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. Think before you speak:

    You should follow your own advice.

    “This (inadequate leadership) therefore proves that — depending on your competitor — sub-par can still be “good enough”.

    Sub par products are by definition inadequate and are not “good enough”. The fact that a one product is not as terribly bad as another does not make it better than what it could or should be. With your own narrow-minded assessment of product quality OS X would be barely better than Windows.

    “Just saying that if Microsoft “genuinely devoted itself” that it too could have produced the “best OS” (a subjective assessment) in the world or “certain” innovative software is not an argument based on logic.”

    Are you implying that OS X developed from people who were not “genuinely devoted” to the task of developing the best OS possible? Or do you think that pure chance and serendipity determine product development and not obvious intent and effort? Think, for a moment. Apple converted OS X from PPC to the Intel chip. Hypothetically, Microsoft could have developed an Intel-based OS similar to OS X. Another thing. Do you honestly think that OS X security is “subjective”? You should use your objective mathematical skills to tally the actual number of OS X viruses compared to Windows viruses.

    “The odds, in fact, would almost always have been against it. This is a datapoint correlated with statistical probability analysis and said metric for success has almost never been in favor of an organization as multi-tentacled and corpulent as Microsoft had quickly become.”

    Since when does a single “datapoint” mean anything statistically? “Statistical probability analysis”? Is there any other type of probability that isn’t statistically based? Apple makes computers, monitors, software (of various flavors), iPods, runs iTunes and appears to have many “tentacles”, yet seems to be doing well as a company. So, what exactly were you attempting to communicate, except your lack of reasoning and understanding of statistics?

    “Of course, through the cloud of egotism emanating from your cranium it’s not surprising that you missed this since the information wasn’t of a sufficiently prima facie nature.”

    An insult as a tag line does not necessarily add any substance to your already poor attempts of developing a sound argument. I suppose that your lack of reasoning requires all the help you can muster even if it is unimpressively practical.

  2. Ziggybop:

    Microsoft’s Xbox has done fairly well for a company that started as a designer of OS’s only. Origami was a bust, so explain how Xbox was successful and Origami was not.

    I wasn’t arguing that the end-to-end model for an appliance drive company was not a useful or significant model for Apple. I was presenting the point that Apple’s leadership was able to use this model to be successful. If Apple’s leadership was a poor as Microsoft’s it is doubtful that Apple would be as successful as it is today regardless of the model used.

    “Switching management teams is an interesting, but useless mind game. Gates/Balmer are the proponents for the component model and would introduce 4 versions of OS X, a Performa fog of Mac computers, and license OS X to Dell. Gates/Balmer would turn Apple in to Microsoft. They would destroy the “simple theoretical constructs of corporate taxonomy” or the end-to-end model that actually exists at Apple.”

    Certainly your grand prophecy how Ballmer and Gates would destroy Apple is a “mind game” itself. Now answer this, which was the part of my argument that you failed to comprehend, “If Gates and Ballmer were in charge of Apple and adhered to the end-to-end model, would you bet your last dime that Apple would be as successful with Gates and Ballmer as with Jobs et al?”

    Does this help you?

  3. So the Xbox is a great example of MS innovation.

    A device where they got it right?

    I don’t think so.

    They are successful only because they have MS Office and Windows profit behind them. It’s easy to make the perfect product if you don’t have to make any money on it. Xbox losses to date are in the neighborhood of 350 million. They lose hundreds of dollars on every box they sell.

    This is an example of MS ability to do the whole end to end product? Heck, anyone could design anything if they didn’t have to make a profit on it

  4. pr:

    Good call, I should have better proof read my text. Did you understand the rest of my post, or did my grammatical error limit your ability to comprehend or confuse your ability to perceive my point?

  5. “Heck, the newest Macs can even run Windows itself”
    “You do get a choice of more software with Windows”

    So, if it is both, how can these statements both be true? The more software choice argument died the day Boot Camp arrived. STOP THE FUD!

    1) Macs are more expensive.
    Compared to what?
    2) Macs can’t run as much software.
    Check out Boot Camp on the Intel Macs.
    3) Macs are just as susceptible to virus attacks.
    Prove it.
    4) Macs are proprietary tying you to one vendor.
    Run Linux or Windows just like you can on other personal computers. The hardware except for the motherboard and ROM are industry standard.

  6. Well I’m a bit late, but what the hell. A few people are getting steemed up, but are nissing the point.

    Microsoft won the old OS war because of a better business model (obviously). The M$ business model allowed (and still does) M$ the ability to put a PC with Windows on it in every home. Why? Because they are willing to licence their OS to all manufacturers willing to pay the randsom.

    Even today, Apple, a single but very successful company, cannot even meet demand to fill 5% of the market. That is why a crappy fourth rate Windows IMMEDIATELY took first place and smashed Apple in the OS market.

    Clearly, M$ did and still does have in many ways a better business model for its OS business. M$ won on ability to meet demand, that is all.

    But that’s besides the point. We use macs because they are better. What’s sublime about something like tiny iPods, is Apple can produce the better end to end customer experience and (almost) meet demand for these gadgets. That combination punch is a knockout.

  7. Microsoft’s biggest problem is backwards compatibility. They are striving to keep it but all of that legacy code is their Achilles Heel. The legacy code brings with it too many security vulnerabilities. The legacy ports in the hardware retains too many compatibility problems.

    If they would design a new OS from the ground up, leave behind legacy hardware and run legacy software in a Classic like enclosed sandbox, they would make Macs redundant.

    Don’t bet the farm on that ever happening.

  8. Pud, you’re a proponent for component home entertainment systems. But how does your description of a home entertainment system come anywhere near to describing a mainstream/average home? See next paragraph.

    Reality Check, you say: “PCs are aren’t at an end of any kind of “era.”” Well, the PC eras go something like this: hobbyist, first adopters, wide use in specialized fields, common business/household commodity. For a long time, home users asked “why should I ever get a computer?” Now PCs are in the VCR era of usefulness. Gotta have one, but still don’t trust it. We’re fast approching the telephone era of PCs: “It just works.”

    Pud, your home entertainment system is in the era of “wide use by those with specialized knowledge” or those who can pay for someone else to set it up. Apple, using the end-to-end model, is expected to come up with the hardware, software and Web services needed to move home entertainment systems into the next era.

  9. MacZealot, you ask: “Origami was a bust, so explain how Xbox was successful and Origami was not.”

    Simple. Mossberg explains it: “Microsoft…is using the Apple end-to-end model itself in its Xbox game-console business.” Origami is the classic component model: Microsoft makes the Origami software, various manufacturers make the boxes and call them UPCs (ultra portable computers) or UMPCs (ultra mobile PCs) but not “Microsoft Origamis.”

    Then you say: “If Apple’s leadership was a poor as Microsoft’s it is doubtful that Apple would be as successful as it is today regardless of the model used.” First you’d have to define poor leadership. Microsoft went from zero to gargantuan within half a generation. They must have had some good management along the way. Just to keep up with deliveries.

    It’s a mind game to ask these “what if” questions. they can’t be proved one way or the other.

    More mind games. You go on to ask: ““If Gates and Ballmer were in charge of Apple and adhered to the end-to-end model, would you bet your last dime that Apple would be as successful with Gates and Ballmer as with Jobs et al?” Well, “and adhered to the end-to-end model” wasn’t in your original post.

    But to play along, in my opinion, Gates/Balmer would have used the management talents they ably demonstrated to insert the Apple end-to-end model into Big Business using Apple’s initial Multi-Plan spreadsheet monopoly, buying up competitors, restricting access to data and we’d all be living with an AppleGates monopoly of four OS versions, floppy drives and DIN connectors attached to ugly Apple II/2006 boxes, and a command line interface. Digital photos, music and video? What’s that all about?

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