Tuesday 4 November 2008

iPhone, G1 and the IP Angle

Those of you who been called upon to teach IP to MBA students come to understand, sooner rather than later, that the preferred course offering is not simply Introductory IP Lite. The challenge is to find a way of connecting between IP and the broader business concerns of the MBA curriculum.

With that in mind, I draw your attention to Stephen Wildstrom's article entitled "Nipping at IPhone's Heels", his Oct. 6th contribution to his weekly column in Business Week under the name of "Tech & You." The article is a review by Wildstrom about challenges to Apple since its summer 2007 launch of the iPhone. In particular, Wildstrom points to the announcement of the T-Mobile G1 in September 2008, based on Google's Android operating system (see my blog of October 15th, "Android Takes Form"), and new product offerings by Research in Motion, aka the purveyor of the BlackBerry.

In short, Wildstrom described the Apple-Google combat as follows:

"Apple set this whole competition in motion by building a single, excellent smartphone within an ecosystem that it controls totally, including the right to approve all third-party software. In contrast. Google is pushing an open platform, meaning any handset manufacturer can design hardware that runs Android."

Mortal Combat of Another Kind

Having an initial look at the G1, Wildstrom concluded that the hardware is a bit of a disappointment. The software, on the other hand, is the object of praise. He attributes this to the attempt by developers "to tear down the walls that divide applications." Not surprisingly, the notion of "search" plays a central role in the design of the G1. Thus, the notion of "search", which lies at the heart of the Google enterprise, appears to be brought together with a tendency of software developers to be responsive to users' need rather than providing a top-down approach that dictates the user experience.

I really cannot evaluate to what extent Wildstrom's observations are on point. More interesting for me is the question of whether the features of the G1 described by Wildstrom are a function of the IP, open source model adopted by the Android? Or, stated otherwise, is the design of the iPhone, hardware or software, a function of the IP model adopted by Apple?

G1 and the Android Platform: Does IP Matter?

I am trying to work out responses to these questions before I take to the podium in January for my next foray into the realm of MBA teaching. If any of you out there has any suggestions, I would be most welcome to hear them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Apple is a systems company, and they tend towards total control of the user experience which they have leveraged into Brand Awe...that is their corporate objective. Apple would rather be bankrupt than ship products which don't awe. What makes them irreplicable is that no one quite designs products as well as they do, and ever since iPod, they have also learned to package business models (for wireless carriers, music labels, etc.) right into their products. Apps are almost a necessary evil in this worldview.

Google is a platform company, like Microsoft, but whereas Microsoft controls an operating systems platform (Windows), Google controls an information platform (a dynamic flow of minable pages, users, advertisements, searches, etc.) on top of which a darwinian diversity of applications are built. Their ad-driven business model is powered by ubiquity of information inputs, thus they encourage a 1,000 application flowers blooming on any platform. What makes them irreplicable is their stunning information mining machines (algorithms) and their vast data pool.

So in short, Google is executing a legitimate IP strategy of adding value to their proprietary information platform. Apple is primarily executing a branding strategy (owning Awe in our minds) which they have successfully melded with business models and technological innovations into a singular system available from the one-and-only supplier of the same.