We are clearly in the web age an era that has turned everyone into readers and publishers of free content. In this era we have seen the rise of open source, free software and the move to software and services freely available in the cloud.
Yet in the "free age", Apple maintain a huge client base locked into its proprietary and closed hardware, operating systems and stores. When Steve Jobs returned to Apple, even the great Bill Gates proclaimed that the world had changed, and that Apple would not survive with Steve Jobs maintaining the company's control over platforms from end to end.
Despite this Apple is a huge success. Is it likely to last?
As a techie, I’d hope not, because we do want to be able to upgrade our hardware, we want the option to use any suppliers' parts and we want the same to be true of our software. Do we care what the hardware looks like as long as it’s fast and powerful, not really.
However as a consumer, too much choice is not necessarily a good thing. As a consumer, we are in a world where things get replaced rather than fixed or upgraded. For the majority style is every bit if not more important than features, and customer experience does matter.
How quickly and easily I can use my device has become more important than whether it has all the latest and best features. Going back to one store is easier than have to search several for apps and music.
Apple started with some engineering innovation, and when Steve Jobs was first ousted focused heavily on engineering; this was its downfall in the late eighties. However with the return of Steve Jobs, and his partnership with Jonathon Ives, a return to a focus on customer experience and design revived the ailing technology company.
So although it pains me to see Apple thrive in such a closed environment they really do highlight that style, ease of use and the overall customer experience really does matter to consumers. Hence I would not forecast the end of Apple for some time in the near future unless it loses its way again to "engineering".