January 13th, 2007

Platforms Vs. Experiences


Dave Winer and many others don’t like that Apple’s iPhone is a closed device, which doesn’t allow you to change the software or use other software. While I can appreciate how frustrating it must be for people like Dave with the skill and desire to customize their tech products to better suit their needs, they are a tiny minority. The reality is that Apple is not in the business of creating platforms — they are are in the business of creating experiences. The iPod was so wildly successful because it was — from the perspective of millions of people — a great experience, and the iPhone promises to be as well.

One-size-fits all is tough proposition, because one size will never fit all — but Apple has a talent for fitting MORE people EXTREMELY well than almost any other tech company. I’d much prefer Apple focus on creating great experiences than on supporting a developer community who might pull them in a thousand different directions.

Perhaps Dave would be willing to demonstrate the benefit of open platforms by letting me post on Scripting News — but that would surely kill the experience of Scripting News, wouldn’t it? (Or how about you, Mathew, can I change the layout of your blog to better suit my needs?)

I could also rewrite the end of Casablanca, or take a pant brush to a Monet canvas, or remix a Jimi Hendrix recording, or…if you don’t like any of those, there are lots of other choices. Apple is not restricting anybody’s choice — if you don’t like the experiences they create, there are plenty of other tech companies out there.


There seem to be two arguments against Apple here:

1. Locking out developers is bad for business

Yeah, that lock-in approach to iPod has sure been bad for business.

Apple Stock Chart

And how about Google, that other paragon of openness?

Google Stock Chart.jpg

2. Steve Jobs is an egotistical control freak, which offends our sensibilities

Yeah, well, get over it.

  • If the fortunes of companies could be determined by two-year snippets you'd have a point.

    Taking the longer view results in statistics like this: PC - 94 percent share, Apple, 6 percent share.

  • I would also like to mention one other personal reaction to this decision: it has made me a little warier of moving to the Mac as a development platform. Yes, they have excellent tools and appear to value their dev. community a lot (after all, fewer people would buy a Mac if it had a dearth of good software), but this indicates that Jobs, at least, doesn't really trust or appreciate them. Which isn't particularly encouraging to aspiring new developers.

  • "Or how about you, Mathew, can I change the layout of your blog to better suit my needs?"

    You must be aware that as more websites move over to XHTML (and I mean actual, valid, XHTML), which is an open standard, you will be able to use other open standards such as XSLT to transform it into any format you want? This is actually one of the most significant benefits of XHTML. And you can already create a user-defined stylesheet in many browsers to alter the appearance of all webpages. Sure, it's not a task for the technically challenged, but neither is writing a widget for your iPhone.

    I'm not too beat up, since I'm not yet a Mac developer; this just means that I probably won't consider an iPhone as a future purchase. If I'm going to shell out that sort of money on a piece of kit, I would like to be able to exploit it to the full extent of my (not inconsiderable) technical capabilities. Apple can excise my small market segment if they think it might increase overall sales, though I confess my hope that eventually they will realise that giving the finger to their dedicated developers (who are, after all, acutely aware of the need for good user interfaces) has hurt them somewhat. The Mac is an excellent platform for developers, so they are losing out on a wealth of third party software for their device.

  • Loren Feldman's take on this is (as usual) hilarious.

  • I don't understand the Google example in this post... I think you're being sarcastic and I disagree with your sarcasm. Google is shockingly open and absolutely in the business in creating platforms instead of experiences (examples: Maps API, GWT, Book Search, Custom Search Engine in Co-op). I think you have a strong point here with regards to Apple, but your reference to Google contradicts the point you make in this post. Google's success is intimitely tied with Google's openness.

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