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Summary:

A Google employee expressed his distaste for the way Apple does business in no uncertain terms in a recent blog post. Tim Bray, a co-inventor of XML and a well-known blogger in his own right, is also a Google employee on the Android team, having recently […]

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A Google employee expressed his distaste for the way Apple does business in no uncertain terms in a recent blog post. Tim Bray, a co-inventor of XML and a well-known blogger in his own right, is also a Google employee on the Android team, having recently joined following his time at Sun Microsystems.

The blog post at issue, which appeared on his personal blog, details his reasons behind joining Google, which include a passion for the rapid pace of development on the platform and the fact that it’s an open source system. Another reason is that he “hates” the iPhone. Or at least the context in which the iPhone operates.

Bray doesn’t shy away from sharing his opinion of what Apple’s done wrong with the iPhone, in no uncertain terms:

The iPhone vision of the mobile Internet’s future omits controversy, sex, and freedom, but includes strict limits on who can know what and who can say what. It’s a sterile Disney-fied walled garden surrounded by sharp-toothed lawyers. The people who create the apps serve at the landlord’s pleasure and fear his anger.

I hate it.

I hate it even though the iPhone hardware and software are great, because freedom’s not just another word for anything, nor is it an optional ingredient.

The big thing about the Web isn’t the technology, it’s that it’s the first-ever platform without a vendor (credit for first pointing this out goes to Dave Winer). From that follows almost everything that matters, and it matters a lot now, to a huge number of people. It’s the only kind of platform I want to help build.

Apple apparently thinks you can have the benefits of the Internet while at the same time controlling what programs can be run and what parts of the stack can be accessed and what developers can say to each other.

I think they’re wrong and see this job as a chance to help prove it.

Even though I wasn’t sad to see Apple nix a whole host of “sexy” apps recently, I can’t help but agree with where Tim Bray is coming from. Apple is effectively packaging and selling back to us a polished and pristine version of what we used to have only free and unfettered access to. Giving them too much control might start to inhibit our ability to continue to have that free access.

I’m not sure handing the reins to Google won’t have the exact same effect in the long run, but that isn’t what will happen if some people side with them in this developing conflict. Luckily, unlike in professional sports, there doesn’t have to be a winner in clashes between mobile device makers. A healthy balance should keep the power of both in check.

  1. True. Even though I am an iphone fan, I kind of find it annoying at times.

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  2. I like what Apple are doing to ensure that the iPhone works and it retains its quality, especially with so many third party apps. I had a Windows Mobile Phone many years ago and as soon as I put third party apps on, it kept resetting and wiping out all my data.

    I however, like open systems so long as the quality remains. By controlling the quality of the iPhone, Apple essentially reduces its customer support for the iPhone, not sure if Google even has any customer support.

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  3. Andrei Dragan Monday, March 15, 2010

    I think it is good that Apple contols the content of the software that runs on the iPhone. They offer an experience and it has been proven that the Apple experience is a good one, even if they do it in a controversed way. Think of the software that goes on the iPhone as additional functionality – Apple hardware was always “limited” to the options they wanted (I mean available hardware, available connection ports, etc). One could argue that it is not fair that they don’t offer the possibilty to make your own Mac. But where would we be now, today? I think we can all agree that if some bright minds control the experience they sell, it is a success. The PC jungle is not that pleasing, nor the open source, free Linux world. Apple is an experience, not just hardware. At least, that’s why I buy their stuff, thinking that what they approved is working ok and does not have indecent content. It’s because for the most us the users it’s more important to have the guarantee of quality the the guarantee for the freedom of the developers. It isn’t fair, but it’s better for the majority.

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  4. Apple does get a little too strict on the content control front at times, which can be concerning. But I think they have shown that in some part managing the apps makes the hardware just run better which is what users want to a great degree. In this case giving away some freedom on the app front to gain reliability on the phone front is worth it, especially since Apple does not put a limit on what can be done using Safari. That is the point that Bray is missing. As far as the iPhone is concerned the Web still is a platform without a vendor and Safari provides access to that platform. The apps provide additional functionality due to the capabilities of the hardware and I think that the primary motivation for Apple to control the App Store is to maintain a high level of functionality. In the end you get both the freedom of the Web and the reliability of the hardware. Sounds good to me.

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  5. Well said, Andrei.

    Besides, Apple’s not limiting your freedom – Go buy another phone.

    BTW what CAN’T people do with Apps, that they want to, except the sex-related stuff you posted about a while back?

    Is there any reason why Apple should NOT limit what “works” on their retail product?

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  6. i don’t see it quite like it’s painted. it’s not like apple is stopping mobile safari from visiting any site you choose. google is pushing an OS that is *only* a browser, and I see that as far more limiting. ipad/iphone do that, plus other apps.

    consumers aren’t heavily impacted by apple’s level of control over the app store. developers might be, but that’s apparently not stopping them. one might argue that the level of control apple has is precisely the reason the public will adopt it on a large scale. it’s safer/easier.

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  7. Perhaps Apple’s just worried about being sued by every parent looking for a lottery win. “Apple allowed my little Johnny to see porn!”. If it’s just on the web, it’s not Apple’s domain. But as a native app… perhaps.

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  8. I really don’t get this argument at all. Tim Bray is arguing two completely different, separate, things.

    There is the App Store.

    And there is the web.

    There have always been vendors for applications – software – that isn’t new. There have always been software publishers (which is what the App Store is). There have certainly been vendors who have provided locked down / walled gardens, either through applications, or even on the web. Such as AOL.

    Then there is the web.

    Apple are pushing web standards. Full, open, non-proprietary web standards. The iPhone – and iPod touch, and iPad, and Mac – are all fully compliant with web standards, they push these over proprietary web technology – Flash – and Apple do not block any websites or web content on their devices. And, in addition to that, they launched Web Kit, which is used as the core of Chrome and WebOS, for example. Hardly a closed, walled garden.

    He is completely wrong. Apple are NOT censoring the web at all.

    So, what is he on about, exactly?

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  9. I think what Apple is doing is a very good thing, and I’m really glad to see it. Apple has long had a special place in schools, in educational settings, and in families. They are presenting a product in the iPhone that can be safely used and enjoyed by many kids as well as adult.

    It seems to me that Tim Bray is thinking only of his own perspective as an adult. He wants to be completely free to use an iPhone for anything he chooses. I can see why he’d feel that way, but I think Apple is acting less like a merely self-centered individual but more like a responsible adult who needs to consider the needs and values of families and children as well.

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    1. well said.

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  10. It seems as though developers want one thing (total freedom) and the public wants another (reasonably reliable apps that aren’t too nasty). Sorry developers, you’re outnumbered.

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