It used to be that Apple’s closed model of tying hardware, software and services into one cosy walled garden could easily be ignored. This was for two related reasons. The first was their engineering prowess had failed them. So they nearly went bust in the 1990s and they had very little impact on the market place. The second was that only architects and some, very annoying, graphics designers used their kit. This situation was a far cry from the early PC days of Apple II’s (on which I cut my developer teeth) and the silicon revolution that put a “Computer on every desk“.
Over the last five years Apple have rediscovered their technical mojo, from laptops (that work) to iPods to iPhones to iTunes they have begun to dominate market segments in a way they could only dream of towards the end of last century. Apple dominate the market for online music, they have effectively broken DRM, they have 86% of the smartphone market. They are in many areas of operation an effective monopoly. So, what do monopolies do in these situations? Well as New Zealanders we know what the power companies and telcos do, they try to reduce our choices and extract super profits from us.
I first really noticed the Apple effect a year ago on a trip to Toronto. Staying with family I tried to move files from my Ubuntu Linux machine to their Apple Mac. That was fine. The reverse exchange simply did not work. Apple’s default walled garden was set up in such a way to imply the only a mad user would consider transfering data from an Apple environment to something else. Now, if I or my family were more au-fait with the ins and outs of Apple I am sure we could have changed settings and completed the exchange. Maybe if I had a month instead of a week… Apple had effectively DRM’d everything so it would not work on devices outside of their brand.
The upshot is, however, if I want to participate in a world that is diverse and heterogeneous the last machine I would use is an Apple, and yes, that would fall well behind a machine with Windows.
The latest “you are an idiot” move from Apple comes with its inane closing off of iTunes to any devices other than Apple. Let’s say you are an iTunes user, and you pay Apple good money for their music and using that product to organise your collection. Then let’s say you, poor fool, decide that a Palm Pre suits you better than an iPhone; the infamy! Well, it used to be that you could synch your iTunes collection to your Pre. But not any more, now Apple’s latest release of iTunes closes this “important bug”.
The important thing here isn’t that there will not be workarounds for Palm Pre users – there already are – or that there are no good iTunes equivalents you can use – there are – it is that Apple thinks you are an iDiot.
This attitude serves them well whilst their engineering prowess is high. But history tells us that Apple, and others, cannot and will not sustain that leadership. Already the Palm Pre, the Google Phone and Android are providing platforms that are not only as attractive as Apple’s they are far more open to developers and far more ready to play in a diverse and changing world. Apple is in danger of being hoisted by its own petard, and you, dear idiot, are in danger of being left with a piece of historical shiny – gosh that was once *the* thing to own.