With Apple's launch of the iPhone 5 and myriad new device announcements from Amazon, HTC, Motorola, Nokia, and Samsung, we pointed out that these devices are just one element of a broader ecosystem battle. Apple's product announcements at its San Jose, California, event this morning evince the company's continued ability to exert a superior gravitational pull on its customers and partners than its competitors. Here's why:

  • Customers get more choice in design and use model. Since Apple's 2010 introduction of the iPad, its competitors' tablet products have only clicked with customers in a separate category: smaller, handheld tablets directly targeted to content consumption — like Amazon's Kindle Fire and Google’s Nexus 7. The new iPad mini’s design suits this use model but is also complementary to the larger iPad line because of its portability — perfectly suited to a range of enterprise applications like field service, where a larger tablet is cumbersome. We expect that many iPad owners, both enterprise and consumer, will add an iPad mini to their portfolio, as will iPhone owners — the new shared data plans from AT&T and Verizon Wireless help simplify the decision to include LTE in their iPad mini.
  • A new form factor enters the ecosystem without requiring any adaptation. Because the iPad mini display features the same specs as the iPad 2, neither customers nor developers need worry about compatibility or adaptation. All the apps and sites just work. The new device slots into the app and content ecosystem seamlessly — and into the support system that CIOs have put in place for enterprise tablets.
  • Customers' and partners' ecosystem investments pay increased dividends. Every player in the Apple ecosystem benefits from these latest expansions. App developers and content partners will have an expanded range of customers to target, at no additional development cost. Third-party cloud service providers like SugarSync will see their core value proposition reinforced as customers have yet another device and set of venues to integrate. Content providers get an expanded market for consumption. And customers get a lower-cost entry point to the tabletenvironment and suite of unique applications.
All of which frames the question in advance of Microsoft's launch of Windows 8 in its various forms later this week: Can the broad Windows and Xbox ecosystem prove to its constituents that their financial, informational, experiential, and social investments will pay higher dividends than those placed in Amazon's, Apple's, or Google's? Given Microsoft's laggard position in a world rapidly shifting to mobile-first, it's increasingly hard to answer that question in the affirmative.