Jaime Rivera wrote an editorial entitled Why 2011 Is Not Another 1984 that's well worth the read. In it he talks about Motorola's "Empower the People" video that ran in last night's Superbowl. Motorola's commercial takes the same standpoint as Apple's infamous 1984 Superbowl commercial: one corporation has "enslaved" the populous with one platform, one OS, (until recently) one carrier, lead by one corporate identity. (If you missed either commercial, Jaime has both of them embedded in his article.)
While I respect Jaime above most other people in the tech industry, I have a different opinion -- though I respect his. Jaime sees Motorola's new tablet running Android Honeycomb as a less than revolutionary product. On this point, I agree, it's more evolutionary than revolutionary. Looking deeper, however, is where our opinions diverge.
Apple revolutionized the music player industry with their iPod line (and continues to do so even now). Apple revolutionized the smartphone industry with the iPhone. Apple has all but single-handedly created the "slate" industry with their iPad.
However, the same could be said of IBM in the early days. Before long, it was IBM at the top, all alone. Things began to stagnate, creativity was an afterthought. Apple saw an opportunity -- and they jumped on it.
Fast-forward to today. Apple's mobile offerings are running one OS, they essentially have two form-factors, app purchases MUST go through their store (over which they have supreme power to censor), and until Verizon's recent announcement, there was only one carrier to choose from. That sounds very much like what Apple was trying to "liberate" us from back in 1984.
That's what their competitors think, too. Google is pushing Android to the masses, with several (dozens?) of OEMs making hardware based on their OS. Microsoft dumped their tried-and-true mobile platform to reinvent it, and now have a very worthy first-generation product -- with many OEMs creating hardware based around the OS.
Both Android and Windows Phone offer seemingly endless options in both form-factor and carrier -- what some call "fragmentation". Android's app Market is much more open than either Microsoft's or Apples, and Android even allows you to side-load apps without going through the Market at all.
Is the Motorola Xoom a game-changer like Apple was back in 1984? Probably not. Has Apple become the very thing they sought to free us from decades ago? I, for one, think they have -- and Android is leading the march to liberty -- with Windows Phone close behind.
With all due respect to Jaime and all our iOS fans, it's not about user-interface. It's not about ubiquity of hardware. The game has changed.
It's about freedom to choose your OS, freedom to choose your hardware, freedom to choose your carrier, and freedom to install whatever you want on your device.
It's about freedom -- just like it was in 1984.