Google And Microsoft Join Apple, Go DIY

Taking a cue from Apple, Microsoft and Google are moving to take the reins of their respective ecosystems and increasingly are ramping up production of hardware developed in-house.

What do the Google Chromebook Pixel, Microsoft Surface Pro and Surface RT all have in common? Besides pissing off Samsung?

All three devices are homegrown. Whereas in the past, companies like Google and Microsoft were more likely to contract a manufacturer like Lenovo or Asus to build their hardware, today's marketplace is forcing many companies to exert tighter control over their user experience.

Ever wonder how come each flavor of iOS looks the same regardless of which device you're running it on? It's because no matter what, the device you're running is designed from the ground up by Apple, which does not license iOS to anybody.

Computer scientist Alan Kay famously said, "People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware." Apple has been proving the truth of that statement ever since the first Apple computer rolled out in 1976.

So what of the rest of the market?

Most manufacturers were opposed to the in-house hardware model, primarily because they'd settled into the third-party vendor model. Under the old system, companies like Microsoft and Google didn't need to worry about hardware. They simply designed the software and licensed it.

Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer said in 2012, following the launch of the Surface tablet that "it is absolutely clear that there is an innovation opportunity on the scene between hardware and software and that is a scene that must not go unexploited at all by Microsoft."

Apple has been exploiting that synergy for decades. From the original Apple computer to the upcoming iPhone 5S and iPhone 6, the company has produced dozens of devices running on software and hardware developed entirely by in-house technicians.

Even Google, a relatively innovative firm, was late to the DIY scene and suffered a few missteps along the way. We all remember the gorgeous yet utterly useless Nexus Q.

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