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Microsoft improving a product should be good news, right? The reason why it’s not is that the past 4 years –power years for iPhone adoption– have yielded more innovation in the mobile area than the 4 – 7 years before it. When the best accessory manufacturers and software developers back a single product the result is greater utility for customers. It’s also more lucrative for companies that make accessories and software, as there’s a larger pool of potential customers with money to spend. The opportunity to take a greater share of customer spending makes them take more risks in the products they offer, which benefits customers through increased options for enhancing the phone’s baseline experience.
And it’s all the result of a single device from a single company within the past 4 years.
Some say that when fewer platforms exist there is less drive to make each better. This may be the case with many industries and manufacturers, but Apple is a “game changer” regularly offering revolutionary products even when no direct competitor exists.
Even when concentrated on a single platform, competition and innovation thrive. One must only browse the iTunes App Store to see the evidence – multiple apps that provide the same function or service, but each taking a different angle, attempting to provide more features or a more enjoyable experience than the rest. The accessory line-up is equally impressive, with add-ons enabling the iPhone (or iPod Touch) to be as ubiquitous as possible in the user’s daily life.
Finally, the irony is that all of this hardware and software innovation has come at a time when the networks these phones use have improved the least. Most domestic cell phone users have been using 3G/3.5G data speeds for 5 or more years now. Therefore, it’s not a major increase in network bandwidth that has made all this possible. It’s primarily the result of rallying around a single product. Google, Microsoft, RIM and Nokia (really?) may believe their products spur competition and innovation, but they’ll only divert attention.