Has Apple Become Microsoft?

An editorial in today's Wall Street Journal argues that Apple's love of strategy has overclouded its passion for products. Is Holman Jenkins right that Apple is the new Microsoft, and iTunes is the new Windows?

Obviously, the companies are so inherently different both culturally and strategically that it's easy to dismiss Jenkins' claim out of hand. But there's at least one strong point here: Apple's refusal to incorporate Flash may hamper the iPhone's capabilities, but it forces users to go to iTunes for content they could otherwise get for free on Hulu. As Jenkins says:

Here's the bigger worry. Apple may be succumbing to the seductive temptations of "network effects," in which the all-consuming goal becomes getting its mobile devices into more and more hands simply for the purpose of locking more and more users into iTunes.

But has the focus on getting those mobile devices into more and more hands resulted in lower quality products? That's the real issue, and I think the answer has to be no. Jenkins holds the iPad up as proof of an "increasingly junky" device, but I can't think of anyone who's actually had a hands-on with it who didn't think it had serious potential.

Is there a chance that Apple will fall off like Microsoft did in the past? Sure. They've got a closed ecosystem, and they've shown a willingness to protect that at the cost of consumer benefit. But until that one example starts showing itself to be a systemic problem, it's far too early for this comparison to hold water. [WSJ]