On Tuesday, Apple made an announcement that shook the tech world, and no it was not the new iPad.
Apple announced its new operating system, OS X Mavericks, was free. Not only is it free but iWork and iLife (Apple’s productivity software) would be free with all new Mac purchases. With this simple gesture, Apple furthered proved it is a hardware company that makes great software.
This also brought up the two competing strategies in the tech world – customer versus product.
The customer strategy is motivated by creating and selling you, the customer, great hardware. The company, in turn, creates software and services for free. The customer gets tied into the ecosystem and continues to buy new hardware. The only catch is to use the newer software and services you continually must upgrade to the newest hardware.
To the contrary is a company that sells you decent hardware, usually at a loss, to pull you into its software ecosystem. This company wants you to use its software and services because it generates revenue from advertising. The more this company knows about you the more it is able to target relevant advertising to you. The more you use the hardware tied to their software, the more the company learns. In this scenario you are the product, not the customer. You and your interest are what are being sold.
This shift in how companies price hardware and software has shaken the roots of the software giant Microsoft, as its strategy has been to sell great software. This shift has forced Microsoft to start creating its own hardware in order to tie people into its software and services. Microsoft Windows and Office still reign supreme, but that slowly is changing as the face of the PC market shifts.
The question is what strategy will triumph? Luckily, it is up to us, the consumers, whether we want to be a product or a customer.
Brad Proctor is the service manager at University PC Care in Greenville and the former IT manager at the Rocky Mount Telegram.