Could Apple end up being the next Microsoft?
Namely – the Microsoft that was in need of a big a direction and leadership shift a few years ago: that which had a supremely successful, but also an increasingly obsolete business model – but one that still afforded the tech giant the status that the company seemed to be taking for granted.
And Microsoft was also at the time that omnipresent behemoth that managed to ignore the signs and ended up missing out entirely on a new tech era – in its case, that of mobile devices.
Ironically, the hot new trend that Microsoft had been dangerously slow to catch up to back in the day was at the time dictated by none other than Apple.
Specifically – by Apple's iPhone business. It's worth noting here that the actual device played a much more prominent role back then – and even now – than the OS running on it, or indeed, any of the services Apple had been, or is now offering to its users.
In other words, up until now, it's always been all about hardware for Apple – and expensive hardware at that, the appeal of which as a status symbol remains a powerful force driving the company's revenues to this day.
And while that force is very strong with many people – this year we've seen the giant admit this business may simply not prove to be sustainable going forward. In March, Apple revealed it would try to leverage its reputation as a hardware maker in a seemingly hard push towards services – but one primarily targeting entertainment and news markets.
But now some died-in-the-wool Apple proponents seem to be getting uncomfortable, and beginning to wonder: what about education?
After all – it's that place where future customers are first molded into their professional profiles, but also into their adult consumerist habits. And then there's enterprise – where these new consumers will eventually be making, and then spending their disposable income.
This concern is important keeping in mind, of course, that tapping into the very “disposable income” variable is what's been at the heart of Apple's success over the last decade or so.
However, it turns out that much less aspirational tech giants like Google have been steadily positioning themselves by grinding away their business model: they have been able to offer services and devices to education at scale, and they will continue to do that.
In fact, Google is slowly emerging as the dominant force in this segment – with affordable Chromebook laptops, and the Chrome OS running on them, built – just like Google's Android – on top of the free and open source Linux system. Add to that Google's tentacles now reaching into just about into every corner of online services – and we may have a perfect storm. For Apple, that is.
At least that's the argument made by the brand's fans, worried about what the future holds in the coming era that might easily see Apple downgraded to simply a hardware provider for Google to run its myriad of online services on.
This concern was recently highlighted in some of the comments to a message on Twitter originally posted by John Gruber, a hardcore Apple proponent.
“Apple is now merely one among many possible clients to these clouds and Apple's traditional values don't hold,” said one commenter.
“Traditional values” aside – none of this is to say that Apple isn't still an aspirational and desired brand, including in the education segment. But there, spending habits are hardly determined by those who don't actually pay for Apple hardware – such as students themselves.
Business Insider writes that students in a Michigan high school are fine with using Google's “G Suite for Education” – thus joining their 80 million users globally and those using “50 percent of all devices purchased in US high-schools in 2017” – and that they actually like it. Nevertheless, some of them still would like to use iPhones, and plan to use MacBooks “when it comes to devices they actually buy.”
Elsewhere in the world, meanwhile, Google seems to be steadily marching on towards making its strong dent in education.
Fraser Speirs, a pioneer in Scotland of “the world's first whole-school 1:1 iPad program,” detailed on his blog the journey from an iPad Pro and a Macbook – to a Chromebook.
He reveals that his school “runs on G Suite – but usually accesses it through iPads” – with G Suite being Google's set of cloud computing tools and products.
And Speirs concedes to the new norm – albeit seemingly heavy-heatedly:
“GSuite is so powerful and so much at the heart of everything I do at school that if you asked me to decide between giving up GSuite and giving up iPad, Iâ€™m afraid iPad has to go.”