Apple’s iOS is More Like a PS3 Than a Computer

Daring Fireball on iPhone/iPad operating system:

iOS isn’t and never was an open computer system. It’s a closed, controlled console system — more akin to Playstation or Wii or Xbox than to Mac OS X or Windows. It is, in Apple’s view, a privilege to have a native iOS app.

Apple’s strategy thus far has been to lock-down their devices as much as possible, and only open small things up when there is enough pressure to do so and good solutions are developed. This can be seen by the addition of the App Store to install applications and later the ability for apps to interact with iTunes and calendar data.

Slowly things have become more open, however Apple has kept the platform locked down enough to dictate what owners of iPhones and iPads can do with their devices. Apple has repeatedly disallowed users to install applications that Apple doesn’t like for one reason or another. Now Apple is taking that control even further and mandating that: applications that offer access to paid content must offer that content for sale through Apple’s payment processing mechanism that takes 30% of the purchase price. Going even further, Apple has disallowed these applications from linking to their own payment processing systems or offering the same content/subscription for a lower price than they do through Apple’s system.

The question many have asked is, “why does Apple think they can dictate what I can and cannot do?” I asked the same thing myself when I realized that these new rules threaten my two favourite apps on the iPad: Kobo and Zinio. But the answer to that question is so obvious though: Apple thinks they can do it because the users/developers/businesses continue to let them.

Apple is a business, one that is doing what it needs to to generate a strong return for shareholders. They continue to push the envelope, trying to squeeze as much as they can out of their users, primarily through tight control of their new platform. This strategy has proven incredibly successful, and is unlikely to change until it makes strategic sense to shift direction.

Until users stop buying Apple’s devices in droves and businesses stop offering their products and services on the iOS platform, Apple is going to keep on pushing. The only way for this to change is for these users and developers to choose a new platform and support Apple’s competition. Apple is not going to change paths when users or developers whine, they are going to do it when competitive pressures from other platforms such as BlackBerry and Android start hurting their bottom line.

So if you don’t like how Apple runs its platform, stop giving them money. Every time a user buys an iPad they are sending Apple a big thumbs up to continue operating as they have been. I have read too many articles complaining about Apple’s lack of openness to care any more. If people care, they will put their money where their mouth is and support a competitor. If this doesn’t happen, then Apple will continue to squeeze each iOS user for every cent they can, and these users will happily pay up.

This is simply the way business works and Apple operates as one of the best examples of a strong competitive strategy.

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  • David Underwood

    I think that the reason Apple feels that it can do stuff like this is that there is a disconnect between what is good for consumers and what is good for developers.Clearly asking for a mandatory 30% share of subscription fees is bad for developers (esp. ones with existing distribution networks), but the users probably don’t care. They won’t complain to Apple that a given company’s app isn’t on the market, they’ll complain to the company that they don’t have an iPhone/Pad app.