Jason Calacanis asserts here in his article “The Case Against Apple – In Five Parts” that:
“Apple is now the anti-competitive monster that Jobs rallied us against in the infamous 1984 commercial. Steve Jobs is the oppressive man on the jumbotron and the Olympian carrying the hammer is the open-source movement.”
Here I’ll address point by point why this argument fails.
Calacanis believes that iTunes should be opened up to sync with all mp3 player competitors.
Why Apple should not open up iTunes:
Firstly, iTunes is not required in order to sync a device to Windows or OSX,. Second, Apple will not be able to recover the expenditures necessary to provide support for all of the non-iPod mp3 players out there (as has been indicated there are perhaps hundreds of mp3 players to support software for), and three, because it will increase the bloat of a software package that has already received complaints for becoming too bloated (per Molly Wood).
Calacanis wants the iPhone to be constructed to work on all carriers. This is not a good idea because Calacanis’s argument assumes that the CDMA and GSM network differences are not dramatic factors in the making the of Lord of all iPhones that he salivates over. Second, it will adversely affect the size, and sleekiness of the device dramatically if you add the chipset for all of the CDMA possibilities as well as the GSM possibilities. It will require more than just the space to add a second SIM chip. Calacanis doesn’t seem to take into consideration that the ease of the device wouldn’t be compromised by adding the ability to choose which app uses which service, which is not correct. Such an effort would defeat the very ethos of simple and elegant design. It is that ethos that has made the iPhone the choice of so many consumers who don’t want the clunky experience of overwhelming choices that you get with network agnosticism in systems like the Symbian, Windows Mobile, and Android based operating system phones.
Calcanis asserts that: ” every application on the phone has to approved by Apple, and if you were interested in something adult in nature…well…you can’t do that. Apple’s justification for this nonsense is that they have to protect AT&T’s network.”
Jason if you watched the March 2008 road map to the 2.0 iphone OS, then you and I saw different presentations. At no time did I see Apple extolling an open app store to everything. They said right there publicly that the rules were merely guidelines and that they reserved the right to refuse service for any reason to potential iPhone apps. For people to bitch about it now is just ludicrous particularly when it is obvious that many of these apps are not merely dipping into the grey areas but flaunting them (tethering, podcaster aggregation, etc.) At no point has Apple said that they are banning these apps because of AT&T. It is only bloggers like yourself that are making that assertion. Apple rarely gives the exact reason for the ban and that is fine. Its their toy. They warned you how they were going to play before you bought the device in the first place. Its your fault if you thought incorrectly they might change their stance later.
We also know that some of these apps were banned for technically sound reasons like preserving battery life for non-tech minded individuals who just want a phone that works, and not a phone that has every possible option under the sun. Calacanis writes:
“Apple could have a basic system setting that says “Allow Non-Approved Applications.” When you click this setting, a popup could come on warning that, if you click this setting, you are waiving your previously-understood customer service arrangement (i.e. only people with approved applications can hand over their money at the Genius bar) “
All this would mean is that Apple would still have to waste tons of man hours on staff checking to see if each potential problem app on a customer’s phone was approved or not at the corporate level before rendering service. Unapproved apps could easily leads to lots of money lost in customer support for silly issues. They have enough to worry about with legitimate support issues without worrying whether or not that unapproved Adult pic aggregator you installed on your phone could be the source of your problem. Simply put, your idea does not prevent the problem that Apple wants to avoid which is unnecessary expense on customer support for services that they did not approve, and it will lead inevitably to poorer customer experiences if it leads to problems with other core products on the phone.
Calacanis further argues that Apple is being a horrible hypocrite by banning other browsers on the iPhone.
I’m of the opinion that the browser is such a core part of the iPhone elegant structure that they cannot afford the mucky experience that may result if someone installs a different browser than Safari that may use the API in unanticipated ways. Things need to be predictable for the end user. This is a smartphone for the masses, not for the technorati. To use an analogy, this phone is Nike not Airwalks. The laces are always in the same place. The swoosh is always present. They are made to be exciting, fun, high quality and predictable. This is the first phone that mass consumers enjoy surfing on the internet with for a reason.
Calcanis believes “many forces are already at work, with Michael Arrington of TechCrunch and Peter Rojas of GDGT.com (and founder of Engadget) coming out publicly against… Apple(sic)… for these very issues.”
Using Michael Arrington as an example of a stalwart defender of smartphone free choice is disingenuous. Arrington is obviously ceasing the use of his iPhone because he will soon be introducing a device in the Crunchpad that will be competing directly with Apple’s iPhone and potentially with their rumored Tablet. First rule of business fight club is not to help your competitors get a leg up on you. He is trying to position his product as different, so he has begun the wedge publicity campaign to create that impression. He is not altruistically defending the tech masses. It is also clear lately that Arrington and Rojas are baiting for page views and links with this new approach. The ecosystem has become large enough for the iPhone and Apple install base that they and you are using the same page view generation techniques that were successfully used on other more mainstream companies like Microsoft. It seems more like a tactic for profit than a civic duty done out of compassion for the end user.
In conclusion Calacanis wants three questions answered:
“1. Do you think Apple would be more, or less, successful if they adopted a more open strategy (i.e. allowing other MP3 players in iTunes)?
2. Do you think Apple should face serious antitrust action?
3. Do you think Apple’s dexterity and competence forgive their bad behavior?”
I’ve already addressed your first question that Apple would not do as well with open standard policies, particularly with respect to the iPhone.
To address his question of whether or not Apple should face serious antitrust litigation, I think the notion is silly. They don’t have the dominant market share in the phone market yet. If they do succeed in obtaining dominant global market share then perhaps that time will come. If we are speaking of the iPod market where they do have better than 75% of the market, I’d still say no for the reason that Apple’s iTunes is not a necessary piece of software to sync and operate a third party mp3 player. OS X is not constructed in such a way to prevent the installation of competing podcast and music players to sync your third party mp3 player with. Microsoft’s antitrust suit was a completely different matter, because an operating system dominance is much more debilitating to the consumer experience than hefty market share in one small segment of the consumer electronics market.
Finally, I don’t think Apple has bad behavior to apologize for. I think the problem is that the technorati keeping projecting of all of their hopes and fears upon Apple. They expect, or rather they demand, that their opinion about how the device should be developed and manufactured be taken into consideration when honestly their opinion doesn’t matter.