Integration determines the difference between good and great. If you pick up a physical product, you can detect if it is high quality or a cheap item that risks falling apart. The quality of the materials can be felt and touched with the hand, the joints and connectors can be quickly tested, the flex, the rigidity and the balance of the product lets you know very easily if the producer thought through the use of their device from start to finish or if design was sacrificed to save time.
The quality of software is often harder to judge, mostly because people are not as familiar with what differentiates software. The average consumer or business executive still thinks of software as a list of features on a piece of a paper. We think that if a software can do x, y and z, it meets our requirements. Imagine purchasing a car without test driving it first or comparing a Porsche to a beaten up 1984 Toyota Corolla based on the fact both can go from A to B. In fact, integration and design are just as important as in a physical product.
The environmental, health and safety (EHS) compliance field began in a paper and document centric world and is slowly moving towards a digital, information based environment. At Nimonik, we come at the EHS world from the point of view of technologists. After five years of working in the field, we understand how the intersection of technology and content will apply to the environmental, health and safety compliance sector.
The battle in the computer industry
DELL computer revolutionized the personal computer industry in the 1990s by selling directly to the consumers. They also innovated by using parts from a variety of suppliers and letting customers customize their computer. You could pick a video card from one company, a hard drive from another. Though this customization allowed for choice and flexibility, it sacrificed quality. Ultimately the lower quality was unable to compete with the superior products offered by integrated companies. Dell became the Wal-Mart of the computer industry.
At the other extreme, Apple has always believed in an extremely integrated product. They tightly control everything from the hardware to the software to the retail experience to the customer support. No matter where you go, you know what you are getting, and it is high quality. Their vertical integration has proven to be a commercial success, with high growth and large profit margins. Their devotion to fully integrated and well designed products allowed them to more fully satisfy their customers.
Microsoft has traditionally offered software that runs on other companies hardware. This model helped them beat Apple in the 1980s and 1990s. For a variety of reasons, selling software separate from computers proved successful. Partially, this was due to the flexibility of computers – with a mouse and keyboard, you have many inputs to control and manipulate a computer. With the advent of touch based devices, the potential inputs dramatically decreased. You now only have your fingers. As the potential inputs into the system decreased, the design and integration of the product required much more thought. Microsoft has come to realize this and now offers both hardware and software for its line of mobile phones and tablet based devices. Similar challenges of integration or