With Droid X Debut, It's Deja Vu to 1984 for Apple

News Analysis: Motorola and Verizon may make the iPhone irrelevant through the Droid X. For the iPhone, it's 1984 in America again and Apple has failed to learn the lessons about open systems and buyers' demand for choice. Apple's products are once again on the road to marginalization.

Imagine if you will that it's 1984, and Apple's Sledgehammer Gal has just faded away. Then the Macintosh was Apple Computer's big promise for the future. It would change everything.

Now flash forward to some incidents that are less memorable in their visual impact, but perhaps more important to today's computing environment. Steve Jobs introducing the iPhone 4, and then today, Motorola and Verizon announcing the Droid X.

When Verizon Vice President John Stratton showed the Droid X in a New York press conference (which the rest of us got to see in streaming video), he also showed why Apple hasn't learned the lessons of the decades that followed 1984.

What Apple should have learned is that open systems work; people don't want someone else putting limits on them, and that they want choice. The reason the Macintosh never got much above 10 percent market share (and subsequently sank below that) is that Apple didn't offer a choice. You did things Apple's way, or you didn't do them at all.

Now, we're 26 years later and it's the iPhone that has all of the attention, and once again the lessons of the past haven't been learned. As was the case with the Macintosh, the iPhone provides a choice between doing things Apple's way or not doing them at all. You have one source of applications, one choice of carrier. You can't even write your own software, which you could at least do in the Mac.

When the Verizon-Motorola team introduced the Droid X, it was a story all about choice. With Android devices you can get software anywhere you like. It's up to you if you want to take a chance on buggy, ill-thought-out software, third-party drivers and whatever else you may want. True, some of these programs may be lousy, but at least you can decide. You don't have to let Apple or anyone else bless them.

The same thing is true with the choice of carriers. You're not locked into AT&T and its overburdened 3G network and famously bad customer service. You can choose service you like. You can go online and download Adobe Flash and use it to access that 75 percent of the Web that uses it. You're not limited by silly decisions at the top of a self-serving corporate entity.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...