revisiting the mobile computing paradigm

I've offered my thoughts long-form before about the development of digital computing from mainframes to personal computers to networking to mobile devices. In short, I advocate the perspective that the Wintel duopoly of the 1990s peak of the personal computing era was extremely rare, rather than the norm for technological development, and that we are currently approaching the peak of the mobile era, rather than just entering its initial stages.

This puts me at odds with analysts like Reggie Middleton and Henry Blodget, both of whom subscribe more to the model that technology tends to standardize around one company, and the New Microsoft is Google.

Well for a couple of days I've been thinking about how to approach Blodget's hilarious line of 'iPhone dead' articles. The gist of it is that Apple is doomed because Android phones make up half the US market and growing while iPhone is stuck in second place with only 25% marketshare. I've decided to assemble a little quiz for Blodget and analysts like him.


1. Fill in the blank: In what year did the Mac’s marketshare fall below 25%?

A: It’s a trick question! Macintosh computers have never accounted for even one quarter of personal computer sales.

2. True or False: Apple was the biggest loser to the IBM PC Compatible / Wintel.

A: False. Remember Radio Shack’s Tandy? Did you know Commodore’s 64 was the best-selling computer of all time? Atari was an iconic brand. Heck, even IBM (the ‘IBM’ of the IBM PC Compatible) and Compaq (the ‘Compatible’ of the IBM PC Compatible) don’t make personal computers anymore.

3. Word Association: In the 1980s, the GUI (graphical user interface) was

An unserious toy not fit for Real Men / The obvious wave of the future

4. Multiple Choice: The company that best navigated the market changes from personal computing to network computing to mobile computing is

a. Amiga
b. Commodore
c. Radio Shack
d. Gateway
e. Compaq
f. Dell
g. Xerox
h. Netscape
i. America OnLine
j. CompuServe
k. Prodigy
l. Lucent
m. Novell
n. Lotus
o. WordPerfect
p. Broderbund
q. Research in Motion
r. Nokia
s. Motorola
t. Palm
u. Napster
v. Real
w. Pets.com
x. GeoCities.com
y. Flooz.com
z. Apple

5. Essay question: In five paragraphs, explain how licensing ‘the Mac’ to Compaq, IBM, Gateway, Dell, HP, or other OEMs would have prevented Microsoft from using bundling and exclusivity deals to guide the transition of IBM PC Compatibles from MS-DOS to Windows, creating the ‘Wintel’ juggernaut of the 1990s.

* Extra Credit: Explain how Apple would be better off today if it had spent the 1990s copying Microsoft's business model instead of investing in technologies like QuickTime and Newton.

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