In a new interview published by Businessweek this morning, wherein Sam Grobart sits down with Apple CEO Tim Cook, and SVPs Craig Federighi and Jony Ive, Cook comments on a number of things, including the comparison that’s often made between the trajectory of Windows and Mac early on, and the current heading for Android and iOS.
“Microsoft kept things the same, and the level of fragmentation wasn’t as much,” Cook told Grobart in the BW interview. “There weren’t so many derivative works out there with Windows.”
The quote is addressing the commonly-made comparison between Apple’s early progress in desktop computing and its current situation with mobile; Microsoft made Windows available to any OEM partners, leaving PC hardware to other companies while focusing on software, whereas Apple wouldn’t license its Mac OS (except for a brief, and failed experiment), and built devices in-house married to the software they themselves engineered.
Naturally, people argue based on that comparison that Apple is headed for trouble with the current Android/iOS picture. Windows eventually rose to dominate the computer market near-completely with its OEM partner model, while Apple’s share dwindled, though it eventually carved out a lucrative, if relatively small slice of the market (and is arguably now winning, thanks to iPad sales). But Cook says that the iOS situation is different, and doesn’t Apple’s mobile devices slipping to anywhere near those low market share percentages.
Part of that is due to Android’s fragmentation issue, which Cook also goes into in the BW piece. He points out that people on Android are often using three or four-year old OS software on their devices by the time they upgrade, which he says “would be like me right now having in my pocket iOS 3,” per Grobart. The fragmentation makes it so that Cook doesn’t “think of Android as one thing,” he tells BusinessWeek, which is why the situation is different from Windows: With Microsoft’s desktop OS, it issues updates without having to worry about carrier approval, and Windows doesn’t get forked and re-skinned the way that Android does.
Cook addresses many other topics in the full interview, including how Apple didn’t set out to build a low-cost iPhone with the iPhone 5c (just a great device that costs less than the flagship version), and how Ive and Federighi manage their intensely collaborative working relationship and rolls, so it’s definitely worth heading over to read in full.
The point of view Apple’s current CEO holds regarding Apple’s mobile market battle and how it does or doesn’t reflect past experience is particularly interesting, however, given how quickly the comparison seems to leap to the minds of analysts and observers. Of course, it’s also possible that Android’s flexibility could help it avoid getting replaced by next-generation device types the way the PC was buffeted by the iPad, but it’s far too soon to tell in any case.