If I went into an Apple Retail Store and got irate with staff at the Genius Bar because there were no Windows-based PCs being demonstrated you’d think I’d was loco. So I am at a loss to understand all the commotion about Apple’s rejection of the Google Voice iPhone application.
When dissecting the name “Apple App Store” I think it’s important to recognize that the operative word here is “store.” And store owners have a right to determine what they’ll be stocking on their shelves – even if the products in question are digital. If you’re looking for a Volkswagen I suggest you go to a Volkswagen rather than a Toyota dealership. Chanel boutiques are probably not the best place to go if you’re looking for a Prada bag. And by all means, if you need a new set of tires don’t waste your time at the neighbourhood florist.
So, whatever Apple wants to put in their App Store is entirely up to them. If they don’t have what you’re looking for just go somewhere else.
Of course there’s two sides to this story. There is also the mobile application developer. At the moment most of these people have to accept Apple’s App Store policies because the iPhone is a pretty unique platform to create some pretty unique solutions. But, for how much longer?
This is a scenario that Apple should already have seared into their collective consciousness. Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, Apple understood the economic importance of having developers write applications on their operating system. So the now famous Apple evangelist team set off far and wide to convince developers the Mac was an elegant platform that allowed them to create compelling and cutting-edge solutions for their customers. Apple’s problem though was that they didn’t understand the developers’ economics. And the lesson they learnt the hard way – or so I thought – was that addressable market size trumped elegance.
Enter Android. Already we are seeing many of the unique aspects of the iPhone being duplicated with Android. I also believe that Apple’s ability to sustain an innovative edge over Android will be reduced to months – if that. The collective development opportunities made possible by the fact that Android is Open Source will see to that. Will it be as elegantly executed as the iPhone? Probably not. But it won’t matter to the mobile application developer if there are eight or ten Android handsets shipped for every iPhone. Addressable market will again trump elegance.
The question that Apple has got to ask itself is whether there will be an inflection point in the smartphone market. Is it possible that consumers will become more entranced by mobile applications than they will with the mobile phone itself? And, if this happens, what are the chances that the mobile application developer free-for-all will be replaced with a diminishing set of very large mobile application publishers?
If both of these conditions emerge Apple must realize that Android can do unto the iPhone the way Windows 95 did unto the Macintosh. In such an environment it’s more likely that Apple will have to be accepting other organization’s terms and conditions than dictating them as they do today.