Meanwhile, where is Microsoft? Nowhere. At the same time, the older guard, such as Motorola Solutions (which purchased Symbol), remains focused exclusively on delivering one-off proprietary devices. It makes more sense to take a widely available platform such as the iPod Touch and iPad, which are portable and designed for use away from a desk. From there, it can turn into whatever appliance is needed through software and add-on hardware. This approach reduces management overhead for businesses and increases operational flexibility for those who can purpose the same device for different needs and get additional units as needed almost anywhere.
This is exactly what Square's founders realized when they developed their card-swiping plug-in accessory for iOS devices, enabling the major shift now under way in sales terminals -- a big deal in an industry that has been talking about such change for more than a decade, without effect.
Like Microsoft, Apple makes new OS testing easy
For years now, Apple let individuals and companies sign up for a small fee as iOS and OS X developers. As a result, there's no excuse for a new iOS or OS X release to take any IT organization by surprise. Microsoft, to its credit, has also long offered early access to Windows through its developer network. But whereas I never hear IT complain about being blindsided by Microsoft OSes, I frequently hear that criticism leveled at Apple OSes. That's on IT, not Apple.
You also hear complaints about lack of early access to new Apple devices, though you don't get that access in other consumer products, either. Companies like Dell and Hewlett-Packard have long offered PC configurations promised not to change for several years, so IT could be assured of consistency for disk images and the like -- which is what these IT complaints are really seeking. Forget it; there's no such thing as an install image for an iOS device. You install the updates, and based on the apps associated to the user account, the relevant apps are installed from the App Store. Configurations are transferred via iTunes or iCloud, or they're provisioned by profiles.
That approach is more architecturally reasonable, as it gets away from bit-level dependencies that PC suffered from. Need proof? Microsoft is doing exactly that with Windows 8.
What matters more is that the OS and apps you have are guaranteed to work for at least a certain period. Apple has, with a very few exceptions, kept compatibility for a minimum of two years in its OS updates -- aligning to the typical lifespan of mobile devices. Given how fast technology evolves, that's reasonable. PCs' lifespans are more typically three to five years, but when a new Windows version comes out, not all can still support it. I don't get what's the Apple-specific issue here. I also know IT got spoiled by Windows XP's 11-year life span, but that was a consequence of the Vista disaster -- Microsoft never wanted people to hang on to any version of Windows that long.