Apple has gone too far
Last month, I asked Betanews readers to answer question: "Has Apple gone too far?" For the majority, the answer is a resounding "Yes!" I didn't expect the vehement Apple whacking reaction. Did you?
Today is appropriate day for readers' answers. Apple announced sales (more likely shipments) of 1 million iPads and that App Store had reached 200,000 applications. Apple restrictions around iPad and the iPhone OS 4.0 SDK led to my asking the question. Additionally, today, unconfirmed reports have the US Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission jockeying over which agency could start an Apple antitrust investigation. The investigation would look at Section 3.3.1 of Apple's developer agreement, which restricts cross-platform technologies like Flash or Java.
Whoops, maybe Apple CEO Steve Jobs picked a bad time for a diatribe defending Apple's no-Flash policy. Jobs's anti-Flash position could be used to demonstrate anti-competitive behavior. Or maybe the timing was deliberate. If either agency contacted Apple about a possible investigation, Jobs might have acted proactively.
With that introduction, it's time for your responses to the "gone too far" question, gleamed from comments and direct responses I received by e-mail.
bopb99: "These restrictions are so over the line, everybody go to/develop for Android!"
Max Kitchenko: "Apple tries to control the world. As a developer I think it's not very good idea, considering the number of competitors. I believe an average development team would rather consider to develop for another platform than for that what Apple-is-trying-to-be."
Developer Carl Engman recently abandoned plans to write a new iPod touch application.
The development process seems to me to be:
- Arbitrary in which apps get accepted (many examples).
- Subject to change with a process that allows an app to be pulled after initial acceptance without adequate explanation.
- Subject to the whim and ego of Steve Jobs (the situation with Adobe, for instance). I believe this was the reason Flash is not allowed on the iPhone/Touch/iPad platforms and everything else is just rationalization.
- Petty. The impression I get is that Steve Jobs is willing to let some developers get a few crumbs of income from the platform, but would resent anyone making real money if it isn't Apple.
- Too limited. The simplest of things that I should be able to do, such as being able to write an app like a project scheduler that lets me set milestones that appear in the calendar so that I can be reminded of them. I can't because the calendar app is too limited. Who knows if I can count on anyone else's calendar app... it might be removed for competing with Apple's app.
StockportJambo offers a philosophical answer:
Aristotle had this all figured out centuries ago through causality. Cause: Developers are inherently lazy (I know this to be true because I am one). Effect: Multi-platform and portability are paramount. Cause: Apple restrict multi-platform and portability. Effect: Developers go elsewhere and Apple's platform dies. It's only a matter of time.
Pedro Mac Dowell Innecco made socio-political comparisons:
Years ago Steve Ballmer from Microsoft made a statement comparing Linux to Communism. I think that that was an unfortunate comparison. If anything, Linux could be compared to anarchism, or some sort of Libertarianism (note: not liberalism). As in: the user has a wide range of choices form the Linux distribution to its applications, as well to compile its own kernel. Apple on the other hand, wants to dictate what software and hardware are authorised for their platforms. Complete control over the use and distribution of the products. Isn't this in fact what Communism is all about?
Luisd was one of Apple's few defenders:
A few years back nobody gave a rat-ass about what Apple did or not with their platform. Now, that they have found a formula for success, everybody wants to bend their business plan to their whim. Anti competitive practices only apply for monopolies... Apple is not a monopoly by any stretch of the imagination in any of their products. NOT EVEN THE iPod!
aduffbrew wrote before Microsoft cancelled the Courier tablet and HP was rumored to abandon the slate:
Sure, Apple is doing a horrible job at being a control freak. It crosses the line into 'evil,' big time. Their lack of consistency is eroding the trust of developers, content providers and buyers alike. But why do we care if Apple deems it necessary to ride shotgun over their product? While I think the iPad is elegant in design, it does have a few short-commings. Concerns that competitors are sure to address. I strongly believe many of these issues will be ironed out due to competitive and equally compelling iPad alternatives coming our way. Apple will mellow or hand the market to someone else. Either way, consumers win.
periklo: "I neither own nor plan to own anything they made. As a developer, I guess it is different for people who are already there, but I will not invest my time so that I can play in their little sanatorium. Time will bury their vision of things."
Engman had more to say, particularly about continued Apple innovation:
Apple doesn't seem to do that well with follow ups. They released the iPhone, which was innovative and a 'game changer.' They deserve kudos and success for it. They released the iTouch, which was simply a stripped down iPhone, but it made sense for people like me and I'm glad they did, but there was no innovation involved. Two generations later there have only been a few minor changes to the hardware (memory, faster processor, but what hardware doesn't increase memory and speed every generation?), and very little to upgrade the software platform. Did they do any real innovation in the iPhone or Touch after that? Nope, they repackaged the same platform in a bigger package and called the iPad innovative...I used to like Apple. I don't seem to like them anymore. It will be interesting for me to see how that realization changes my buying habits. It's certainly influenced my decision on what platform to develop to.
Dave Small also defended Apple, writing before today's 200,000 application announcement:
Apple already has something like 180,000 Apps in the App Store. I think they're OK on quantity. They should now be focusing on improving the average app quality and getting more high-end apps like those iWorks apps for the iPad. Prohibiting Flash and cross-compiler generated Apps is a good start...
When all the hoopla has run it's course, developers will follow the rules that Apple has set out for them. This is what we call, 'following the money.' With a 70/30 split on App and content sales revenue and a 60/40 split on iAd revenue, developers will see the light. At this moment Apple has two thirds of all mobile web traffic and all of the IP thieves combined have just one third. It's about time Apple dropped the hammer.
Mark Croonen shares the opinion of people who like the iPhone UI but hanker for something more:
Well I'll confess, I bought an iPhone. Would I buy another one? Absolutely not. The device and its interface are great, you really can't fault it, er, too much. But the whole proprietary lock-in thing with iTunes is just ridiculous. People hang crap on Microsoft for being proprietary and monopolistic, they've got nothing on Apple.
OnetoOne: "Apple's problem is that it's run around a personality cult."
Given the rumors about an Apple antitrust investigation, I have another question for readers: Is Apple a monopoly? If so, is Apple anti-competitive?