I was thinking about a conversation I had with Sud a while back about his Asus tablet. He mentioned that one drawback was that Android apps aren't as stable, on average, as Apple apps are because of the variety of hardware they have to run on. There's nothing new about this issue. In fact, it's been a central point of contention between Mac and PC users almost from the beginning. However, this morning was the first time I connected these different business models to our tight/loose distinction.
Apple has almost always retained tight control between its operating system and its hardware. It had a very brief run in the 90s where it licensed its software to run on non-Apple made computers but it quickly reverted back to its standard model. For years, this was a major bone of contention with investors and was often cited as a reason Apple never commanded much of a market share. Yes, Apple computers were rock solid stable, at least compared to their PC counterparts. Moreover, they had far more intuitive and aesthetically pleasing user interfaces. However, the draconian control Apple exercised over its operating system left no room for outside innovation and it left its users with precious few choices. A Mac computer would only work with an official Mac keyboard, mouse, monitor, etc.
Windows, on the other hand, went a completely different route. They didn't bother with hardware at all, investing instead in an operating system and software that could run on as many different platforms as possible. The operating system was butt ugly, far less intuitive to use and buggy as hell. However, it was much cheaper to buy a PC and put up with those quirks than it was to buy an equivalent Mac. Moreover, PCs gave users far more options for buying peripheral equipment. Windows may not have been as innovative as Apple, nor as reliable, but Windows nevertheless commanded the lion's share of the PC market and threatened to bury Apple on more than one occasion.
Today, though, things are considerably different. Windows still has a larger market share, but Apple has carved out a much bigger piece of that pie for itself. The turnaround point seemed to come from Apple's entry into digital music and, later, into the phone business. In fact, Apple trounced Windows in the MP3 player market. From our perspective, it might be interesting to study why these niches provided an advantage for a tight organization like Apple as opposed to a loose organization like Windows. At the same time, it might be useful for our theoretical work to explore how these forms of tightness and looseness compare to those we've been studying with religious groups. I have a gnawing sense that there are important differences, but at the moment I can't unpack what these might be. If they are equivalent, though, then it provides one of the few examples we've come across so far in which looseness has a significant competitive advantage over tightness. This might help us shore up that part of our model.