trumps horizontal market woes – April 30, 2006


  1. speaking of the xbox team… I wonder what the market of new generation game counsels will look like once sony gets in…

    To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft dominates the game counsel market after a few years (namely the xbox 360)…

    And if the xbox team is successful with the new xbox, what can it do with a music player….

    just thinking out loud, is all…. yet for some reason people are going to flame at me about this.


  2. Tell me. Why does Apple keep getting getting good news and the stock goes nowhere? I do not get it.

    I see only an upside for the company and its business.

    Is it that the stock analysists all use Windows and they just do not get it? This is too simple an explination.

  3. “inexpensive commodity devices that don’t always work perfectly together, but get the job done”

    Isnt this sorta contradictory?

    All I”l say is the kind of detail oriented work i do makes me glad that one detail I don’t have to worry about is if my computer is going to work.

  4. “Tell me. Why does Apple keep getting getting good news and the stock goes nowhere? I do not get it.”

    Stock price has many more factors. Some dimwit actuall said the stock went down yesterday because of the botched Red Hot Chili Pepper ticket deal. Yeah right.

    Try, the Fed raised interest rates again, and the price of oil is going up again. There’s your stock stagnation right there. Has nothing to do with what a guy like Mossberg says, no matter how true it is.

  5. “But for mainstream users doing typical tasks, the Windows choice advantage is illusory. “

    This is a critical point that a lot of basic consumers don’t understand (when they go to their local big-box retailer, all they see are Win boxes so I’m not bashing Joe/Jane user). Everything the “average” home user needs can be done on a Mac AND is pretty much pre-installed. Web browsing, email, digital photo processing/organizing, music burning, playing DVDs and other media etc. etc. The only thing that does not come bundled (at least not anymore – AppleWorks) is a basic word processing program (TextEdit really won’t cut it for the average consumer). Other than that, you’re set. On the PC side you get a bunch of cripple-ware loaded on your machine that you don’t need or even want and the kicker for me is that almost every PC maker out there today does not sell their machines with the OS disk. That’s crazy. They either have a recovery partition or a recovery disk, but no REAL OS disk. I suppose this cuts down on tech support, because they won’t have to walk people through reinstalling their OS. They just say “Boot the recovery disk” or hold down FXX while booting and it will restore to the factory setup. That just plain blows.

    I’m not a gamer, but as far as the Xbox goes I have heard from many that MS got that right. I hear Xbox Live works great and is very well integrated into the whole Xbox experience.

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