Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 22 seconds

How Apple changed the landscape forever

It started many years ago with Apple’s foray into the world of digital devices and entertainment. I remember with much fun my Sony Walkman – this cassette (another artifact from the years of yore) player that was considered handy at that time and the one option for mobile music, probably the only option at the time. It had a radio function that was not much use, but being able to listen to and share music while walking to the store or jogging was fun.

Then along came Apple. I read a while back about the journey by Steve Jobs into Japan and how that one trip birthed the introduction of the Apple iPod. Not much further behind was the iPhone, the many iterations or generations of which has become the mainstay of the Apple Corporation since 9 January 2007, when Steve Jobs held up the new iPhone in front of the Apple faithful in the Moscone Centre, San Francisco and thereby launched the app economy.

One of the commercial and legal hallmarks of the Apple devices are the fact that they have become de-facto standards for upsetting the market. Consider the fact that one has no control over the software on these devices – you simply take it as delivered, and ‘jailbreaking’ (the term that fits more with Alcatraz than iOS) meant you could invalidate whatever warranties were in effect on the device. More interestingly, one accepts the fact that the batteries are non-removable; software releases are structured and frequent – each one introducing not just security and performance fixes but new features as well. These measures firstly introduced by Apple – to the chagrin of many and the delight of many others (the majority of Apple customers love the devices because they simply work, and they work simply!) – gave them leverage and a head start in the mobile devices market. Oh, and ingenuity as well.

Over the past 5 years, we have seen the entry of Oracle’s Engineered Systems into the Data Center, and are they rolling out like iPhones! Maybe not exactly in the same numbers, but the promise of systems that work simply and simply work is a compelling case to any CIO. The members of the Engineered System range of products (Exadata, Exalogic, SuperCluster, Database Appliance, and many more) come pre-installed and pre-configured with all the necessary checks completed by Oracle engineers. This reduces quite considerably the deployment times between order and commissioning, but more importantly this delivers measured assurance to the CIO that the systems work as promised. This in consideration that much of the deployment time and cost comes from different teams working to deliver services rather than simply a solution.

What is more interesting though, is the ecosystem of developers and services that Apple has built around the iPod and iPhone. iTunes continues to be the preferred platform for music producers having successfully dented the music piracy business with digital rights protection and easy distribution. And the disruption of what we’d always thought was normal by apps could never have been more impactful.  In 2016, the App Store offered 631,091 gaming apps. In contrast, as of that period of time the store had 1.9 million non-gaming apps available. As of June 2016, 130 billion apps had been downloaded from Apple App Store.

Apps are now mainstream, talked about by everybody, all the time. They have become the de-facto means of communicating (WhatsApp), conducting business (Uber) and human behaviour are created almost daily, built on the software and services that comprise the app economy. And with each one that’s created, Apple makes a cut! Caching!!!

While this signified payday for creatives – musicians and producers and app developers and their ilk, it signified death for PC pushers and desktop salespersons. It was black Sunday for music pirates and the undertakers’ call for brick and mortar music and video rental stores. Desktop applications have also found their way to the smartphone via an app, and many that have failed to make the transition have been lost to the morgues of lack of innovation. The computing that people used to do at their desks is now increasingly done on devices they can carry anywhere. This shift has also seen the creation of new industries and service models, and with it the making of the Unicorns such as Uber and many other just as successful businesses. I would love to detail other impacts of the app economy on mainstream businesses they have replaced, but that would absorb too many pages, and this would no longer be mumbling.

So a few years back, we saw Oracle moving in the same direction with the Engineered systems, but what was not so telling was how the follow-on industries such as the iTunes and App stores would be played out by Oracle. That would appear in 2016 to be the Oracle Cloud. With Cloud delivery for everything from databases, platforms, software, identity services and even managed services, it’s a whole new day! Gone be the many days between ordering hardware and clearing customs, installing power, cooling, fire control and all of that. Gone be the weeks and/or months implementing software solutions from installation to testing. Gone be the many bouts negotiating licensing models that force upfront costs for value that will only be required or realised in months or years, and the ever so annoying annual support costs. The benefits of the Oracle Cloud or the cloud business model go without saying. What is to be understood is what opportunities will follow on from this new ecosystem.

This will be the death of many a system integrator or managed services business as we know it, as much of these services find their way into the Oracle Corporation’s balance sheets. More and more, we see the company taking on design, implementation and support services. And the mergers in the space of the SIs are all so telling.

That said, the opportunities are there to be created for the next new businesses. What is needful is the will to disrupt, the desire to create, the introspection to identify new gaps to fill, as one disruption leads to and creates another. The certain thing is that the business models, skills and competencies of the past 20 years are being turned on their head for relevance and the capacity to produce. Of that ash must evolve new business models, new skills and competencies…..and new rewards.