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Five Factors Shifting the Future of Malware and Platform Security

 Windows for Old Men
Daniel Eran Dilger
The previous article, The Unavoidable Malware Myth: Why Apple Won’t Inherit Microsoft’s Malware Crown, outlined that Microsoft’s malware crisis is a product of that company’s engineering mistakes, not an unavoidable problem facing whatever computing platform becomes the most popular in the future. Even for those holdouts who choose to ignore the realities of the malware economy–so they can insist that the only reason Macs aren’t infected with viruses is because Apple isn’t selling enough of them–there are other reasons why future platforms, including Apple’s Mac and iPhone, aren’t fated to be plagued with Microsoft’s malware crisis of the past and present.

There are five factors related to the future of computing platforms that will prevent Apple from inheriting Microsoft’s malware legacy. Here’s why these factors will have such a significant impact on the future of malware, and why the world’s greatest malware threat will continue to be firmly attached to Microsoft, the company that introduced the epidemic to the world in the first place.

The Unavoidable Malware Myth: Why Apple Won’t Inherit Microsoft’s Malware Crown

“No Windows for Old Men” composition by Michael Jackson.

Apple’s Future Won’t Be Microsoft’s Past because the PC is Dying.
We don’t have to hypothetically speculate about whether or not the 90s might return with Apple playing the part of Microsoft’s villain because the future of the PC is dead. Microsoft reigned over a tremendous growth spurt in PCs from 1990 to 2005. Over much of that time, new PC sales were greater than several prior years of sales. The PC has now plateaued. PCs aren’t going to evaporate of course, but sales are not going to grow exponentially and turn over the installed base every couple years any more.

Incidentally, that’s why Apple is focusing on mobile computers and sees so much potential in the iPhone and iPod Touch. Microsoft itself has long been predicting the fall of the conventional PC, but Bill Gates predicted that attention would shift to his company’s Handheld PCs, Tablet PCs, and UMPCs. It has not. While conventional Windows PCs have run out of steam, no replacement product from Microsoft has picked up the slack. Instead, Microsoft’s latest version of Windows has actually served to retard any growth in PC sales.

Windows Enthusiasts repeatedly predicted that Vista, bundled on new PC sales, would rapidly displace earlier versions of Windows, thanks to Microsoft’s monopoly bundling contracts with PC makers that have long served to sell Windows to PC buyers as their only option by simply bypassing any competitive market for PC software. That didn’t happen. Many new PC users are rolling back to Windows XP, many others see no reason to upgrade to new hardware, virtually no one is buying Vista software upgrades at retail, and significant numbers of Windows users are defecting to the Mac platform.

Windows 95 and Vista: Why 2007 Won't Be Like 1995

Windows 95 and Vista: Why 2007 Won’t Be Like 1995

Revolutions Trump Kings.
This is resulting in a future that looks nothing like anything even in the recent past. Events are conspiring to hand Apple a far larger share of the PC market than anyone could have predicted. At the same time, the development of the iPhone and iPod Touch, combined with the failure of Tablets, UMPC, Windows Mobile, and the Palm OS, has similarly paved the way open for Apple to grab significant market share in the mobile computing platforms of the future, which appear poised to overshadow the PC market.

The cards that appeared to be stacked in favor of Microsoft are playing out far differently than anyone could have predicted in 2005. The result is an entirely different game, where the rules that Microsoft set in motion under its monopolistic control of the PC market during 90s have become simply irrelevant.

Apple won’t just succeed Windows as the next king of the PC empire; it is starting a revolution in computing that will make the trappings of an empire building monarch an archaic fixture of the past, and usher in a liberalized future where independent platform candidates will rule on their own merits, chosen by users voting with their dollars in the market rather than simply being handed down from Microsoft as a decree by fiat.

Steve Jobs and the iTunes DRM Threat to Microsoft

Four More Reasons the Future Will Be Different.
Industry observers are certainly aware that Apple is gaining market share and challenging Microsoft’s monopoly position. The iPod revolution proved Microsoft’s Windows Media was unfit to rule over music players, despite Microsoft’s insistence that it had the divine right to decree the world’s DRM. The iPhone is similarly revolutionizing the mobile industry, and has stolen the crown of Microsoft’s Windows Mobile.

Many pundits still insist that Apple’s victories in the market can only make the company another new Microsoft, and force it to inherit the malware crisis facing Windows. This is like political commentators of the 16th century complaining that the territories that broke free from England would continue to suffer the same problems they faced under the monarchy, despite those new countries’ purposely devising new forms of government to prevent that from happening.

The truth is, as detailed in the previous article, Microsoft’s malware problem was caused by platform weaknesses, not its large installed base. Microsoft is not going to be as popular in the future, and future platforms will not be as weak. The malware industry will suffer as a result. There are four reasons why:

First, Apple’s iPhone platform is fully malware resistant. As that platform grows, it will be very difficult to distribute malware, easy to kill it, and trivial to clean it up. Apple is limiting the distribution of software in a model similar to the console video gaming market. There are no real malware exploits dogging the PlayStation 3, the Wii, or even Microsoft’s Xbox 360. There weren’t any for the Sega Genesis, nor the GameBoy, nor the NES. That’s because malware isn’t a product of popularity, it’s a symptom of weakness.

The iPhone’s firmware, like all of those gaming platforms, can be attacked to run homebrew software, but that unsupported software can’t run on default systems, preventing any malicious malware from spreading outside the homebrew community. Incidentally, when the Xbox or Wii or PSP is cracked to run homebrew games, users rejoice and the media congratulates the crackers who developed the software. When the iPhone is similarly cracked to run homebrew software, Apple’s security credentials are questioned, iPhones with cracked firmware are referred to as “p0wned,” and the media describes the platform as being “exploited by hackers.” This kind of coverage is either fundamentally ignorant or grossly hypocritical.

iPhone 2.0 SDK: How Signing Certificates Work

iPhone 2.0 SDK: How Signing Certificates Work
iPhone 2.0 SDK: Video Games to Rival Nintendo DS, Sony PSP
Video Game Consoles 2007: Wii, PS3 and the Death of Microsoft’s Xbox 360

The iPhone will usher in something other vendors have largely only talked about: a managed platform that is highly resistant to malware. Apple is able to introduce this new world of secured computing because the company has established a trusted relationship with its Mac and iPod customers, and does not control a powerful monopoly over the market for smartphones or PDAs. While many have criticized Apple’s strategy by suggesting the company might act unfairly to restrain trade by rivals in the way that Microsoft has on the Windows platform, Apple has no pattern of illegal conduct backing up the idea that it would suddenly start acting like Microsoft.

In contrast, Microsoft was unable to introduce Palladium, its own plan to do the same thing to the PC, because the industry didn’t trust Microsoft to play fair and because Microsoft held a monopolistic grasp of the entire PC industry. Microsoft wasn’t introducing a new product like the iPhone, competing against entrenched rivals; it was trying to infiltrate the existing, monopolized PC market with a locked down position of leverage that would prevent every PC from every manufacturer from running code Microsoft did not approve of in advance, such as Linux. Microsoft has a documented pattern of cheating customers, backstabbing partners, and flouting the law to kill competitors. Apple does not, giving it the opportunity to affect change with the iPhone.

Lessons from the Death of HD-DVD
Office Wars 1 – Claris and the Origins of Apple iWork
Office Wars 2 – Microsoft’s Outrageous Office Profits
Office Wars 3 – How Microsoft Got Its Office Monopoly
Office Wars 4 – Microsoft’s Assault on Lotus and IBM

Second, Mac OS X is going to follow in some of the same security practices as the iPhone: code signing, sandboxing, etc. As the Mac grows in market share (and the Mac has far more growth potential in taking over PC market share than the Windows PC has in growing its total market; Apple can only grow, while Microsoft can only struggle against shrinkage), Apple will continue to erect new barriers to the problems that do not currently affect the Mac platform.

There will not be a scourge of Mac malware because the Mac will harden its defenses before ever being seriously attacked. Additional Mac market share and the increase in attention from malware authors will not overcome the expense and difficulty of developing Mac malware that already exists. New efforts to bolster Mac security will keep the cost of developing Mac malware high enough to be impractical.

Many pundits insist that malware authors write exploits simply to prove they can. However, the malware crisis facing Windows is not supported in any significant sense by attackers seeking to make a name for themselves; the malware market exists to send spam, show ads, spy out valuable market data, and steal identity information. Windows malware is big because its a profitable business. While Mac viruses and malware may someday be written for chest beating or giggles, it will never become a big business because Apple will consistently act to stop it.

As will be detailed later, Microsoft did not work to stop malware on Windows because it either benefitted from it or because it saw no payback in solving the problem for users. Only when the security crisis of malware began to make Microsoft look bad did the company make any effort to address it, and by then it was too late to make meaningful, rapid adjustments. The absence of malware on the Mac is a key feature Apple advertises, so the company has a powerful incentive to stop malware attacks before they ever begin to infiltrate the platform.

Third, Microsoft is doing many of the same things to secure Vista. The Windows security crisis helped to derail Microsoft’s plans for Longhorn and sent the company scrambling to peel the egg off its face instead. Despite being years late, Vista addresses many of the architectural problems of Windows, and future versions will continue to improve Microsoft’s situation.

However, neither Vista nor the Mac will solve the problems related to Microsoft’s legacy of a large installed base of weak Windows PC. There are lots of botnet PCs out there that will remain connected to the network, sending out spam. Many unpatched Windows 2000/XP computers will remain in use over the next decade, fully open to the infectious pool that is the Windows security nightmare. Windows Vista will not solve Windows’ vista.

While Vista improves in its ability to resist external malware attacks, it will still be plagued with malware, for reasons I note below. Even so, Vista’s resiliency will have an impact on the future of the now thriving malware market.

Fourth, a new class of cheap PC replacements is working its way into emerging markets. Linux based PCs like the OLPC’s XO-1 system will create an alternative to the growth of the conventional PC in those markets. These will likely be more resistant to malware, but also less attractive to malware authors, as a WiFi OLPC isn’t going to make a great botnet spam server in the way that a Windows XP gamer PC on cable Internet does.

The Outcome of Four New Secured Platforms.
This all means that new Macs, Vista PCs, and emerging market systems running Linux will all be quite resistant to malware attacks and new platforms like the iPhone and iPod Touch will be malware free. While determined villains will always find ways to assault computing systems in targeted attacks, the improvements across the board in hardening all computing platforms will serve to simply price today’s general nuisance malware developers out of the market.

Like buggy whip manufacturers at the dawn of the automobile, malware authors will no longer enjoy a viable market for their product among legions of horse whipped PCs delivered from the factory wide open to assault, ready to spread virulent attacks, with flawed patching mechanisms and a software architecture that’s so hard to clean up after an exploit that many users don’t bother.

The disease pool of today’s Windows PCs, including all those enterprise boxes that won’t be upgrading to Vista anytime soon, will continue to breed a cheap and profitable malware industry that sends out spam, pops up ads, and tries to replicate itself into new botnet nodes. However, the real malware problem of the future won’t be anchored in Microsoft’s bad decisions of the past. Instead, it will be charted out by Microsoft’s bad decisions of the present and unfortunately, it appears, the future.

Microsoft Wasn’t a Malware Victim; It was a Malware Villain.
The future will not be a simple repetition of Microsoft’s past; even Microsoft is divorcing itself from its disastrously irresponsible engineering legacy. Will there be efforts to advertise spam, pop up ads, and spy on users in the future? Certainly, but those efforts will not delivered at firehouse pressures via the cheap, tacky Windows PCs that Bill Gates served up, where computers shipped right from the manufacturer with a poorly designed operating system full of weak holes, open ports, and ActiveX plugins that begging for exploitation, topped with bundled spyware from Microsoft itself and their prominent desktop real estate auctioned off to the highest bidder.

The world seems quick to forget that Microsoft not only delivered weak software prime for exploit, but also directly worked to advance the deployment of spyware and adware whenever it suited the company’s needs. The company has long bundled Alexa with Windows, something spyware tools identify as offensive because it calls home to report the websites users visit. Microsoft’s infatuation with malware even led it into talks to acquire Claria, the maker of Gator and the most heinously infamous malware vendor of the day. Prior to doing so, Microsoft even reclassified Claria’s malware as non-threatening in its own malware scanning tools. Once Microsoft owned it, the company planned to turn Gator into respectable adware by fiat of Gates.

Ten Myths of Leopard: 9 Apple is Spying on Users!

Microsoft has pushed adware through its own software and web services, seeking to copy Google’s business plan and then go a step further to tie advertising into its monopoly platform. It has worked to deploy a phone home spyware tool to report how users use Windows as an attempt to limit piracy. But that tool, misleadingly called Windows Genuine Advantage and deceptively identified as a critical software update users need to install for their own safety, also phones home other encrypted information that has never been disclosed.

Even if Microsoft could establish impenetrable security for Vista, Windows would still be plagued with spyware, adware and other ills because Microsoft is the largest distributor of malware on the planet and purposely distributes some of the most pestilent and questionable malware in existence. It has only ever demonstrated a desire to expand those efforts by adding more user targeted advertising and by clamping down its spyware-based license policing in Vista.

Ironically, Microsoft now sells services to limit competing malware and virus distribution. It even faces criticism from anti-virus vendors for barring them access to the same mechanisms it uses to scan for third party viruses from its fee-based malware cleanup tools. Microsoft makes so much money from malware removal that it’s seeking to monopolize the market for itself. This is yet another way that Microsoft is profiting from the malware crisis it created.

The New Apple Patent: WGA Evil or iPhone Knievel?

The New Apple Patent: WGA Evil or iPhone Knievel?

Microsoft’s Malware Infatuation.
While Microsoft chafes at Apple’s advertising that touts Mac security and the reality that no viruses exist for its platform, the company is too indebted to its own efforts to:

  • auction off the rights to bundle malware created by approved partners in Windows,
  • benefit from the bundling of its own adware and spyware,
  • and profit from third party malware removal,

that it will never be able to let go of its dysfunctional relationship with malware. Microsoft is joined at the hip to malware, and will dance with it into oblivion as its platform is abandoned by users sick of ads, tired of being spied upon, and irate that a significant percentage of their purchased hardware computing power is being eaten up by tools that exist to clean up the mess Microsoft allowed, then supported, and currently seeks to monopolize and rebrand as a legitimate business.

The good news is that Microsoft won’t continue to be the only only game in town, either in the PC market or among the mobile platforms that will increasingly replace it in the future. Those platforms will not embrace malware as Microsoft has, giving users another reason to abandon Windows.

I really like to hear from readers. Comment in the Forum or email me with your ideas.

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52 comments

1 The Unavoidable Malware Myth: Why Apple Won’t Inherit Microsoft’s Malware Crown — RoughlyDrafted Magazine { 04.02.08 at 6:36 am }

[...] Five Factors Shifting the Future of Malware and Platform Security [...]

2 Scott { 04.02.08 at 7:28 am }

Spot on, again!

3 WholesaleMagic { 04.02.08 at 8:13 am }

It’s articles like this that make me ever so grateful that Apple didn’t go bankrupt in 1997.

I’d be shitting my pants right now if I were a Windows Enthusiast reading this article.

4 Joel { 04.02.08 at 8:13 am }

1) “First, Apple’s iPhone platform is fully malware resistant” : This is mainly because the iPhone platform is Mobile OS X, or OS X-lite. Since user-space apps run as a non-super user its going to pretty much impossible for malware to target

Its also the reason SDK built apps can’t access the iPhone’s radio software.

Code-signing is pretty much icing on top of this, and used to ensure that applications are tied to their developers. It decreases the liklihood of people writing malware, yes, but doesn’t make it impossible…

2) Buggy-whip manufacturers : I’d of said these are the people who sell anti-malware products and those who repair “Windows”. If Windows does have a sane security system then these are the people who will go to the wall…

5 John Muir { 04.02.08 at 8:25 am }

Another fine and timely broadside whose predictions I hope turn out as true as your pre-release panning of the Zune and of course the great 2007 ≠ 1995 article.

It’s the big picture that you do best.

6 Jon T { 04.02.08 at 9:10 am }

Another classy article Dan.

Off topic, but please could you consider an article on audio/video chat? I have spent the morning researching iChat, Google Talk, Skype, Yahoo, MSN, Jabber etc to see where the convergence is going to come from that allows us to use a single client to speak one language across all platforms and it sure is confusing..! To a layman it must be beyond comprehension.

7 Rich { 04.02.08 at 9:57 am }

“Even platform targets that are tiny to the point of insignificant are attacked by malware. Specific versions of small minority of Symbian phones were attacked by a Bluetooth virus, not because those models made up 95% of the phone market, but because there was an open flaw in their software that left them vulnerable to attack.”

Daniel, your research is usually excellent. That said, the above paragraph is full of inaccuracies that I pointed out the last time you posted it. Why publish these inaccuracies again?

In regards to malware on Windows/OSX, the situation is complex. There’s not any one factor that dominates the others. If I was to pin it down to a simple formula, I would say that:

(Number of potential victims) x (Easy of attack) = (Likelihood of malware appearing)

I’d define ease of attack as a measure of the insecurity of the OS plus how easy it is to write and propagate applications for that platform.

Windows scores highly in all categories. Lots of victims, insecure OS and lots of developers who are already experienced with programming for the platform. It’s no wonder that it’s the target of choice.

8 Scott { 04.02.08 at 10:07 am }

@ Rich

(Number of potential victims [1). What is the magical number of "potential victims" that would get the criminals excited all over, propelling them to create the malware (for OS X) that has plagued Windoze? 10M? 100M? What?!2). Do you have any real life examples which you can provide to support your argument?]) x (Easy of attack) = (Likelihood of malware appearing)

9 acidscan { 04.02.08 at 10:16 am }

Man, your position against Microsoft should be some kind of sickness !

1 – “… because the PC is Dying.” Are you serious ? The PC dying ? The PC will never die while apple keep those inflated prices on their hardware, you could buy a notebook that does all you need for $400 in the PC market, in Apple, nothing below $1k.

2 – “Apple’s iPhone platform is fully malware resistant.” seriously ? the jailbreak process says different, and it CAN be done easily (like the tiff exploit) and unsigned like the new jailbreak.

3- “Apple has no pattern of illegal conduct” – One example: Apple could license WMA for 2 cents an ipod (aprox) but prefers to keep the monopoly of the music business. To me a monopoly is illegal.

4- In an Apple world only Apple makes hardware. How could that promote development ? They will set the prices they want and that’s it and I’m sure they won’t license OSX to run in another platform, simply because they will be affected by the same Windows problems (infinite number of drivers) and of course to sell they hardware.

I use both: Windows and OSX platforms, and believe me, I love what is good on each platform, but I always try not to loose touch with really :).

10 Joel { 04.02.08 at 10:30 am }

@acidscan : 2. Apple’s iPhone platform isn’t the jailbroken phones. Please show how malware would exist on iPhone with a firmware higher than 1.1.2. (When the “mobile” user was introduced)

3. Be interested if you could show Apple’s monopoly… You can load the Ipod with any music you want as long as its in the correct format.

11 John Muir { 04.02.08 at 10:37 am }

@ acidscan

I think you have “loose touch with really”, so to speak…

It’s a good sign that Daniel’s argument is sound when we see that each of your points are nowhere near actually making contact with it.

1. The Windows PC will be killed by the phone / internet computer in your pocket, plus stiff competition from Linux in the enterprise (if Apache is anything to go by) and yes, the Mac for the significant market of people who actually value their time and credit card details.

2. Jailbroken iPhone != an ordinary user’s iPhone. You can install Linux on the iPod … does that mean it’s been hacked and is open for viral plunder?

3. How about Apple licences Windows too, and Palladium, or just gives the money back to the shareholders? Last I checked .mp3 play perfectly on iPods and Apple are vociferously anti-DRM according to a certain Steve Jobs.

4. Windows losing doesn’t necessarily mean 90% Mac market share. A standards based internet has been gathering pace over the last decade (go Firefox and Webkit) and that’s been opening up a viable market for alternative desktops, and laptops oh and handhelds too. Don’t worry if you can’t see it … you don’t need to.

Windows is losing its once iron grip on being the Only Choice for so many. It’s not going to vanish in a puff of smoke tomorrow, but in the long run I wouldn’t invest much more faith in it than RIM and Palm.

12 paolo { 04.02.08 at 10:42 am }

Also, guys, I think it’s safe to say that in no free country monopoly is illegal. However, *abuse* of monopoly is. And I don’t see Apple abusing any monopoly.

13 acidscan { 04.02.08 at 10:57 am }

Why nobody rebutted my “unreal” point 4 ? :)

@Joel: “show how malware would exist on iPhone with a firmware higher than 1.1.2″

have you read about pwned ? take a look:

http://www.engadget.com/2008/03/29/video-of-the-iphone-pwned-project-in-action/

and in the future you will see a more easy ways to do it. Because people like freedom, they will want to install those future banned applications, etc.

@John:

“The Windows PC will be killed by the phone … in your pocket”

I would like to see you programming in that phone, or using it in your office to check those spreadsheets, etc, I hope you get the point.

“plus stiff competition from Linux” Linux it’s nothing new I’ve been using it since kernel 0.92 and even when free it hasn’t take the windows place in the enterprise, why ? maybe you could tell me.

“Jailbroken != not an ordinary user” according to Rubicon Consulting: “13% of iPhone owners surveyed have unlocked iPhones” that’s a LOT of non ordinary users.

“.mp3 play perfectly on iPods ” right but doesn’t allow me to buy music in any other store (and copying mp3 from others is illegal right ?)

“Apple are vociferously anti-DRM” sure ? I see it like a perfect way to raise prices for the music and include all sorts of PERSONAL information on each MP3.

WebKit standard ? you have to check those webkit CSS again.

But well, how am I gonna know… I lost touch with reality…

14 Joel { 04.02.08 at 11:16 am }

@acidscan : I’m not sure you understand what “pwned”. Its a custom boot-loader that has be installed after the phone is “jail-broken”. And as mentioned by John Muir, I’m not talking about jail-broken phones…

In fact a “jail-breaking scene” helps increase security on the iPhone since it highlights and packages possible exploits for Applee…

15 Joel { 04.02.08 at 11:17 am }

“Because people like freedom, they will want to install those future banned applications” : I think someones probably drunk too much Engadget-kiddie cool-aid. What “banned” applications…

16 John Muir { 04.02.08 at 11:22 am }

@ acidscan

For vast swathes of people, the smartphone / computer in their pocket is going to completely obsolete the Internet Explorer + Outlook XP box they keep at home. For most: the internet has become another compelling medium they soak in (by reading and ever increasingly watching video), or else there should be hundreds of thousands of comments for posts out there like this one.

When they do want to dust up their CV, a suspicious lot of people do that at their work computers while browsing wanted ads for the competition. Ah, human nature!

The *desktop* PC is in trouble long term. It’s being outclassed by laptops for home users (which can do everything besides niche hard core gaming) and outmanoeuvred by game consoles too. It will live on in cubicle farms … and for now the IT staff manning those are most comfortable running the devil they know. Don’t count on that being so forever. IBM did.

Perhaps Linux today is not the best challenger. I concede that, and I don’t even use it myself as I’m happy with Leopard. But Google and others are doing interesting things with a Linux distro they’re calling Android. If that were to really take off and dominate the phone industry alongside Apple, could it spell a new assault back on the desktop? Especially if a beleaguered future MS start turning aggressive and trying to break the web.

As for jailbreaking iPhones, 13% is still a minority, and a self-selecting one at that. Is it Microsoft’s fault when people run Linux on their PC’s? Is it Toshiba’s fault when kids put sandwiches in the DVD player?

As for mp3, you need to try using iTunes before going ballistic. Mp3 is 100% supported, and 100% legal to import from your download folder from whatever store you choose. It’d be pointless otherwise. The iPod has as little to do with DRM master plans as the electric car has to do with backing Al Qaida … though since when does reason stop vicious hacks from screaming that it does?

WebKit standard? A perfect score on Acid 3 says yes. Even Firefox ain’t there, yet alone IE 8 or 7.

17 acidscan { 04.02.08 at 11:32 am }

@Joel @John:

This is a hell of a discussion with a couple of beers during a barbecue :).

18 Berend Schotanus { 04.02.08 at 11:35 am }

I do think the Apple achievement for delivering a good OS is impressive. I do think your achievement of describing the backgrounds of Apples success is impressive as well and it is interesting to learn about the background of security issues.

Having said that I do not believe in full-proof claims, not in any field, not in computer security either. I mistrust claims of Full Eradication of Evil. And I’m afraid you claim Apple to be a Full-Proof solution against all Evil of malware, which seams to me foolish and dangerous. Luckily it’s you, not Apple, making these claims.

19 OlivierL { 04.02.08 at 11:47 am }

@acidscan :
“.mp3 play perfectly on iPods ” right but doesn’t allow me to buy music in any other store (and copying mp3 from others is illegal right ?)

Errr, why don’t you just go to WalMart or Amazon, buy some real life CD and rip them ?
I would also say that other online stores don’t allow me to play music on my iPod.

20 jfatz { 04.02.08 at 12:19 pm }

“The iPhone is similarly revolutionizing the mobile industry, and has stolen the crown of Microsoft’s Windows Mobile.”

Frankly, I think it a bit too much to imply that Microsoft ever held the mobile crown to begin with.

21 ewelch { 04.02.08 at 12:39 pm }

What other online stores? I thought iTunes was a monopoly?

Oops! :-P

22 jfatz { 04.02.08 at 1:27 pm }

1) In that same way that people are saying “the iPod is dying,” it’s simply that it’s growth is starting to plateau. In the iPod’s case, it’s morphing into a new platform, and still growinging revenue, but where will that be happening in the PC? Laptops have been steadily replacing desktops for ages, so the mobile push is obvious. But laptops themselves aren’t growing the PC market, while cell phones exploded, and smartphone-class devices are continuing to expand dramatically as well. As well, since personal computers (desktop or laptop) have been a part of the same business model for ages and are slow to adapt (and are always shrinking margins to compete with other manufacturers), other markets are seen as having much more desirable revenue streams to tap. (Especially if one can “get in front” while they’re establishing themselves.)

New development models, new distribution models, new revenue streams… Portable devices are getting more and more capable and more and more interesting, and ALL devices can toss in easy and convenient computing tasks (email, internet…) a lot easier than computers can provide the reverse.

His main point is that “PC’s have nowhere to go but down.” They’ll continue to sell, but the software push is lessening, the gaming push is lessening, the bigger hassle is more discouraging next to other devices that can offer new things the PC can’t and many of the desired tasks they use their PC for… It’s simply no longer going to be an explosive growth industry, and at some point when people are happy enough to “make do” and let their computers age more, the market will start shrinking, and the revenue moreso as the biggest manufacturers fight even harder with each other on margins.

Meanwhile, his Linux comment, I believe, is centered around Linux being key in making computers cheaper (which will always be appealing), as they don’t have to be as powerful and there is no OS licensing cost attached, so replacement computers will start looking in that direction more and more. Linux is rather key in making smaller and cheaper laptops, too–which themselves will grow more as $200 entry-level laptops get both recognition and sustainability. Linux is similarly used in lots of set-top boxes to deliver computing experiences without the Windows overhead, is growing faster than Windows Mobile in the same markets, despite having a laughable percentage of conventional PC representation… Basically, like the PC itself, Windows has nowhere to go but down, and we haven’t seen any push from Microsoft in directions that will keep Apple and Linux from eating away at even their PC marketshare, let alone the sectors where Microsoft doesn’t have that advantage.

2) As has been said before, that a device can be hacked does not speak towards it becoming a malware heaven, especially since the people WHO hack their devices are also the most knowledgable about them and the malware market. There is no flourishing PSP malware market despite probably millions of hacked devices out there with active networking, and tunnelling services, etc. There is no flourishing hacked TiVo malware. There is no flourishing hacked iPhone malware. I’m not sure how your percentage was measured but regardless of that, it’s as high as it is because people want their own software, a demand which the global release of the SDK and Apple’s software store for the iPhone and iPod Touch (and what devices are to follow) will immediately alleiviate.

“Malware resistance” does not mean “hack proof.” NO device is hack-proof, but obviously a lot of devices are more malware resistant than others, though various means. Dan has mentioned those means before, but I’m sure you know them too. (You seem to simply be trying to insert a technicality here.)

3) Apple has absolutely no monopoly in the music business, and as has been stated, they’re the ones who took the most vocal stand AGAINST DRM, and it is ONLY their stand against it that has gotten the RIAA’s largest studios to blink. (Though at the moment they’re not “opening up” so much as “trying to wedge Amazon MP3 against iTunes’ success, and still holding off licensing DRM-free tracks to anyone else,” so I’m still not buying from anyone but Independants and EMI.) If Apple caved and openly licensed FairPlay, or caved and licensed WMA DRM as well, we’d still have everything locked down. Meanwhile, you could ALWAYS purchase MP3 tracks from certain services that would play on iPods, you could always burn and re-rip to MP3 from DRM AAC tracks from iTunes (I know you’d lose quality, but we’re talking possibilities. And it’s something that I think only iTunes ever managed to get in there, as the RIAA after that learned to clamp down on their desired DRM terms.), and you can certainly NOW buy any songs you want from Amazon MP3 and use them on any iPod you want. (This is above and beyond the fact that most people rip their existing music to whatever format they want, and if they _really_ objected to DRM they were constantly pirating anyway.) Music’s DRM fiasco has only ever originated from the RIAA itself, and it was ALWAYS completely asinine because they constantly released all their music without DRM on CD anyhow.

However, that Apple got to it first, got the most lax DRM terms, actively spoke out against it, and through their actions get it REMOVED (not universally yet, but–again–that’s the labels not universally licensing their music in MP3) should speak rather more to their trustworthiness than tossing about monopoly accusations.

(Offhand, I’m wondering why you’d think “copying MP3′s” is illegal. It’s your music, and you can use it how you want. Certainly DRM tries to wedge restrictions in, but that’s usually just centralized around the DRM terms. You can use your own ripped MP3′s how you want under Fair Use, so why wouldn’t you be able to use open-format music like MP3′s? Certainly neither eMusic nor Amazon nor any other MP3 retailer has tried to say what you can or can’t do with music you purchase outright [rather than "rent," which would still have terms--and usually DRM], and it would never stand up in court anyhow, as it too would fall under Fair Use.)

4) In an Xbox 360 world, only Microsoft makes hardware and sets whatever prices they want. How could that promote development? In a Playstation world, only Sony makes hardware and sets whatever prices they want. How could that promote development? In a Wii/DS/etc. world, only Nintendo makes hardware and sets whatever prices they want. How could that promote development?

It seems development has continued–and in many ways stolen revenue from PC–despite many platforms having closed hardware, one entity setting platform development and entry prices, having different arbitrary restrictions, having no universal codebase, etc., etc., etc.

Your point four is still “unreal,” because it’s broken constantly by platforms that are inherently closed, but “open enough” to promote lots of development, and have OTHER strengths that draw in more customers, more developers, more publishers, and more and more possibilities. It is the overall strength and appeal of a platform overall–not who’s making it–that determines how it grows and just how development is promoted. Platforms and brands grow and shrink as a result of their handling, to be sure (and sometimes market whim), and you CAN point fingers… But being “closed” is no inherent negative. They just have to be “open enough.”

23 Brau { 04.02.08 at 1:51 pm }

@ Acidscan “Apple could license WMA for 2 cents an ipod (aprox) but prefers to keep the monopoly of the music business.”

Bullshit. Period.
There are four very good reasons for Apple not to license WMA.

1. MP3 is the current standard, and owned by the same developers as the JPEG, not Apple.
2. AAC is owned by the music industry in an effort to collect royalties on what is rightfully theirs. Apple chooses this format by default.
3. WMA is owned wholly by MicroSoft and was developed simply to sidestep paying royalties to the developers of the MP3 with every box of Windows they sell, while attempting to position themselves as the defacto standard so they could reap the royalties for themselves.
4. WMA is inferior as an audio codec.

24 John Muir { 04.02.08 at 2:03 pm }

@ Brau

I’m no WMA fan (don’t have a single one in my library) but a few corrections:

1. mp3 is a de facto standard, but *not* an open one: its owned by Fraunhofer or someone who sued them recently, possibly Vivendi … and apparently they’re now off on a litigation spree, last I heard last year

2. AAC is owned my the standards body, from what I remember Apple have an active hand in it, along with many others

3. WMA is indeed wholly owned by Microsoft – as their incompatible proprietary rival to mp4 / aac – and was the instrument of their failed attack with Plays4sure (so ironic…) and the Zune … however mp3 can playback just fine on Windows the same as it does on the Mac: it’s encoding files you have to pay a license for, commonly LameEnc etc. in Windows, or of course covered for you by Apple with QuickTime in iTunes

4. WMA is better than mp3, byte for byte. I’ve not compared it to aac / mp4 in scientifically valid listening tests, but my impression is they’re about the same. I used to rip CD’s to wma for a time back in ~2000, but re-ripped to aac when I switched to the Mac for convenience and also a higher bitrate since players had become so much larger in the meantime

Daniel’s written about Microsoft’s plans with WMA before – anyone interested should look up his articles mentioning “Janus” DRM. It’s great that they failed. And interestingly enough, it was this desire of theirs which forced Apple’s hand with iTunes and the iPod way back in 2001. Things could have been very different.

25 gus2000 { 04.02.08 at 2:03 pm }

I’d like to thank Daniel for posting the link to Paul Graham’s treatise on disagreement. It helps identify flaws in logic.

Mr. acidscan, are you trolling or really interested in the subject of malware? I will attempt to discuss each of your points rationally and logically, and without getting personal.

1. The PC is indeed dying, no question, much like the landline telephone is dying at the hands of cellular. Will there still be landlines 20 years from now? You bet! But it’s not a growth industry anymore, just like the PC business. Within 10 years, many people will own only 1 computer: the one in their pocket. There will be PC’s of course, but it will no longer be the dominant platform; even now, desktops have been eclipsed by laptops. The future is mobile.

2. The iPhone’s resistance to malware is not related to the ability to jailbreak it. No system is invulnerable to a hacker who has physical access. Also, there is no evidence that the phone becomes more vulnerable after jailbreaking; such a phone can STILL be wiped and reloaded easily. Hacked phones will not spawn a malware crisis, unless they’re loaded with Windows.

3. Apple has no pattern of illegal conduct. Indisputably true, because Apple has not been convicted of using illegal business practices. Microsoft, in contrast, has been convicted repeatedly and paid BILLIONS in penalties. Monopolies are not illegal, but monopoly powers can enable illegal behaviors. The “iTunes/iPod Monopoly Myth” is an entirely different subject.

4. “They won’t license OSX”. I’m not sure what your point was here, or what it has to do with the future of malware. You suggested that Apple’s hardware/software marriage was somehow counter-productive, but failed to elaborate on this point.

Daniel (et al) does not suffer from “some kind of sickness” just because he can see that the Emperor has no clothes. This is an illness from which I do not wish to be cured. Well, as long as it doesn’t itch.

26 Netudo { 04.02.08 at 2:29 pm }

@ Acidscan,

1 – Mac Mini and Macbook cost under 1K. Additionally, any Mac you can buy today and most of the Macs sold in the last 3 or 4 years will run the latest version of MacOSX. Can you say the same about the $400 PC running Vista? (by run I mean capable to use the system, not just boot the OS)

2 – No comments.

3- Monopolies are not illegal per se, what is illegal is to use the power from a monopoly to abuse customers and force them away from the competition. Having a monopoly because you are better than your competition is not illegal.

4- Apple makes hardware. It is a hardware company. Apple software adds value and helps sell the hardware.
They realized that software is what makes it happen. If you install Windows on a Mac, it will behave like a very nice looking Windows PC.

5- Good for you! I also use Windows at work because I have to, but at home I have a Mac, a machine I enyoy using.

27 Brau { 04.02.08 at 2:50 pm }

@ JohnMuir

1. I said nothing about MP3 being open, only that is is the current standard and *NOT* owned by Apple. iTunes software will convert any non- DRMed files to MP3 on Macs or PCs. Apple pays for the right to use it on iPods. Hardly monopolistic.

2. The standards body that created the AAC made sure licensing fees would go to the music industry – where they belong. Just because Apple sat on the board and had a hand in setting those standards doesn’t mean they own it, reap royalties, or benefit monetarily from the licensing of it. Many companies were in on it. In fact, Apple again pays licensing fees for the right to use it in iTunes.

3. Please don’t confuse the issue with DRM (Playsforsure/Fairplay) and its insertion into existing compression codecs. Whether a Zune can play MP3s is irrelevant; so can the iPod, on both Macs and PCs. Both Apple and MS were legally required by music cartels to apply DRM in order to guarantee continuing sales. Both have failed miserably, thankfully. Conversely, MS refuses to pay to license even non-DRMed AAC playback on their WMP.

4. Having seen a few technical comparisons, WMA has always come up as a bottom feeder in playback ability to faithfully recreate the output of the original AIFF file. To the average listener though, very few can actually hear any difference between MP3, AAC, and WMA, especially when compressed at anything above 128kbs. WMA can indeed compress a file to a lesser bitrate but so did SONY’s proprietary ATRAC codec, and that doesn’t make it better.

28 John Muir { 04.02.08 at 2:59 pm }

@ Brau

Then we’re agreed!

29 MikieV { 04.02.08 at 3:23 pm }

@acidscan

“Why nobody rebutted my “unreal” point 4 ? ”

Whats to rebutt?

Apple allowed licencees to build hardware, in the hopes it would expand market-share – but it only canabalized sales from Apple…

How has development on the Mac suffered from the termination of those hardware licensing deals – all those years ago?

” ‘.mp3 play perfectly on iPods’ right but doesn’t allow me to buy music in any other store…”

Any other? Like Amazon?

Or, are you refering to any of the ‘Plays-4-Sure’ or Zune-based sites that will -only- sell me music if I have a Windows-based PC to support the DRM???

Apple DRM works on either Mac or Windows PCs, as does Real’s DRM, while Microsoft only sells music which is tied to its own OS.

If you want to talk abusing the market, how about the content owners who are allowing Amazon to sell DRM-free tracks that they will not allow Apple to sell – except as DRM’d?

Even though Amazon can compete on price versus iTunes – and is often cheaper and/or higher bitrate?

Why are they afraid of trying their marketing plan of higher prices for “hot” singles/albums, and cheaper prices for bundles on Amazon – while letting Apple price as it has??

30 jfatz { 04.02.08 at 3:34 pm }

@ MikieV

To be fair, if the big three labels offered the same license to iTunes, the bitrate would also be the same. (Though it would probably be non-DRM’ed AAC, so a bit higher quality than MP3.)

They should definitely compete on format convenience (AAC vs MP3) and price and let the consumer decide, however. The labels are the ones still mucking about with it all.

It’d be nice if they offered it to services like eMusic as well, but there’s at least a different concern there, since eMusic is a different sales and distribution model than the labels might want. Certainly, however, it should be offered to any other pay-per-song distributor that wants it, though.

31 danieleran { 04.02.08 at 6:39 pm }

@ Berend Schotanus:

“I’m afraid you claim Apple to be a Full-Proof solution against all Evil of malware, which seams to me foolish and dangerous.”

I should clarify that I’m not joining Artie McStrawman in declaring that Macs (or any other Apple platform) are incapable of being attacked or exploited.

Most people arguing against the Mac Malware Myth say that Macs are primarily protected by small market share, and that further protection comes from “Unix.”

I have been presenting that Mac OS X (Macs + iPhone) are kept secured from malware because of superior engineering and regular updates that quickly closes any discovered holes. This results in Mac malware not being cost-effective.

While I noted that having fewer targets (a smaller share of the market) may have helped Apple maintain a record for having zero viruses for Mac OS X, there are plenty of examples of small targets being exploited. If Mac OS X could be easily exploited, it would be, certainly with an active installed base of 25 million machines.

Conversely, if Mac OS X had wider exposure (and we’ve seen Mac sales jump from 0.7 million to 2.3 million per quarter over just the past few years), while there might be more reasons to attack it, it would not make those attacks any easier, or make it any harder to clean them up.

That means growth of the Mac OS X platform (which has not only grown to 2.3 million Macs, but now includes another 2.3 million iPhones per quarter and however many million iPod Touches; in other words, its 6-10x larger than it was in 2005) should have little impact on Mac malware development, and indeed it hasn’t.

The closest Mac users have come to seeing any malware for their platform has been malicious trojans that pretend to be something interesting, such as the fake Mac Office 2008 or the fake video codec for watching porn. Neither case was a malware “attack” exploiting the platform. Both were simple cons designed to fool individuals. The only way to stop such tricks would be to prevent users from installing their own software (which is why IT managers do this). That problem affects Windows too, but that platform is so full of exploits that its equally as easy to launch a real, virulent (ie self spreading) attack that is hard to stop and hard to clean up.

Pundits have been insisting that the Mac was “no better than Windows” since 2003, and predicted a real Mac malware crisis of viruses. That was a half decade ago. How many years will it take for those predictions to be proven false?

I’m not predicting that there will never be any attacks on the Mac or iPhone, I’m pointing out that the future of both platforms will be even more resilient to attack and remain easier to stop and clean up afterward. Being able to deal with a problem is as important (or more so) as whether or not you are actually faced with one.

The biggest problem for Windows is that it’s nearly impossible to clean up. That’s why lots of users just buy a new PC. I see that very frequently among panicked, non-technical users. Conversely, I see Mac users cling to their ancient computers until they nearly disintegrate.

So I’m not insisting that the iPhone or Mac is fool-proof and incapable of being attacked. I’m saying both platforms are better prepared to resist attacks, easier to keep their defenses up to date, and easier to rebuild in the event that an attack occurs. Macs are where Vista is supposed to be, without dragging along all the 90s+XP security crisis legacy.

In addition to this idea of outside attacks by virulent malware, I also pointed out that Microsoft manufacturers its own malware, and bundles third party stuff that has no recognizable differences from what is deemed Official Malware.

Apple doesn’t have any business interest in popping up ads in Mac software. From .Mac to iTunes to Apple TV, there is really no adware component to Apple’s products. Microsoft is working hard to inject ads into everything from its Hotmail/Live services to Xbox games.

Microsoft also has a very different business model that involves putting its software on hardware from OEMs. Sony, Dell and others try to make additional money by injecting their own adware and junk software bloat from “partners.” Apple has no need to do this. The closest Macs come to junk software is bundling a Test Drive version of Office, which does not really bother users in the way “in your face” ads for Rhapsody, anti-virus software, and other bundled junk does.

So while Microsoft is making progress in Vista to catch up to the Mac, it’s also undermining its own efforts because it is romantically involved with malware. Call it a conflict of interest.

32 His Shadow { 04.02.08 at 9:48 pm }

“Berend Schotanus on 04.02.08 at 11:35 am

And I’m afraid you claim Apple to be a Full-Proof solution against all Evil of malware, which seams to me foolish and dangerous. Luckily it’s you, not Apple, making these claims.”

Never even once has Daniel said that Mac OS X is foolproof.

Burn your strawman somewhere else.

33 John E { 04.02.08 at 9:50 pm }

well, Dan leaves out some important and necessary qualifications in his thesis that Mac is the platform of the future.

#1: the biggest is that could only possibly become true in the US and first world internationally, where Mac is well-positioned. in the second world, there is much less Mac presence, and in the third world, virtually none. the second and third world run on Windows, like it or not (a lot is prirateware). and it is in the second and third world – the “developing nations” – where dramatic growth in PC use will continue to happen into the future. (we here in the US are, frankly, very conceited the way we talk about this kind of stuff, like it is only what happens here that matters.)

#2: it’s reasonable to assume that in, maybe, 5 years and, certainly, 10 years every cell phone and media player made will essentially be a mobile computer of some kind (along with your automobile’s radio/CD player). and that the variety of types and sizes of these mobile computers will grown in number. if Apple holds on to its majority share of the media player market in the first world, that sure would be a lot of Macs out there, yes. but Apple is never going to get more than a very limited chunk of the much bigger global cell phone market. plus the other phone operating systems will evolve by then into real computer-hood too, whether Windows, Linux, Symbian or whatever.

so Dan is correct that the era of Windows overall dominance of computing will recede thanks to the growth of mobile computing. but … Windows will still be ubiquitous – the most common platform, especially world-wide. People won’t even think of their mobile gizmos as computers. they’ll just use them like appliances, interfacing with any desktop platform they happen to have. that’s why the real Mac OS market-share revolution was iTunes, not OSX, because it works with them all.

Don’t get me wrong – Dan is right Apple deserves full credit for shattering the 1990′s MS fantasy of a world where everything would have to be all-Windows all the time. but world-wide, MS will remain the biggest player ($51 billion 2007 sales) by far in desktop computing for as far as we can see, just like Nokia ($54 billion 2007 sales) will remain the biggest cell phone/computer player. it will be interesting to see if Apple ($24 billion sales 2007) can hold on to its pre-eminence in the media player/computer market with cutting-edge products and grow enough overall to ever catch up with the other two.

34 weave { 04.02.08 at 10:45 pm }

Back in the late 80s a new virus hit Macs of the time called WDEF. It spread like wildfire. Conventional wisdom of the time was that you were safe from malware if you didn’t run any suspicious programs.

But WDEF changed all that. Each window on the early versions of Mac OS had optional code associated with it that would define how a window was drawn. The virus inserted itself in that resource and all it took to propogate it was an action like inserting an infected floppy into a non-infected computer, or inserting a clean floppy into an infected computer. No programs had to be executed.

My point of this is, this malware existed because of weaknesses in early Mac OSes of the time allowed it. Macs had less of a market share then than they do now. The entire Mac market was under million worldwide. So the theory that virus writers don’t target Macs because they don’t have enough market share to make it worthwhile is really bunk.

35 jfatz { 04.02.08 at 11:18 pm }

@John E

1) Keep in mind that in the third world there are many technology quirks, such as cell phone service being much more commonly available even in areas which have no land lines, and possibly even no piped water. It builds by what services are easiest to bring to areas with no other infrastructure; it won’t build in exactly the same way we would recognize. It would play a bit against type, but if Apple can pull off a compelling and useful and _cheap enough_ cellular/wireless device, they would have a good chance getting in where PC’s will not. (The OLPC-type projects are similarly aiming in that direction, and similarly don’t care about Windows.)

2) While the iPhone will be a small part of the overall cell market, there is no doubt a “iPhone mini” in the works as well, to try to hit the smaller and cheaper segment with their usual flair, style, and unique offerings.

I wouldn’t be TOO sure about others catching up so quickly, however… The main competition tend to be larger and less-nimble companies, and as Apple’s been proving with the iPod, they compete against themselves first and foremost, and push their own products faster than others can catch up, even riding their wake. They’re ultimately boosted by the iPod line itself morphing alongside with the Touch, and will no doubt be boosted well ahead when the software store goes live, all of which builds momentum–and as Apple has shown with iTunes, they know how to maintain that momentum while building new products, and linking them all together in a way people find compelling enough to “belong to the family” of products.

I might trust a company like Sansa–or even a relatively unheard of company that’s got a singular drive and vision–to deliver a phone that can be just as compelling in their own regard, but they won’t have the brand identity or the time to build one, they won’t have the same kind of software and distribution expertise, and they won’t be ahead to begin with…

And since Apple is usually the only brand we don’t hear from WELL in advance of launch, we’re pretty much already seeing the headstart with very little in the next year or two to slow Apple’s momentum at all.

…and if they DO come out with a $150-200 complementary device out of nowhere in the middle of all that? (Which I’m not entirely sold on, of course. It’s hard to see them not using the current iPhone design as the minimum spec, since they’re building a software platform on top of it… it’s doubly hard to see them building a major release that WOULDN’T then take advantage of that. But I suppose if they can still build a small and cheap one that offers the key capabilities people want and do them “better than well,” it might be worth it. If for no other reason than it’s more press, another way to keep the iPod mini-sized line revitalized, and eases the pressure on lowering the price constantly on the main iPhone itself.)

36 Rip Ragged { 04.03.08 at 1:10 am }

Only in the OS X/Windows discussion does black and white become so stark.

If someone says, “OS X is more secure than Windows,” the argument always comes back that, “OS X is not 100% secure.” Both statements are demonstrably true, however the latter does not contradict the former.

Observing facts and employing symbolic logic makes me a Kool-Aid® swilling fanboy. I can live with that.

37 beanie { 04.03.08 at 3:17 am }

I was taking a look at Market Share stats generated by Net Applications. Interesting iPhone traffic increased by only 25% to 0.15 from 0.12 in the first three months of 2008.

Also there is no surge in traffic in 2008 which would indicate a whole bunch of people activating their iPhones from Christmas. So maybe most iPhone users managed to activate their iPhones in Dec 2007. What does this say for AT&T announcing only about 2 million iPhones on their network by the end of 2007 while there were over 4 million sold?

iPod Touch traffic has been flat for the first three months of 2008 and is only one-third of iPhone traffic. I guess Touch users do not use Web much.

iPhone “traffic” Market Share measured by Net Applications
200803 0.15
200802 0.14
200801 0.13
200712 0.12
200711 0.09
200710 0.07
200709 0.07
200708 0.05
200707 0.04

iPod Touch “traffic” Market Share measured by Net Applications
200803 0.04
200802 0.04
200801 0.04
200712 0.02
200711 0.01
200710 0.01

Daniel Eran wrote:
“PC is Dying.”

I believe research firm IDG projects growth of 12% for 2008 and declining to high single digit growth by 2012. That is slow but exponential growth. If it continues beyond 2012, unit sales should double in 8-10 years.

NetApplications Vista traffic gains about a percentage point every month and is at about 14%. At that rate, Vista traffic should cross 50% in about three years. Vista adoption will probably will accelerate when XP support is dropped.

[The problem with the numbers you cite is that they are the percentage of all web traffic being recorded. The iPhone/iPod Touch is currently a few million units in a sea of a billion PCs. That's why the percentage of web hits is so low (0.15% for the iPhone). However, they've already taken a huge chunk of mobile devices, something like 71%. It's hard to gauge proportional traffic between PCs and mobiles because they are used for different things. Certain PC users would likely be covering more ground on the web from their 6 Mb cable Internet PC than an iPhone user on EDGE.

Your comments about Vista adoption (50% in three years!) don't seem to follow. Are you arguing that more PCs will be running Vista than there will be iPhone users in 2010? Because who would be you arguing that against? - Dan]

38 John Muir { 04.03.08 at 7:05 am }

@John E & beanie

The Windows desktop PC was a creature of the 1990′s. It flourished in business and then people’s homes as *the* way to get onto the internet and for a time the best place for gaming, largely thanks to John Sculley and Co.’s squandering Apple’s legacy in the 80′s. It was a golden era for Microsoft – suffocating all competition – which began to crumble badly with the advent of Google and the worldwide mobile phone boom.

Outside of the US – I’m in Britain myself – phones are taken far more seriously. Cellphones had higher market saturation here by 2000 than they still do in America today. Most were crappy feature phones – used only for talk and text – but they were in the hands of many people who had never considered a computer before, including the elderly and inner city working class kids.

In China and Africa and Latin America and for all I know essentially everywhere – and you’d better include Eastern Europe too – people run their lives and their businesses from mobile phones. Seriously, have a look around. America is still the odd one out where a URL is a more likely hook for a company in an ad than a phone number! Though in time I expect both things to merge. Mobile phones are absolutely *HUGE* in the rest of the world. Bigger than computers by at least an order of magnitude, bigger than cinema, bigger than TV, and even in much of Africa: bigger than running water!

Cell networks are easier to construct than mains power grids, or even roads…

The Windows PC has a presence in much of the world, but it is a thousand times more dilute than you think. For the vast majority of the global population, the information economy is only just getting underway, and it’s coming by phone.

Apple and Google have every chance.

39 Joel { 04.03.08 at 9:12 am }

Its not that the PC is dying, more that the PC (Personal Computer) is changing. In 10 years time everyone will have one. It just probably look more like the Apple Touch rather than a desktop…

40 John Muir { 04.03.08 at 9:42 am }

@ Joel

Indeed. I make sure to say it’s the Windows PC (or even more specifically the desktop) which is past its prime. Cubicle farms and large sitting room desks are not the natural habitat of all mankind. Ubiquity is going to take a little more versatility.

Microsoft really have to be on to this. If not, it’s their greatest mistake full stop.

41 Berend Schotanus { 04.03.08 at 10:29 am }

@ Daniel Eran:

Thanks for your extensive reply on my post.

“I have been presenting that Mac OS X (Macs + iPhone) are kept secured from malware because of superior engineering and regular updates that quickly closes any discovered holes.”

Great! Absolutely! The superior engineering for me is the reason I prefer Apple above Microsoft, you made me even more appreciate this. Even when previous “loves” for technology I hoped to be superior ended in disappointment but you can blame the suspicion caused by that completely on my side.

Regular updates, I believe, are a very good way to deal with malware and other challenges. Up until now Apple does the best job in updating software I ever experienced, no complaints about that.
What I would like to explore with you is a paradox behind the “regular updates” principle:
- You update because you want a flawless system and enjoy the comfort and carelessness of such a system.
- But the fact you update implies your pre-updated system did have flaws. When you plan returning updates it even implies your post-updated system has flaws.

So good update requires to be both confident and cautious, which might be a reason why it is such a difficult job to do. Be too much confident and you might loose the state of mind of cautiousness that is required to issue the right updates timely. I know many examples of great disasters that can ultimately be blamed to too much confidence in the first place.
I expect the malware market to remain very dynamic and wouldn’t be surprised when we will meet threats in a few years we cannot think of today (like we couldn’t immagine 9/11 when we were preparing for the millenium bug). Sure disciplined updating and continued alertness is a good solution. So I really hope Apple developers will be able to remain alert and withstand this all too human temptation of dreaming away in a feeling of invulnerability.

42 Joel { 04.03.08 at 11:22 am }

“(like we couldn’t immagine 9/11 when we were preparing for the millenium bug)”

The concept of terrorists flying an aircraft has been known to security forces since the mid-1990′s…

43 Shunnabunich { 04.03.08 at 1:23 pm }

@ Berend:

“- You update because you want a flawless system and enjoy the comfort and carelessness of such a system.
- But the fact you update implies your pre-updated system did have flaws. When you plan returning updates it even implies your post-updated system has flaws.”

I don’t know about you, but I update because I want a better system, not a mythical flawless one. I know it’s already better than Windows could hope to be, and each update makes it a little better on top of that. Perfection is not required, only the pursuit of it. :)

44 Berend Schotanus { 04.04.08 at 6:44 am }

@ Shunnabunich:

“Perfection is not required, only the pursuit of it.”
Good attitude. :-)

45 Ephilei { 04.04.08 at 1:24 pm }

Every time a switcher buys a Mac, an angel gets its wings.

46 IainW { 04.05.08 at 9:43 pm }

@John E

“#1: the biggest is that could only possibly become true in the US and first world internationally, where Mac is well-positioned. in the second world, there is much less Mac presence, and in the third world, virtually none. the second and third world run on Windows, like it or not (a lot is prirateware).”

Have you actually got anything to back this up? I’ve been to computer shops and department stores in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, India and China, and I must say, Windows is a long way from being in danger of the most popular OS. In one store in Thailand I couldn’t find a single Windows computer for sale among the 30 odd Linux running PC’s and a couple of entry level Mac’s.

Is it any wonder? To get another language onto a Windows machine, you have to install it all over again, and pick a new language. Sure you can install extensions from an existing English PC install, but its just not the same – all the icons and menus are still in English, but you can, maybe, type in Thai, Mandarin, Bahasa.

Switch to a Mac or a Linux box, and wonder of wonder, other languages are a part of the thinking of every part of the OS. In the Mac, changing from one language to another for input is a shortcut key and a cheap keyboard with the right symbols on it. Changing the complete language set is a quick trip back to the install CD. Very much the same for the overall language in use.

Yes, Windows does exist in Asia and other developing countries, but if it is a battleground as you suggest, the best tool will win. Obviously being able to read the screen is a big bonus, and Linux and Mac have that stitched up, Windows still thinks the world begins and ends with English.

You might think that a store will sell a cheap PC with Linux so that the new owner can go home and pirate Windows. Possibly, but I don’t think that happens much.

I think 2nd and 3rd world countries are experts at putting free items lying around to good and unique use and this is especially true in computers where the open standards nature of Linux or Mac have more appeal.

To go back to your statement, I have seen more Macs for sale in these types of countries as a portion of total system options than in department stores in Australia and the US, where often the only Apple product is an iPod. Kids in Singapore might be buying Windows to play games, but families in rural Thailand and China are buying 2nd hand Macbooks and Mini’s from Ebay.

47 Joel { 04.06.08 at 5:25 am }

“Have you actually got anything to back this up? I’ve been to computer shops and department stores in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, India and China, and I must say, Windows is a long way from being in danger of the most popular OS.”

I’ve never been to India or China, but my direct experience of the others is that I’ve never seen Linux in computer stores, and the only Macs I’ve seen where in high-end shopping malls. In Malaysia Windows Xp costs 10 Malaysian Ringits. Or about £ 1.50. Windows Vista is the same. Buying a Mac, in order to get OS X is significantly more, and costs around a months salary.

Ubuntu is slowliy making headway due to its easy-of-use, but its along way before being sold in stores…

48 Cooles Poster { 04.18.08 at 6:16 am }

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