Apple always claimed its computers were better than PCs.  Yet, PCs became ubiquitous and Apple’s share of the computer market is small.

Q: Why did the supposedly inferior product win out?

A:  Network effects. PCs became cheap, Microsoft let developers loose on its operating system and so there are more useful applications available for the PC than Apple.  Steve Jobs did not want to let developers have control over his product and his product withered away as a result.

Apple has learned its lesson this time around with the iPhone.  Apps take the phone to a different level.  I can’t survive without my G-Park app that tells me where I parked my car in the vast array of Northwestern  carparks.  I let my kids play JellyCar to distract them when we’re on a long trip.  As Slate puts it, the irony is that the network effects that killed the Apple computer make the iPhone impregnable:

For years, Apple fans claimed that the company made the best PCs in the world, hands down. Nevertheless, it was hard to argue with the fact that Windows PCs simply ran more programs. Now Apple is in the position once occupied by Microsoft. Over the next few years, Palm, Research in Motion, Nokia, Sony, and others are sure to create some transcendent mobile devices. But the hardware hardly matters anymore. How is anyone going to compete with all these amazing apps?