Oct. 22 (Bloomberg) -- I could not watch the latest Apple product launch on my Google Nexus 7: Apple software was required to watch the streaming video. Therein lies a clue to the challenges Apple faces.
I have been using Apple products since 1994. My first one was a Mac Classic, a yellow-grey clunker with a smaller screen than an iPad's. I own a MacBook Air and an iMac, and I am acutely allergic to Windows. I've bought every model of the iPhone before it was officially available in my country -- until the last one.
So how did I end up trying to watch Apple's presentation of the new iPads on an Android device? That is the question Apple should have been asking itself, and didn't.
I finally picked up the presentation on my iPhone – that's iPhone 5, without a suffix, the previous model. (Apple should be asking itself why I still own that one, but doesn't). I wanted to get excited about the new, thinner, lighter iPad Air. It has 43 percent less bezel! It weighs only one pound instead of 1.4 pounds! It's only 7.5 millimeters thick! And the iPad mini is now just as slim, and it finally comes with a Retina display!
But what's the use of kidding myself? I was not excited.
I use a tablet to read books, use social networks and watch an occasional video. I don't need a 10-inch screen for that, so Apple could have sold me the mini version. Instead, Google sold me the Nexus. It's been around since last summer. It is 8.65 millimeters thick and it fits snugly in my hand -- no, I don't care about the extra millimeter, sorry, Apple. The Nexus is actually lighter than the new iPad mini: 0.64 pounds compared to 0.73 pounds. It has plenty of battery life -- I don't even have to charge it every day. Since, like many others, I use the Google ecosystem more heavily than I do the Apple one, the Nexus is actually better integrated into my everyday life. All that at about 60 percent of the price of an iPad.
I did not buy the iPhone 5c or 5s for much the same reasons I will not buy the new iPad. After my still perfectly usable iPhone 5 gives out, I will probably replace it with an Android device for about half the money it would cost me to get the next Apple product. The experience gap between the two systems has closed, and Android has actually overtaken iOS in an area where Apple once seemed unbeatable: design. Apple's mobile operating system now looks and feels like an Android imitation.
Mobile devices are becoming commoditized. A millimeter or ten grams here or there -- this is about one-upmanship, not about customer satisfaction anymore. The competing ecosystems provide the same level of service and convenience. Display resolutions are enough to read all day without risking your eyesight. And processor speeds differ negligibly for 99 percent of everyday tasks.
Apple revolutionized the mobile experience, but competitors have caught up. It is time Apple realized that and either leaped ahead again or stopped holding pompous launch events as if it were still years ahead of the pack. In any case, I will probably not be watching the next event. It won't be available on my Android.
(Leonid Bershidsky, an editor and novelist, is a Bloomberg View contributor. Follow him on Twitter.)