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Apple Is Losing Control — and That's a Good Thing

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By now, everyone has an opinion on the walled gardens Apple has erected around the iPhone, the iPad and the apps that run on them. The company is simply curating its platform, or it’s micromanaging developers to death. It’s nourishing the most successful computing platform of all time, or it’s suffocating innovation. It’s advancing the computer, or pushing it backwards. So divisive is the debate that it sometimes feels like the culture wars have come to Silicon Valley.

Whether you think Apple’s efforts to control the iPhone OS environment are helping or hurting, its ability to do so will eventually break down. Control never lasts forever — especially on the web, where entropy seems to be a guiding principle. The question is when Apple’s control will start to break down. I think it already has.

But while my reasoning is partly tied to the broader debate about open vs. closed systems, it has much more to do with a development that’s taken place over the past few months, one that even most technophobic Apple customer can grasp immediately: Apple isn’t just refereeing technical violations like private APIs; it’s refereeing morality.

It started when Apple pulled 5,000 apps from the App Store because of sexual content — though an arbiter of porn, even one with the best of intentions, will always end up with all sides angry with them. Apple’s shifting stance on political satire ignited another brush fire. It banned, then allowed Mark Fiore’s iPhone app; now, any aggrieved yahoo with a rejected app can fashion himself as a First Amendment martyr.

I’m willing to accept that Apple is trying doing the right thing for its customers. In one sense, Apple is like Walmart, or any retailer that excludes magazines and books with content it deems too sexual or politically controversial. But Apple is more than just a retailer — it’s the provider of a platform, and a wildly successful one. Apple can control its platform on a small scale, but as success expands that platform domain, the company’s control inevitably breaks down as it starts to create more problems than it solves.

The problems affect developers, content partners and consumers. To avoid having to explain its capricious approval system, Apple has retreated into an opaque cloud of inscrutability, making telepathy a vital skill for successful developers. As publishers large and small bring their content to the iPad, Apple’s murky morality may give them pause — or worse, lead to self-censorship. And curating controversial content in a way that leaves all parties unhappy is hardly a savvy way to market a hot new product to consumers.

Apple has often demonstrated an ability to be flexible. In January, it eased some controls on the app approval process in an effort to speed it up. It recently allowed Opera Mini into the App Store, an exception to its rule that third-party apps not compete with its native offerings. And iPhone OS 4 will finally concede to longstanding calls for the iPhone to multitask third-party apps.

So the company is likely to reassess its control-freak tendencies as well. It has three choices: One, hold to the status quo; two, curate its platform, but add a set of clear guidelines as to what’s allowed and what isn’t, or maybe a curtained-off section for controversial apps; or three, adopt an open environment where apps are rejected only on technical considerations. The first will only add to confusion. The second might work if the guidelines are explicit enough. The third is the simplest, but involves giving up a lot of control.

My guess is Apple will go for option No. 3. Not right away, but in increments. In the early days of the web, ISPs faced a similar choice and decided not to control what customers could read. Apple will always favor a closed architecture that lets it offer a web experience on its terms. But in time, even its curated experience will look more more like the messy reality we see on the web today.

Related GigaOM Pro Content:

Image courtesy of Flickr user herwings.

69 Responses to “Apple Is Losing Control — and That's a Good Thing”

  1. Jason

    “Control never lasts forever — especially on the web”

    You seem to have completely misunderstood.

    Apple has chosen not to implement one lousy (CLOSED and CONTROLLED) plugin.

    The Web is still open.

  2. amigosito

    Everyone hates the Soup Nazi, but they keep coming back because the soup is soooooo good.

    I hereby challenge the assumption that vertical integration = meglomania. If it did, then one could rightfully criticize American Apparel for not allowing an “open ecosystem” across the supply chain.

    If you were in a Italian sportscar and Michael Schumacher was driving, would you back-seat drive? No. So sit back and enjoy the ride!

  3. This is too easy. If you want an open environment, develop a web app. If you want in the app store, play by Apple’s rules. Seriously, it’s that easy.

  4. Wait. You really think Apple will choose door #3 and only reject apps based on technical considerations? Thus, in effect, becoming the world wide web and exposing my children, like it or not, to content that I don’t want? And, yes, there are millions and millions like me with millions and millions of children.

    You have this backwards. If Apple does NOT oversee what’s in and what’s out, then their platform becomes an expensive version of Android. I am not seeing the logic in this one.

    Why, exactly, do you think people pay the premium for Apple?

    Oh, and by the way. If you’re a commenter who’s just gonna retort with the tired BUT IT’S THE PARENT’S RESPONSIBILITY yada yada yada, save our time. Heard it. It’s always been a specious argument. And yes, my dollars are at least the equal of yours.

  5. Chris K

    Apple is providing a service to consumers. IT’s making it easier for them to shop for apps and it is weeding out some of the riff raff.

    Consumers benefit from this ease of use and plug and play nature of the store and the experience.

    If consumers deem Apple the gatekeeper as too heavy handed they will go elsewhere if possible.

    Apple knows this.

    Just like Walmart knows if they stop stocking their shelves with products consumers want the consumers will go elsewhere.

    Everyone commenting on this article experiences a gatekeeper in every store they shop in everyday.

    • aep528

      “Everyone commenting on this article experiences a gatekeeper in every store they shop in everyday.”

      As I posted above this is a BS analogy. Retail stores have competitors. The Apple app store does not. Please stop trying to compare the two.

      • myonlinelifenow

        “Everyone commenting on this article experiences a gatekeeper in every store they shop in everyday.” Is actually a good analogy.

        You can’t force Starbucks to carry Tim Horton’s coffee (Canadian sorry)

        Same with Ford. I can’t ask them to carry BMW cars, can I?

        I’ve got a PS3, I can’t get XBOX 360 to work on it.

        The choice that people have is that if they don’t want to buy apps through the App Store then they should buy another phone. You can’t force a company to carry things they don’t want to.

        Oh and Walmart carries its own private brands…I can’t force Walmart to allow Target to carry George. Think of everything you can purchase at Walmart equals the iPhones Safari Browser and it’s private brand as it’s App Store.

  6. Silly article grounded in the culture wars referenced. Push comes to shove, the ultimate arbiter remains a marketplace which continues to vote overwhelmingly for Apple’s continued management style.

  7. globalrm

    In 1984, when they announced the Macintosh computer, they had a great commercial – after the 1984 book by Orwell.

    They were mocking the “big brother” control – a la IBM.

    Voila, now it’s Apple turn to be the “Big Brother”.

    Good luck and hopefully the history will not repeat itself.

    All the best,

  8. Steve W

    Anal-ists are putting so much spin on this debate that most readers are too dizzy to understand Apple’s position. For example, most articles counter Steve Jobs’ statement that mobile Safari provides the “full web experience” with the argument that Safari doesn’t include the Flash plug-in.

    What Jobs means by “the full web experience” is porn and everything else that Apple might reject from the App store. In other words, mobile Safari = option 3.

    Apple collects 30% of the revenue generated by the App store, so don’t count on the App store selling anything that might embarrass Apple or its stockholders. It may be an unwritten policy, but it should be clear and obvious. Smart as Steve and Apple may be, they can’t be expected to provide an itemized list of objectionable material. So expect option 1 to rule the App store.

    To summarize, there are two types of curation going on: technical, and content.

    Apple provides Safari for the “full web experience”.

    Content is curated in the App store because of the 30%. End of story.

  9. Apple has already lost control because it has alienated most of the journalism and publishing industry in New York by imposing the naive judgements of Appreview novices trying to walk a fine line between AT&T demands to reduce bandwidth use and Apple’s own confusions. Forget Hype-Pad! Those with serious and proven content can publish apps independently that are FREE UNVERSAL and also work great on iPhone and iPad. We were inside the walled garden and prefer fresh air to ideological native tech functionality suffocation. We withdrew 19 Apps downloaded 21,750 times in 90 countries to do our own Indie thing. See THE APP on javari for all devices, including laptop and desktop, and all smart phones. So far 9 Books+24 Films+360Photos THE APP on javari also looks and works great on iPhone iPod touch iPad. We are up to 24,750 downloads. Tear down the wall!
    New York NY

  10. I couldn’t disagree more.

    Apple and Steve Jobs has been pursuing a strategy of the “walled garden” for some time now with great success. Technological increasingly provides the means to maintain those walls though occasionally also provides the means to exploit cracks trough unlocks and jailbreaks. The strategy has proven so successful that Microsoft is adopted it in their next-gen mobile OS. My feeling is that Apple will change only if it breeds a successfully imitator, for instance if Microsoft takes significant market share away from Apple with WP7 (unlikely.)

    This topic like “fragmentation” has the feel of a slow news day…

  11. Gary MacDougall

    When the financial collapse occurred, we all realized “not enough control” was the problem and now the gov. is trying to solve that by putting teeth to Wall Street.

    The same holds true with businesses like Apple. If they don’t show some level of control over of the offerings of service and their products to their customers, they will effectively lose control.

    You can argue about morals or the ethical dilemma of blocking app’s from the store. But here’s the funny thing about all this.

    The only thing that this effects is the developer, not the consumer or customer. In fact, they could give a rats ass about the developer and just want the app’s and content. So if you take a step back and really think about this, its really pretty simple. Create app’s that follow the rules, create app’s that are novel and unique.

    If the market didn’t want Apple, people wouldn’t buy their products and they wouldn’t be successful. Somewhere along the line GigaOM is forgetting that this is more about darwinism than it is about ethics and morals… If Apple effectively controls themselves so much so the customer is effected, nobody will buy their products — but until that day comes, they can do what they damn please and us developers (yes I’m one of them) have to play by the rules.

    • Louis Wheeler

      Sorry, Gary, Your explanation for the financial meltdown doesn’t hold water. The Federal Reserve Bank’s expansion of the money supply since 2001 along with CRA, Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac have much more to do with it. More control merely puts the politicians and bureaucrats in charge and they are total nincompoops about business.

      Apple has conflicting interests. It needs to allow the App store to be open enough to attract developers. It needs to be closed enough to keep its customers from being ripped off by fly-by-night developers. The developers who are complaining about Apple’s controls are exactly the ones I don’t want developing for the iPhone.

  12. Apple needs to maintain control.

    Googles making zero money from Android while Apple continues to have record quarters. If I heard them right, they made $1.2 Billion from iTunes last quarter. iTunes is where Apple can continue to grow its bottom line untouched by anyone bcus no one else offers anything like it.

    Now with the iPAD Apple once again can achieve record sales and firmly surpass Microsoft in market cap value. Leaving only Exxon Mobil to shoot for. That said Apple’s business model cant be wrong. The hardware-software combo on the iPAD is going to be hard for anyone to copy and it wouldn’t surprise me if a real competitor doesn’t show up at least for another year. By that time, Apple could be the world’s largest market cap company. With over 300 stores worldwide and 100 Million visitors to them, Apple would amass 60 Billion in cash and cash equivalents.

    Coming back to the more imminent, iPhone OS 4.0 on the horizon, Apple’s going to leap ahead of all other competitors once again. In the fall this same OS will make it to the iPAD. By the fall the iPAD will have some 50,000 apps. By this time Apple’s iAd will start showing its affects on Google’s search on the iPhone and Google purchase of AdMOB would have been for not.

    And finally, Apple’s going to win the patent infringement case against HTC and once this happens, it will target anyone else with a significant market presence that’s violating their patents. I’m very confident that Apple will win.

    Apple’s on a tear and nothing short of massive recalls is going to stop it.

  13. Apple is losing control bcos andriod is kicking their butt ….providing open platform …and alternatives which simply not available to apple users like upcoming full flash 10 support on andriod …….Apple is communist and monopolist state its my way or high way …I hope free and open mobile ecosystem will soon surpass it

    • Open platforms never work, look at Linux. It’s “open” but only has 1%, Apple is 50% closed, it has 10%, while Microsoft is 100% closed, but they have 89%.

      Open is bad for the customer since it ruins the consistency of the interface. Look at the Droid, it’s basically unusable.

      Flash won’t work on mobile devices, give up the 1990’s dream, it kills batteries. HTML5 is now the graphics standard.

      Free and Open is a disastrous combination for the “consumer”… nuff said.

    • Louis Wheeler

      There are plenty of things wrong with your assertions, GP.

      Whether Android is Kicking Apple’s Butt is irrelevant. The Smart Phone market is tiny compared to the feature phones: 170 million versus well over a billion feature phones. Apple and the Android manufacturers are not at each other’s throats in a death struggle; they are merely satisfying different segments of the phone market. This means that both Android and the iPhone have vast room to succeed in and there will be temporary fluctuations. Don’t crow too soon.

      There are marketing problems with Android which will limit its use. Android is spread out over many manufacturers and versions. This means that there is no single Android market, but many. This invites chaos. There are no easy upgrade paths, so Android phones are basically disposable phones. Many applications will not run on other Android phones, because the hardware and Android revisions are too different. In other words, this is Microsoft’s old marketing plan with many hardware producers and one OS. I doubt that this will fly, in today’s markets.

      The iPhone has a unified ecosystem, even though iPhones of three years ago are being frozen out of the upcoming iPhone OS 4.0 because of hardware limitations. The apps sold in the App store will work on all iPhones now, but we don’t know how long that will last. But, the iPhone market will be much less fractured than the Android market is now.

      Not having Flash on the iPhone is a feature, not a bug. Flash on Android will not work as well as advertised. Implementing touch screen technologies on Flash web sites will be insanely expensive. It is a misapplication of resources to stay with obsolete technologies like Flash.

      You need to get to a dictionary, GP, because your word choices are irrational. Apple is not a government, so it is not communist. Apple is a private enterprise which controls its proprietary intellectual and physical property within America’s semi-fascistic marketplace. It has no monopoly on anything. Apple has plenty of competition.

      Apple acts to protect itself as a company while looters, like yourself, attempt to steal its intellectual property and disrupt its business practices. The looters and the Linux Socialists are small in numbers.

      Most iPhone users do not share your concerns. They have no ideological leanings toward an “open mobile ecosystem.”

      They would much rather that Apple products work as advertised. We will have to wait to see how well Android does. I suspect that there will be much hoopla about nothing. IPhone killers have a short life expectancy.

      • aep528

        “They would much rather that Apple products work as advertised.”

        So would I. If Apple builds the “best”, why don’t they warranty it for longer instead of charging ridiculous prices for extended warranties and service plans?

  14. David McElroy

    This article doesn’t come close to supporting the headline that runs atop it. Whether you think Apple’s approach to controlling the apps in its ecosystem is good or bad, there’s no reason to claim (as your headline does) that “Apple is losing control.” You assert this (only briefly) in the article, but the thrust of the article is really why you believe Apple SHOULD give up control. So your article is pure advocacy fluff, despite the fact that the headline promises some sort of factual meat. Apple hasn’t lost any control, so it’s nutty to claim that.

  15. Darwin

    That was a whole lot of nothing. Thanks for wasting my time with this “article”. You must have really needed to fill some space.

  16. rabidcb

    Apple will stick hopefully stick with #1. Your first mistake was to compare Apple to the web, Apple is a company, answerable to investors. The web is owned by nobody. This idea that Apple needs to allow everything on Apple’s Store is ridiculous. Folks, it is Apple’s store and they are free to do what they want. If you dont like whats in the store, move on, go to another store. The author is mixing the ideas of open and closed systems with a store owned by Apple and run by Apple. Its pure fallacy and misinterpretation of ideas and concepts. Another reason I hope Apple continues to guard their App store is to keep the slime and crap off of it. I can’t believe so many people think that Apple should run their store the way a few customers want it run. I do not want to see the App store become the Market Place, so full of garbage and unrefined Apps. There are too many high profile companies on the App store, to dirty it and make it a jungle of a mess would only scare off the quality stuff. Listen, to ensure developers are profitable, you have to keep the riff-raff off, otherwise quality developers will get drowned out by the scum. Apple is doing the right thing. Finally, if this was all going to happen, Apple would not already have so many thousands of Apps any company would give up their right arm for. It is not about open and closed, it is about an ecosystem that Apple has built. Unfortunately, there are so many blind so-called journalists they don’t understand Apple’s success. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it Apple. Steve is a genius, hence this is why he is successfully running the most profitable company and we are sitting here arguing why he is wrong.

    • aep528

      “Folks, it is Apple’s store and they are free to do what they want. If you dont like whats in the store, move on, go to another store.”

      Really? There is another app store for the iP-whatevers? Please tell me how to use it.

  17. Louis Wheeler

    It amazes me how ignorant the Apple haters are. Some of their comments on this web site are lunatic. Their comments are meaningless, though, because they will never be an Apple customer. If this is so, why should Apple pay attention to them?

    The question is whether Apple customers think that Apple is being too controlling. It doesn’t appear so.

    Are iPhone or iPad customers refusing to buy because Flash is missing? It doesn’t appear so.

    Are App store users up in arms because Apple is too restrictive on its apps? Apparently not.

    If it is not the Apple customers who are concerned, who is? Apparently, it is no one worth worrying about. It is

    It is agents provocateurs from the Linux and Windows communities. Screw them.

    • It’s not about the Apple haters and lunatics posting here, it’s about other people, who’d be happy customers if Apple was more open, not as in open source, but as in free choice.

      I have an iPhone, but I jailbroke it. Without the ability to jailbreak, I would not have gotten my first iPhone (as I wasn’t in the USA at that time and the first iPhone only worked on AT&T), and would enjoy my current one less.

      One friend of mine is not buying an iPhone even though he knows it’s better technically than the competition. Reason: Apple police in the app store. Apple has, as Jon Stewart said, become “the man”.

      Another friend bought an iPhone on ebay. He loved it so much, he’d literally spend all day playing around with it. Then he updated to 3.1.3 and the phone locked on him. So for the last few months he didn’t have an iPhone, he has to wait until the hackers release a new jailbreak. How great is that for customer service? What a way to treat someone who just bought their first Apple product, and who never in their life imagined paying $600 for a phone.

      Both are examples of Apple’s closedness costing them real business. There are millions of jailbroken iPhones out there. In many countries you can’t get an iPhone without contract. Apple is playing a dangerous game – it’s stupid to bet against freedom.

      And yes I do have AAPL shares, thankyouverymuch. I believe that doing the right thing and good business can go hand in hand, and in the past Apple has actually been a shining example of that.

      Jon Stewart nails it completely here

      • Louis Wheeler

        nik, you only have a right to do what Apple will allow you.

        You broke your promises to Apple on purchase, when you jail broke the iPhone. You should have never purchased an iPhone, if the only way you could use it was dishonestly.

        Apple would rather not have you as a customer. You are doing it no favors when you abuse its intellectual property. Apple breaks the iPhone for, only, those people who violate its rights; it owes such people no customer service. Felons have no rights. Nor should Apple garner bad publicity when amoral people abuse them.

        Apple is not being authoritarian or “the Man.” Apple has no power over you. All it is doing is trying to prevent you from abusing its rights.

        It is License, not Freedom, when you demand the ability to abuse other people. Freedom is when you demand the power to control yourself and your property. Freedom must come from moderating the power of an over zealous government.

        As an Apple shareholder, you should not want Apple to be stolen from, because that lowers your potential profit.

        The way you are coming across is as spoiled brat who resents any limitations on his actions, no matter how harmful. You have shown yourself to be a disrespectful, dishonest and amoral person.

      • Let’s focus on the business side rather than personal attacks, which, frankly, are a little bizarre.

        I believe this is costing Apple money. And I believe that this, if anything, is going to be Apple’s downfall. The one thing that prevents them from completely owning the mobile market. With the iPad, it’s the one thing that prevents Apple from OWNING the market for next generation computers, period. It’s a self-limiting strategy.

        I think Apple must allow other ways of installing apps. Police the app store all you like, it’s your good right just like the article said. But allow other ways, like what Palm did, or “alternative” app stores.

        Like the article said, Apple has shown flexibility in the past, and it can change licensing terms whenever it wants to. Apple needs to keep limiting licensing terms for things that threaten the platform – the controversial ban on cross platform environments included. I am for this.

      • Louis Wheeler

        This is a response to the last post.

        Clearly, you cannot see yourself as others see you, nic. Nor can you see through the tissues of self justifications you wrap yourself in. Mostly though, your statements betray a form of self centeredness approaching idolatry. I’ve known two year olds with more concern for other people than you express.

        I can only guess at a lack of proper upbringing where you as a child never learned to respect other people’s rights. You certainly have no respect for them now.

        If Steve Job’s actions result in damaging Apple’s market share that is just the price to be paid for protecting Apple’s interests. I seriously doubt that you have a clear understanding of markets. You seem apt to confuse your prejudices for truth.

  18. Apple is doing exactly what the mainstream consumer expects of them. Just like, as you say, Walmart, and Walmart’s suppliers, are doing what mainstream America expects of them. Only in techie-journalist and geekdom world are people fixated on ambiguous, undefined terms like open and closed.

    Most developers will go where the money is. Principled developers can go either way – those who care about “open” will go away from Apple, those who care about “societal social concerns” will go with Apple (which will primarily bend toward majority or left-leaning concerns).

    • aep528

      Walmart has competition in the retail space, including retailers who sell what Walmart filters out.

      Where are the app store competitors?

      • Louis Wheeler

        The App store is very new; competition will arise for it. Eventually, Apple will be forced to allow in competitors. Technology will force the issue.

        That competition will never arrive if the App store is turned over to the fly-by-night developers. A lack of control by Apple over the App store would destroy its image. A bad image would induce buyers to go to other manufacturers.

        The reason that this isn’t happening now is that Apple is competing so vigorously.

  19. Ben Knole

    I would agree, Apple is losing it. Apple was never a big player and struck it lucky stealing from Nokia to produce the iPhone (allegedly). When Apple was a small player it served the public better, it catered for a small/niche market and did it very well. Unfortunately their ignorance in business has lead them down the track of “price and arrogance” being the main factors when aiming for a ‘premium’ market, it’s simply not true. Apple has lost many of the strengths it once had, one being the ditching of Adobe (the company who’s creative software went hand in hand with the early iMacs, where one wouldn’t be seen without the other… a love affair now over).

    A strength Apple does have is the loyalty they command from a deluded legion of besotted and blinkered fanboys, who would die at the sword to protect the company’s reputation. Where as the rest of us would quite easily move from one company’s product to the next, regardless of its iconography and we probably wouldn’t brainwashed by a logo resembling a fruit.

    Apple stifle creativity and try too hard to dominate a market, hence DRM and iTunes (since been abolished due to market pressure, like third party apps competing with their own) and you just have to look into your history books to see how Apple have always been like this (Google top 10 Apple Products which flopped).

    The morality that Apple seems to now take on board is ridiculous, no one should be able to tell you what you can and can’t see. This is why there is certification and regulation, censorship is too right wing and borders on dictatorship. It’s a negative/nieve stance that hinders technological progression. Censorship never wins it only slows us down.

    Apple will never learn, and Android will be the dominant mobile platform within 18 months. Apple could have quite easily copied the business model laid down by Microsoft in the 80s/90s in which Microsoft built the software and left the hardware to someone else. Apples arrogance leaves them believing they can do both, not anymore. Instead Android has led from Microsoft’s example, once again leaving Apple in the shadows.

    • rabidcb


      Do you want me to correct you on all of these or are capable of reading historical facts and making the corrections yourself. You are clearly a person who reads some blog and takes it as gosple without looking up the facts yourself. But let me save you some time, I will address one of your weak beliefs. The rest, I would expect you to actually do some research before writing this garbage of a comment.

      Lets take the DRM statement. Apple was forced by the music industry to provide DRM’d music. As a matter of fact, Steve actually came out against DRM’d music. Once the music industry started allowing vendors to sell mp3’s, then Apple was allowed to offer that version just like they do today. The choice was not Apples to decide wether or not to provide mp3’s that choice belonged to the music industry. Go ahead and search it. I really don’t expect you to, you appear to be lazy based on all your false comments.

    • @Ben – Your post was riddled with errors, but you mainly need to realize the Android has basically failed in the marketplace, they’ve only sold a couple million in the last year, while Apple just sold 8.7 million in the last 90 days, so there is NO WAY the Android could catch up at this point.

      Apple’s business model works perfectly for customers, the satisfaction numbers are in the 90% range with Apple users, for Android, Microsoft it hovers in the low 60% range. So who’s model is better?

      You’re just against high quality products, but I’m sure you have your reasons. Apple isn’t after “the most”, only “the best”, so learn to accept it.

  20. Jocca

    If you look at the latest crop of products that came out of Cupertino, I will have to conclude that Apple is doing everything right by putting out innovative products that run as advertised, which is what people will pay good money for. It is going to make sure that they will continue to run well and therefore it will do everything in its power to control what goes into them. The problem that Apple made when it kicked out Jobs was that it tried to produce computers that looked like the PC models and failed to create enough of a difference to motivate people to pay a little bit more for them. Things changed radically since Jobs’ return and started producing must have products that are nicely protected inside its walled garden so they will continue to work well with each upgrade, and with the right mix of service and support (Apple stores) that is lacking with the other competitors. It works for the vast majority of people who wants to use a computer without having to deal with a lot of hassle. A lot of people will rather deal with something that is as trouble free as possible, and Apple has just the right product mix to satisfy that category of consumers. Granted that they do cost a little more, but there were no shortage of people who will buy Apple products, even during the past two years of recession when so many people lost their jobs.
    Geeks who prefer a more open system which they can troubleshoot endlessly, will go with Android and Linux and that is just fine.
    As to the problem with Adobe, let us say that the company has fallen behind the curve when it comes down to supporting OS X properly. Flash is truly not up to the standard and causes most of the crashes in Safari. I do not even use Acrobat reader because it runs way slower than Preview, Apple’s version of PDF reader. The latest Aperture version from Apple screams on the multi-core Intel Macs and Pixelmator has become a great replacement for Photoshop Adobe which has failed to take full advantage of Os X. A lot of us, former Adobe users have seen this coming and have switched to better and much less expensive alternative programs. Many more will follow if Adobe continues to treat the Mac platform as it did the past ten years.
    Yes, the computer field is changing fast and guess who is at the forefront of these changes. Apple. Adobe and Microsoft are still stuck in nursing their expensive and tired bloated cows. There will come a time when the better and cheaper alternatives running on Os X will come knocking at their door. Adobe should address the need of its Mac users because sooner or later, they will transition to greener and better things. Another threat to Adobe is looming around which is brought about by the next revolution in the computer field. I am talking about the slow and painful death of the printing business. This will come about as the web becomes ubiquitous, thanks to all the nice gadgets coming to market right at this moment with the launch of the iPads for example.
    Your article should more be entitled: is Adobe loosing its way.
    Apple is doing just right and busy secretly working on the next disruptive phase of this industry. I do not know where is Microsoft at this stage, but I don’t care.

  21. Apple as a component of governance 2.0 in Western societies?
    Are we capable as a society of operating without a filter?

    Some of us can filter better than others.

    • Louis Wheeler

      The filters, which we have, are self chosen. If you are a Democrat, you are likely to read the Washington Post, not the Washington Times. Why? Because the Washington Post preselects its news so that it will conform to your leftist sensibilities.

      We shop at certain stores because the ambiance and selection fits out tastes and expectations. We don’t shop at stores who will not filter for us. Who wants to wade through all the junk?

      If you want to do without these filters, fine. Be indiscriminate if you wish; read both the Washington Post and Times. But, you shouldn’t impose your values on others who want these filters.

      • aep528

        “We shop at certain stores because the ambiance and selection fits out tastes and expectations. We don’t shop at stores who will not filter for us. Who wants to wade through all the junk?”

        Exactly. So where are the other app stores for the iPhone/Pad/Pod/Ped/Pud/Pid that filter products the way that suits me best?

        The Walmart argument does not hold up when talking about Apple because I can easily find another retailer that sells what I want. Not so with Apple.

  22. Louis Wheeler

    I keep wondering if people expect perfection out of Apple. The difficulty is that each of the participants have a different definition of perfection and they represent various social causes and constituencies.

    Take the Open vs Closed argument, for instance. The people pushing the Open argument are, most likely, in the FOSS community who are parasitical on Apple’s hardware. No one in the FOSS community could have, or would have, created the iPhone. They want the kind of developer anarchy which has failed in Linux to attract a general following. They act as spoilers and muckrakers; they are utterly self interested.

    This matter of constituencies is important. We know well the people who are pushing the developer constituencies, but there are other players. Apple clearly trying to protect the platform as a whole. But, who is representing the customers? That again is Apple when it deletes questionable applications. The developers often maintain that they should be in charge and be able to sell any crap they wish. Apple has an interest in creating a “quality” store to match its quality hardware.

    Apple is imperfect in applying its rules, but that should change with time. Apple needs to create many App stores, including one for prurient and offensive material. It should also have a children’s section and the two should not mix. Only by doing this can Apple protect the rights of all its customers. If this offends developers, then they can go write code for Android, since Apple has so many developers that it is being swamped.

    Hence, I believe that Apple is likely to proceed to solution #2. It should be open within the boundaries of good taste, effectiveness and in accordance with the Apple guidelines which protect the platform.

    • I disagree. It’s not about FOSS at all. It’s really about the fact that Apple not only controls its App Store (good, and perfectly reasonable) but refuses to allow users to install apps on the iPod/iPhone/iPad by any other means.

      Consider Palm: there’s an official App Catalog, which Palm controls pretty much as tightly as Apple controls theirs. However, developers also have the option to offer apps without official review, and are given a link that users click on to install the app. These apps are machine-reviewed to make sure they only use official APIs, but otherwise developers are free to offer whatever content they want, and users are free to install them.

      Palm’s approach isn’t new, of course. It’s how things work for pretty much every other platform except the iPod/iPhone/iPad, and it works just fine.

      • Louis Wheeler

        Mark, name me one place in the world where the suppliers of goods defame and decry a vendor for controlling access to their store? It is the FOSS community who jailbreak the iPhone and Linux developers, mostly, who demand OPEN access as a political statement. This is all about the Cathedral vs the bazaar ideology. This is Linux socialism at work.

        Regarding Palm, how well does that work for them? My understanding is that they were hot once, but are not now. What caused their decline?

        Why should Apple copy their methods? One part of capitalism is that many business methods may be used and the customers decide. Open vs Closed is a developer issue, not a consumer one. This is not something which has Macintosh roots. It is ideology imposed from without.

  23. myonlinelifenow

    Pretty half sided article. Where are the millions of people that are rallying against Apple. Facebook pages stating “Make The App Store Free and Open” Yeah nothing out there. For the many App developers that don’t like Apple’s stance on how they run the App store, they have two choices. Live with it or jump on another platform. No one is holding a gun to their heads on this one. As a consumer with an iPhone and waiting for an iPad here in Canada, I couldn’t be happier with what Apple has done. I have the ability to download tons of apps and surf the web. To me thats open enough. All of the negative talk has really only come from websites like yours. (sorry Gigaom I love your writers none the less) Why are you such an Apple hater? I mean you don’t own Apple. I don’t own Apple. And unless you’re a shareholder, the millions of people that buy iPhones,iPodTouches and iPads don’t give a rats ass how Apple runs their business. As long as I can buy the product and it works the way Apple says it will (iPhone can be used to make phone calls, surf the web, email and use thousands of apps) What is the big deal. The same things goes for consumers as it does with the App developers. No gun to the the product that you enjoy. No one is forcing you to buy our stuff. People like Apple. Live with it. I do.


  24. Wait. You really think Apple will choose door #3 and only reject apps based on technical considerations? Thus, in effect, becoming the world wide web and exposing my children, like it or not, to content that I don’t want? And, yes, there are millions and millions like me with millions and millions of children.

    You have this backwards. If Apple does NOT oversee what’s in and what’s out, then their platform becomes an expensive version of Android. I am not seeing the logic in this one.

    Why, exactly, do you think people pay the premium for Apple?

    Oh, and by the way. If you’re a commenter who’s just gonna retort with the tired BUT IT’S THE PARENT’S RESPONSIBILITY yada yada yada, save our time. Heard it. It’s always been a specious argument. And yes, my dollars are at least the equal of yours.

    • Louis Wheeler

      What they fail to see, Brian, is that a store MUST control its product selection and quality, because those lend themselves to creating an ambiance or a store image. It is called marketing. Product selection, style and quality are what makes Walmart different from Neiman Marcus. Both are fine stores but they appeal to different market segments. Only a fool thinks that either store is casual about what it chooses to sell. This is why they both practice option #2.

      Socialists of various types disapprove of Walmart and Neiman Marcus, because they are capitalist corporations which serve their customers and their store’s image, not Political Correctness.

      You would expect that those technical socialists in Linux to disapprove of the App store. Apple is not likely to cave into Leftist demands any more than Walmart and Neiman Marcus will. Why? Because that would be the end of them as a store. Their customers would no longer trust Apple to keep out the junk. The App store would stop being an enjoyable experience.

    • Nadav

      I totally agree. An industry being the biggest on the web certainly doesn’t mean that everybody has to accept it. Basically there’s a reason for Porn being problematic. Everywhere. So regardless of what that reason is, I think Apple is doing the right choice when they avoid what is naturally avoided (for the same reason I mentioned above) by most people, especially families.
      To everyone that objects, the question is simple: Would YOU like YOUR children / future children to have access to some material? No? Good. Then why would you YOURSELF access materials that you think are bad for your children?

      • @Rag & saseed

        Apple haters always try so hard and still lose in the end, I agree with rabidcd, Don’t knock it until you try it baby’s, and keep up with your blue screen of death and half baked copies of apple merchandise, By the way enjoy spending that $340.00 for your upgrades.

        Oh also what version of android do you have, Yea the one that does not and cannot be updated due to 75 different knock offs.

        How much more ignorant can you get Chumps.

  25. This so much nonsense. Apple is “refereeing morality”. Please….

    The company is doing what companies are supposed to do, what management gets paid to do – advance their own interest. It’s what we who own shares in them want them to do.

    Its a business. Not a church or an organized religion (popular opinion to the contrary).

    Can we have a bit more insight from GigaOm?

    • AdamC

      You are wrong per se – btw porn is the best industry on the web and shouldn’t Apple be going there if money is the priority.

      • Not if porn damages your brand, just as doesn’t process payments for adult or anything controversal, ebay stays away from porn and a lot of items…

  26. Quote:

    My guess is Apple will go for option No. 3. Not right away, but in increments. In the early days of the web, ISPs faced a similar choice and decided not to control what customers could read.

    My guess Apple will stick with its option 1. Apple always been and will always be in control. I don’t think they will change now. As for option 3, it will never happen. They won’t lose control, as our ISPs in my country still decide what customers could read, so they are still in control.

  27. Let’s hope Apple sticks with option 1, that will give more power to others and improve competition, which ultimately will benefit the consumer. The ones who will want open environments will turn to Android or other platforms, which in turn will motivate developers to do the same and create a more level playing field. Apple has done the same mistake for the last 30 years, why should they change.