Article Info

iPhone Lockup

imageI’ve found the fracas regarding Apple (AAPL) and the recent release of software for the iPhone rather ironic and worthy of comment.

The iPhone was introduced as a standalone consumer electronic device with little or no modification possible by third parties. In the months since launch, the iPhone attracted hackers by the dozens who bypassed the phones security functions to add many interesting applications, as well as unlock the device for use on any GSM/EDGE network.

Apple spent years battling Microsoft (MSFT) in an effort to attract developers to the Macintosh OS. Corporate developers, 3rd party developers, even Microsoft itself hesitated to assign duplicative resources to the Apple platform, which had much less market share than Microsoft.

Now, Apple has seized the commanding heights of the OS war, except in the mobile domain this time. Users and developers were jumping through hoops for the privilege of writing applications for the white-hot iPhone with no compensation in return. It is impossible to understand why Apple, after a long history of playing #2 to Microsoft for a lack of platform applications, would choose to ignore such an advantage over incumbents such as Symbian and Microsoft Windows Mobile.

Steve Jobs once accused mobile carriers of being ‘orifices’ that forced specific products into the hands of consumers and eliminated real choice. Apple appears to have taken on the same characteristic, forcing consumers to accept only the applications it deems appropriate and locking out those who seek to add value.

Apple could believe that the mobile market, unlike the PC market, is best served by an OS under strict control of the corporate mothership.

More likely – Apple is driven by the profit motive it once ridiculed, preferring the walled garden strategies (and the lucrative revenue schemes they promise) of exclusive carrier bundling with revenue sharing as well as fee-based application licensing.

Apple’s true colors will show when and how they allow third parties to author iPhone applications – and whether Apple gets a cut. My hope is they do this soon, and they make it free.

Author owns no positions in companies mentioned. Source image and inspiring editorial from Engadget.

Discussion

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  1. Most companies prefer that the components of their system be open systems, but that they themselves be allowed to establish a walled in secret system. So Apple wants non orifice like carriers, as does Google. But both companies for all their vaunted friendliness to hackers are closed systems that make Microsoft look like the land of the free. Sure Google supports open source development, just as they support an open network, but do they actually reveal any of their own secret sauce? Nope. The mass market is perfectly happy to use walled gardens that are designed well for their needs (AOL, iPod, iPhone, Google search), until something better comes along (as has already happened to AOL).

    Posted by Ranjit Mathoda | October 1, 2007, 2:28 PM
  2. Which application dominates your use of a PC or laptop? At least for me, the answer is emphatic – Firefox by a mile. At some level I cease to care if my machine runs XP or Ubuntu. Everyone’s got to depict/run the same web content. I suspect that even broadcast TV to handhelds will be viewed on a browser.

    From this viewpoint nobody cares whether your handheld runs OS-X or Vista, in fact it’s not even about browsers: Safari versus Opera etc. It’s actually about bindings to web programming/scripting languages: PHP, Java, Python, Ruby, Flash, ASP.NET… and nobody can be cute about it.

    Walling the garden can’t hold off the clone barbarians at the gates.

    Posted by Bandgap | October 2, 2007, 9:30 AM