Apple is unique among tech gadget companies; especially among the makers of computers, smart phones, and tablets. Apple designs, builds, and controls everything top to bottom, including the store that sells that apps that customers buy that technology media pundits decry. Therein lies the difference. Customers vote with their wallets. Pundits vote with words. Macworld’s Jason Snell cries, it’s Time for Apple to open up the iPhone but doesn’t describe why it’s important other than it’s what he wants.
Apple’s View Is Not Our View
I watched video clips and read transcripts of Apple CEO Steve Jobs being interviewed by Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher at the D8 conference. It was illuminating.
If Apple is reflective of Steve Jobs, then it should be obvious to all that the company has a laser light focus on product development and marketing. Apple does not develop products by the dozens and toss them against the consumer wall to see what sticks. Apple believes in the holistic approach; that all pieces must fit well together.
Some media technologists decry Apple’s lack of openness and criticize the walled garden App Store without fully understanding either. Jason Snell:
Ever since Apple introduced the App Store, someone or other has written weekly (perhaps daily) about why Apple’s tight control over the App Store is a bad idea. Every time an app is rejected or delayed, the teapot is stirred again.
The problem, of course, is that Snell’s observation is not reflective of reality. His reality, perhaps, but not the reality of tens of millions of customers and users who view life differently, but who may be affected by distorted views of reality. Snell’s view, and that of many who criticize that which they don’t fully understand.
Bad idea? For whom? How?
I’m here to say to Apple that while I understand very well the reasons for the company’s walled-garden approach to native iPhone OS apps, the strengths of that approach have now been surpassed by the bad publicity and reputation that Apple and its products are now getting in the market as a whole.
In other words, I say it’s bad, others like me say it’s bad, so it must be bad, and people are starting to believe us because we have the public’s ear.
Sorry. I don’t buy that. Explain what it is that’s actually bad for anyone? The vast majority of App Store customers haven’t found the badness yet.
Many critics of Apple’s policies have suggested that developers will abandon the iPhone OS for more open platforms such as Android. Some of them have, and I’m sure more will follow.
Android’s platform is open in the sense than Google doesn’t exercise as much control over the apps displayed in the Android Market as Apple does in the App Store. We’re not talking free speech here. It’s a mall. For the moment, Apple’s mall is winning the hearts and minds of more customers.
Hey, Mr. Technologist—Get Out More
Apple’s iPhone and iPad are bought by two kinds of people. Those who want to use each device for what it is and does, and those who want to write about it for a living. Their views are not the same.
I talk to people who are not immersed in the minutiae of the technology industry, I notice a troubling trend: They tend to speak about Apple’s products with some affection, but it’s increasingly tempered with assumptions that the devices are largely incompatible with competing technologies.
Duh. Oh, and 26-percent of Americans believe aliens live among us, and 65-percent of Americans cannot name a single Supreme Court Justice. Snell uses an isolated example to identify the trend in his mind that Apple is closed and everything else is open, and if only Apple would open the App Store all those perceptions (about Apple, not aliens) would go away.
If only it were so.
Droid Does Not, Yet Will
Somehow or another technology pundits assume that what they think is also thought by the great unwashed masses of technology buyers. If Droid says it does multi-tasking, then everyone automatically knows their commercials are talking about Apple’s iPhones, which, as everyone on the planet must know, does not really do multi-tasking.
Gimme a break, guys. Those of us in the know know what’s going on in the commercials. Do the average smart phone customers know or care? Think of the respective platforms as two malls on the opposite ends of town. Or, two theme parks on the opposite end of town.
One is clean and bright and safe, like Disneyland. The other is a discount mall; somewhat seedy in places, like a bazaar, with bargains but not always safe, and designed more for those of the geekier persuasion than average folks.
Guess which mall is Apple’s?
Apple has probably been hesitant to open up the iPhone to unapproved apps is, that people will write malicious apps, and the damage those apps cause could harm Apple and tarnish the iPhone’s image. It’s true, so far as it goes. But of course, people can jailbreak their iPhones now, and we’ve already seen reports of iPhone malware on those phones.
Therein is the distinction between average people and technology media pundits. I asked 10 of my iPhone carrying brothers and sisters if they knew what a jail broken iPhone was. Not one had any idea. When I explained what jail broken meant, the response was uniform. “Why would I want to do that?”
The Flash flap and the constant drumbeat of ridiculous App Store rejections over the past couple of years have given Apple a black eye, and I’m starting to think that consumers are noticing—with the help of Apple’s competitors, who have suddenly realized that they need to throw some punches if they have any hope of competing with Apple.
Most customers don’t care about such issues. If they did, they would move in droves to the mall or theme park on the other side of town. Is there evidence that such a migration is happening? No.
Apple and competitors play hardball all the time. Apple is a big boy and can handle itself and seems to be doing quite well so far. One thing must not be overlooked—Apple is a for profit company. The Mac, the iPhone, the iPod, the iPad, the App Store, and how all the pieces work together are important to Apple’s revenue and bottom line.
One Final Future Fact: Deal With It
Android will win. If all we are counting are smart phone units sold, Android will win. Maybe this year. May not until next year, but Android will win. It’s not because Android is better. It’s not because Android Market is open and the App Store is closed.
Android will win because Android is free and iPhone OS is not. Any decent cell phone maker in the world can stick a version of Android on a phone and call it their own, and sell it for less than any iPhone. Google doesn’t make any appreciable revenue from anything Android, and certainly no profits. Apple, on the other hand, is revenue and profit oriented.
When Android’s unit sales top iPhone’s unit sales the world will not end. It is meant to be. It’s Windows vs. Mac deja vu all over again. Please notice that the Mac, despite losing the platform wars, seems to be doing quite well. Apple makes about $1,300 or more on every Mac sold. Microsoft makes less than $50 on every PC sold. Do the math.
In the not too distant future, Android smart phone sales will surpass iPhone’s sales. Apple will bring in revenue of over $500 for each mobile device sold. How much will Google make? How much will Android handset makers make? Android might win the battle of unit sales but that doesn’t mean Apple will lose the war which is most important; survival and prosperity.
Despite the noise from self serving media technologists, Apple’s approach is fine. For Apple. And for Apple’s customers.