“Nothing in the known universe travels faster than a bad check.” – Anonymous
We humans like to look at the world through a Good-Guys/Bad-Guys lens (the GG/BG lens, available in Canon, Nikon and Micro Four Thirds camera mounts). It’s a bad lens.
Consider the cases of Apple Pay for iOS and only iOS, and MS Office for iOS and Android as well as for Windows.
There are those among us who, looking through our GG/BG lenses, will applaud Apple for its innovation while excoriating Microsoft for … well, I’m not sure what, exactly, but because Microsoft is the Bad Guy, there will be a reason.
Forget your GG/BG lens, and focus (sorry) with your Business Strategy lens instead (no, no acronym for that, and if the reason isn’t clear, figure it out).
On the surface (as opposed to the Surface™), “strategy” might appear to be the decision as to which platforms to support. Apple’s is to use Apple Pay to further differentiate iOS from Android, while Microsoft’s is to finally support non-Windows platforms, presumably out of desperation.
The view from here: Despite their superficial similarity, the two decisions have nothing to do with each other.
Start with Apple. Its Apple Pay decision looks more like applying old habits to a new situation than like a strategy.
Start with what made the iPhone so wildly successful in the first place. It wasn’t a case of the King Kong syndrome (“It was beauty killed the beast”) although compared to the Blackberry and Treo smartphones it competed with, the iPhone was quite pretty.
No, the big, big deal about the iPhone was that it wasn’t just a product. It was a platform (and Open/Closed Platform Strategies: How, When & Why,” Geoffrey Parker and Marshall Van Alstyne, which explores this subject, is well worth your time).
Apple’s App Store is what made the iPhone a platform, which is what drove the marketshare of Blackberry’s mere products to ever-more miniscule levels.
Apple Pay looks like a replay of Steve Jobs’ legendary argument with his executive team about whether to release a Windows version of iTunes. Only in the replay it’s Android not Windows, Jobs wins, and there is no Android Apple Pay.
Understand, Apple Pay is just a way to pay at the register by pulling out your iPhone instead of a credit card. I guess that’s more convenient(?)
So Apple Pay makes consumers’ iPhones a smidgeon more valuable; Apple makes its money by capturing a smidgeon of the credit-card processing fee; and the banks are willing to give it this slice because Apple Pay is, in principle, a smidgeon more secure than a standard credit card.
Merchants? They mostly care about the expense they’ll incur by equipping themselves to support Apple Pay, if they decide to support it, which depends how many customers they expect will have an iPhone but no credit cards with them.
Off topic: Smelling opportunity, Google has announced Android Pay, which has no user interface, only an API. It’s a platform. In principle there’s no reason Android Pay Apps can’t be written for iOS. Sure, Apple could return the favor, but right now an Apple Pay App for Android seems farfetched.
On topic: Microsoft’s decision to release iOS and Android versions of MS Office.
Once upon a time, MS Office was, for Microsoft, what Apple Pay is supposed to be for Apple right now: A way to increase the value of a platform, in this case Windows, by providing a valuable application that isn’t available on any other platform.
From both a consumer and enterprise perspective, if you want word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software that renders reliably no matter who you send your documents to or receive them from … if that’s what you want, your only choice is MS Office, and if you make that choice you’re going to run Windows on your PCs.
Or, to be fair, on a Mac, but for the budget-conscious Macs cost more than Windows machines.
It’s a strategy that’s worked for a couple of decades. It’s still working. But it’s had an unfortunate downside: It’s made Microsoft’s desktop Windows team fat, dumb and happy.
No more. Astonishingly, Nadella is the one who has broken Windows’ de facto monopoly on MS Office.
Which leaves the Windows team little choice: It has to start designing an OS and user experience users actually prefer.
From Nadella’s perspective this has to be a gamble. The guess from here: Not taking this step was even riskier.
Your take-homes from all this (you knew there’d be one, didn’t you?): (1) applying old mental habits to new situations is dodgy at best; and (2) few risks are bigger than a culture of fat, dumb and happy.