Global CIO: Inside Steve Jobs' Head: The Supremacy Of Software - InformationWeek

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Government // Enterprise Architecture
Commentary
10/21/2010
11:46 AM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
Commentary
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Global CIO: Inside Steve Jobs' Head: The Supremacy Of Software

Jobs reveals some of the strategic thinking that's made Apple perhaps the most innovative and wealthy company on the planet.

Fairly generic hardware slapped together with fairly generic software. And Jobs is also saying that that approach will yield fairly generic results, which is a polite way of saying it'll deliver outcomes straddling the line between average and mediocre.

Does that fairly generic approach sound like the right way to handle the rapidly escalating challenges your company is facing in reinventing customer engagements, rebuilding global supply chains, re-imagining what your company could be like if you could harness the power of predictive analytics, and operating at the hyper velocities and volumes of your customers and partners?

Or do those modern types of high-scale, real-time business requirements demand an equally modern approach to the technology systems that power them, one in which software and hardware aren't just slapped together but are instead highly engineered and optimized to deliver unprecedented levels of performance and speed to match the unprecedented demands of today's global economy?

I'm going to focus here on Jobs' comments but also note that I'm fully aware that he's incredibly subjective on anything having to do with Apple's business. After all, it's his job to lead Apple and convince the world that he's got a better mousetrap, and Jobs has demonstrated an extraordinary aptitude for fulfilling that mission.

But even a cursory look at Apple's real-world track record will reveal an astonishing range of achievements and innovation and level of customer engagement and loyalty that is unequalled in today's business world. So on that basis of proven achievement, Jobs has earned the right to be heard—not to be granted some mantle of infallibility (he didn't know what back-dating stock options was all about??), but to be heard in light of his company's performance and its paradigm-shattering products and approaches.

Here's Jobs on why software—and a new way of thinking about software—will be the biggest challenge for BlackBerry maker RIM. After noting that RIM sold 12.1 million BlackBerries in its most recently reported quarter while Apple sold 14.1 million iPhones during a comparable period, Jobs pinpointed the differences in how the two companies think about software as the defining competitive issue:

"We've now passed RIM, and I don't seem them catching up with us in the foreseeable future," Jobs said during the analysts call. "They must move beyond their areas of strength and comfort and enter the unfamiliar territory of trying to become a software-platform company.

"I think it's going to be a real challenge for them to create a competitive platform and also convince developers to create apps for yet a third software platform—and that's after iOS and Android," Jobs said.

"With 300,000 apps in Apple's App Store, RIM has a high mountain ahead of themselves to climb."

And while Jobs was certainly not dismissing RIM as a significant and viable competitor—although he sure did brand them as second-team followers—he seemed to be saving most of his powder for Google and its Android platform. In also relegating them to also-ran status, Jobs once again brought his entire analysis around to the primacy of software: how it's written, how it's marketed, how it's integrated, how it's delivered, and how it's consumed.

And at least according to Jobs' account, Apple and the iPhone are going to trounce Google and Android, as we analyzed in a column yesterday called Global CIO: Steve Jobs Declares War On Google, because Android's approach is "fragmented" while Apple's is "integrated":

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