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Will arrogance be Apple’s undoing?

April 10, 2010

As I’ve pointed out before, I came to the Mac rather later than some, but before they became the media darling they currently are. My first Mac being a PowerMac G4 (the mirrored drive door model which makes a noise akin to a jumbo jet taking off) and I’ve since bought 2 Intel iMacs and 2 iPhones (my wife became jealous of mine, so she got one too). I’ve never had reason to question the sense of these purchases; I’m still of the opinion that, although Windows 7 is a greatly needed improvement for Microsoft, Mac OS is just fantastic in so many ways and the iPhone was the first useable smartphone that I’ve been exposed to and it is a fantastic for user experience.

So you might count me as one of the faithful. But…

I think back to the days when Steve Jobs came back to a struggling company. The company back then had lost direction, and under his direction iTunes, Mac OSX, the iPhone and now the iPad have been produced; the company is the media darling it couldn’t even have dreamed of back then. Unfortunately, with Steve Jobs comes his ego and arrogance in extremely large quantities and with each success they grow and grow. This was one of the reasons why he was shown the door at Apple originally.

Not long ago, Steve Jobs let fly with a rant about Google stating they want to kill the iPhone. I find the outrage that another company wanting to expand in another space rather  amazing because Apple has shown its true colours with the iPad iBooks App (now sellings Books, directly competing with Amazon), and with the announcement of the iPhone OS4 which will have the iAds platform (directly competing with Google and others whose sole revenue model is through advertising), Game Center (directly competing with OpenFient, Plus+ and others that already blazed that trail on the iPhone). Its OK for Apple to compete in new markets, but not anyone else? It’s OK to treat your partners and content producers with that much contempt?

Add this to the sometimes nonsensical App review process that has been arbitrary and opaque. There have been many well documented cases of arbitrary and inconsistent exclusions with the App store, and Apple is accountable to no one. Lately, they have apparently decided to reject Apps with ‘Pad’ in the title. Not ‘iPad(tm)’ but plain old boring pad. Perhaps they can sue Microsoft over Notepad’s name now.

Also hidden in the new developers agreement is exclusions of Apps not written in C, C++, Objective-C and Javascript in order to destroy Adobe’s Flash-to-iPhone plans and inadvertently (or not so inadvertently) killing people using MonoTouch, Unity 3D and Corona toolkits because they are doing cross-platform development and/or they prefer C#, Lua or some other language. This on top of the already pathetic exclusion of any interpreter or JIT compiler in an Application.

In other words, you use Objective-C, Cocoa and Apple’s tools or you can’t develop for the iPhone. Pity the tool suite is not top of the line, and Objective-C, which having some good points, can blow chunks very hard when people are used to other languages – an unnecessary learning curve for developers attempting to make a living. Note to the true believers – It’s interesting to note that today Apple is the ONLY major company in the computing space that uses Objective-C. Better languages have come along since 1988 (oh yes 22 years ago!) when NeXT started using it (Steve’s baby NeXT was never very successful, possibly due in part to a certain person’s arrogance and only saved by him coming back to Apple) and these days dynamic languages such as Python & Ruby leave it in the dust. Make no mistake, this is about lock-in; you write for Apple’s platform and you don’t port from other platforms without heavy investment. This is about exclusivity, and unfortunately they will get their wish from a lot of developers. You also cannot easily port to other platforms; again without heavy investment. Apple does not want cross-platforms Applications unless its their platform.

On a related note, I see that Mobile Orchard, a great iPhone development blog, is closing due, in large part, to the attitude that Apple has towards its developers. I’m personally sad to see them go, they are a great resource, but I don’t see Apple being fussed.

Apple no longer wants a community, they want an Ecosystem where they can monetize everything on the platform; music, books, ads, games – you name it, Apple wants a cut of it. With the full exclusive control over the platform, they can force people to play their game and have it well within their power to exclude any App that doesn’t play the game.

I for one, don’t want to play that game. I cannot put a single Application, even one I’ve written myself, on the iPhone (and iPad) without interacting with Apple directly. They have become the ultimate middle-man. I must pay to be a developer, even if I don’t intend to make money from my Applications. I cannot write an Application in the language and with the tools of my choosing because Apple forbids for no other reason than to lock others out.

I’ll stick with Mac OS unless they start to tie it down like the iPhone OS, but I hope Android and Windows Phone 7 can step up and give Apple a good kick in the mobile phone sector. Not to destroy Apple, but to give us a break from the arrogance that pervades the planning over in Cupertino and to teach them to respect their consumers and content producers a little more.

Rant Over

UPDATE: Ari Braginsky (formerly of Mobile Orchard), in his weekly roundup of iPhone news,  points out Eric Kerr‘s interesting post on third-party analytics being banned under the developer agreement. Apple wants nothing to have the potential to compete with its iAds platform, so its locking them out rather than letting the market decide. That is the ultimate in arrogance. Simply disgraceful.

UPDATE 2: The Tao Effect guys have larger cojones than most and emailed Steve Jobs about the new SDK provisions in regards to development languages and tools restrictions. His response:

We’ve been there before, and intermediate layers between the platform and the developer ultimately produces sub-standard apps and hinders the progress of the platform.

What utter rubbish. Anyone with an ounce of programming experience knows that that is not true and certainly no cause to ban these Applications. Again, if it is indeed true, Apple could let the market decide – those ‘sub-standard’ applications would be fairly quickly found out and would be buried under those ‘quality’ Objective-C Applications. It also flies in the face of a lot of rubbish apps (like fart apps I have talked about before) that might well be written in purest Objective-C and Cocoa.

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