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Mossberg on Integrated vs Modular

In Apple’s Device Model Beats the PC Way, Walt Mossberg argues that integrated whole solutions, such as Apple’s iPod, beat the PC approach of providing modular solutions that the user or OEM can assemble however they want. He points to the success of the iPod as an example. Walt makes good points, but I don’t buy the argument.

The iPod is successful because it’s simple, and it just works.  Apple assembled that product from standard off the shelf components.  Without minimizing the achievement that the iPod represents, it’s safe to argue that there is no reason anyone else could not have done the same.  Apple’s genius was in the design of the user experience of the iPod.

Walt notes that the xBox seems to be indicating that Microsoft has noted Apple’s success with iPod,and is copying the approach.  One can point to similar Microsoft successes where they have engaged the industry, rather than build the hardware themselves.  Think, for instance, of the pocketPC PDAs, and the Microsoft smartphone.  Smartphone is not yet dominant, but it is rapidly establishing a dominant position.  In the PDA market, Palm is on death row.  In both cases, Microsoft took a rather more dictatorial approach to device design than they have with less successful products, and that may be a large part of their success.

Walt is incorrect when he says that the xBox team wrote their own OS.  It’s a customized version of Windows XP, the same as any other OEM choosing to use XP Embedded would do. 

I don’t disagree with the premise that consumers want simple, integrated end to end experiences.  It can, however, be achieved with the component model favoured by Microsoft and Intel.

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