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  • More Anti-Apple Silliness

    May 24th, 2010

    When it comes to Apple Inc., it’s hard to find a gray area for discussion. People love them or hate them, although Apple fans are known to complain loudly about things that don’t work, or features that are lacking.

    The real problems come from some of the critics, some of whom are so abysmally uninformed you wonder how they manage to keep jobs as alleged journalists. There used to be a respect for facts, or maybe I’m just getting a little too old for this sort of thing.

    In any case, I recently read a curious blog entry from Europe where someone suggested that Apple was blocking Adobe Flash from their mobile platform strictly because of money. But defining that alleged income source is murky. Certainly it would be to Apple’s advantage if you could visit most every site on an iPhone or iPad and not see the telltale icon that Flash is required. Isn’t that something that would actually please Apple customers and maybe add a few?

    It’s a sure thing that Flash-enabled games are nowhere as flexible or immersive as the ones you buy at the App Store, so I doubt that sales of the latter would be seriously hurt by the ability to access the former. Blocking the ability to convert Flash to iPhone apps isn’t a bad thing, since that scheme is notoriously inefficient. You get far better results using Apple’s own developer tools, and by being able to take advantage of all the platform’s great new features, there’s the added advantage of making the resulting apps more attractive to potential customers. That means more potential income for the developer. Don’t forget that Apple’s 30% cut strictly covers the cost of doing business and not much more.

    So it would seem to me that the suggestion that Apple blocks Flash for financial reasons is utter nonsense. It happens to be quite true that the objections cited by Steve Jobs are right on the mark in just about every case. If Adobe wants to prove him wrong, they can simply demonstrate a reliable version of Flash running on an iPhone. We’re still waiting, and the window of opportunity is pretty much closed. Putting an obviously flawed Flash 1.1 on Android 2.2 isn’t going to change a thing.

    The concerns about the lack of Flash are also connected to the oft-mentioned concerns about Apple’s tight mobile platform control. This weekend, for example, I received an email from a loyal listener to the tech show with the outrageous claim that Apple controls “and know what you buy, read, and access.”

    Let’s parse this statement.

    First, all online merchants keep records of customer purchases and preferences. That’s how they do business, so there’s nothing wrong with Apple knowing what you bought from them (and nobody else by the way), because they have a better picture of customer preferences. That’s how you keep the profits rolling in. It happens to be a good thing. A brick and mortar merchant also keeps customer records, even if some are handwritten, so they know how best to stock the shelves. What’s more, if you want Apple to live long and prosper, you have to expect they will use customer data in a responsible and productive fashion.

    Indeed, how often have you heard about Apple losing or compromising customer information? So far as I know, it hasn’t happened, whereas it’s hard to know what Google was doing when they were caught sniffing unprotected Wi-Fi data. Do you really have reason to trust that Google — or such social networks as Face-book for that matter — will do the right thing to ensure your privacy?

    As to controlling what you buy, with the App Store Apple acts in the same fashion as any vendor. They have the right to stock the products they want and refuse others. What about a Kroger’s supermarket, Best Buy, Wal-Mart or any other store? Don’t they have the right to pick and choose the merchandise they offer?

    Yes, I realize that you have a choice of just one vendor with the App Store when it comes to iPhone, iPod touch or iPad software, but you also have the option not to do business with Apple. And nothing prevents you from going online and buying other merchandise from just about any company on the planet if that’s what you want. Apple isn’t keeping tabs on those purchases, nor do they care what you buy and from where. Of course, if you do something illegal, you may get caught by the authorities, but that’s not something that impacts Apple, unless, of course, what you do somehow victimizes Apple.

    And, so far as I recall, Apple doesn’t stop me from visiting the sites I want for the same reason. Other than the lack of Flash, I can go most anywhere. All right, I will be warned about suspected phishing sites, but the same is true with any modern browser. Nothing wrong with that!

    What’s more, the “Apple Police” never tell me what to write, even though they’ve been aware of my existence for nearly 20 years. They may not agree with what I say, but they know they can’t stop me from saying it.



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    13 Responses to “More Anti-Apple Silliness”

    1. DaveD says:

      It is good to have an opinionated piece as long there are facts or a coherent set of reasoning that backed it. I haven’t been too involved in watching news on the TV and there were a block of time when I was a CNN junkie. Like for some, the TV series “Lost” jumped the shark in season 5. It was probably the time when the “newsroom” was pushed into becoming a money maker that I felt the good, solid “news” programming jumped the shark. I wonder if the same is true with tech news in the Internet age. I find myself in more situations of reading “bad” tech articles, a few analytical ones and a lot of opinion ones. Getting that feeling as to why I am wasting my time. I guess it is like in the game of golf when you parred in one hole erased all the bogey ones.

    2. dfs says:

      Whether you buy it or not, the argument that Apple’s antipathy to Flash on mobile devices is economically-driven goes like this. This is a policy that is allegedly intended to prevent (or at least discourage) developers from writing cross-platform apps that would work on the iPhone etc. but also on competitors’ mobile devices. I suppose the presumption is that, since most of copies of an app would be used on an Apple product anyway, developers would be coerced into going along with this, to the exclusion of other competing devices. This is probably the gist of what the Feds are looking at about Apple supposedly being monopolistic, if they are looking at anything at all. Adobe would be thrilled if the Feds could be convinced that this was a violation of developers’ rights, a restraint of free trade, or an illegal attempt to procure a corner on apps for mobile devices. I’m no lawyer so I have no idea if there is any substance of merit in this argument.

    3. Mike says:

      Please DFS, go read a definition of monopoly.

      • Peter says:

        @Mike, now go read the definition of “anti-competitive.”

        To draw a car analogy, back in 1970s, US auto manufacturers attempted to cut out third-party part makers by voiding warrantees on cars whose parts were not made by the manufacturer. Their arguments were similar to Apple’s: how were they supposed to guarantee the car if the manufacturers did not have control of the replacement parts used in the car? Of course, this got ridiculous–use a non-Chevy oil filter and watch your warrantee go bye-bye? Needless to say, the government stepped in, decided it was anti-competitive behavior, and put a stop to it.

        You can see the analogy I’m drawing: Apple claims that they can only guarantee the behavior of the phone if they control the APIs that the developers are using. By doing this, they are effectively cutting out third-party tool developers.

        Actually, the one reason I haven’t seen mentioned in all of the conspiracy articles is that in order to use Xcode, you need a Macintosh. So while Apple makes no money on the development environment, it makes money on the computer to run it. And developers tend to buy higher-end machines with larger profit margins…

        • Louis Wheeler says:

          @Peter,

          Your example is foolish, Peter. Apple is acting no differently from an exclusive store which chooses carefully what it willing to sell.

          What Apple is doing is the same as Walmart or Neiman Marcus. If you abuse their goods, then you lose your warrantees, too. Where did you think you got the right to tell Apple how to run its store? Do you think you have a right to boss Walmart and Neiman Marcus around, too?

          If you don’t like Apple products or the conditions under which they are sold, then go elsewhere. Go program for Android, for goodness sake. If Android phones are crap, that is not Apple’s fault.

          Apple is setting minimum standards for Apps just like Wii and Playstation does. It demands that there will be no cross platform applications. This is how Apple intends to beat the competition. How? By delivering better quality from having its applications be native to Mac OSX.

          Apple is being very competitive with Microsoft’s Win mobile7, Google’s Android and RIM. There is no lack of potential iPhone killers in the world.

          If openness really matters to the consumer then Android will greatly outpace Apple. But, what if this issue is not about the developers, at all? What if the consumers are the ones who matter? What if they like Apple keeping crappy, cross platform, Windows centric applications off the iPhone platform?

          And who cares if Apple wants developers to create their iPhone apps on a Mac? What is illegal or immoral about that? If you develop on a Mac, then you might know what you are doing. Your App stands a chance of being worth a damn. If you can’t afford the cost, then say off the iPhone platform.

          • Peter says:

            @Louis Wheeler, you’re comparing oranges and lemons. I believe the original comment referred to developer rules regarding cross-platform applications. It has nothing to do with the App Store. That said, there is a relationship that I will demonstrate in a little bit.

            “What Apple is doing is the same as Walmart or Neiman Marcus. If you abuse their goods, then you lose your warrantees, too.”

            Uh, Walmart or Neiman Marcus are stores. They sell other people’s stuff. Neither Walmart nor Neiman Marcus have warranties. The manufacturer has a warrantee. The retailer does not (though many retailers are more than willing to sell you an extended warrantee…)

            “Apple is setting minimum standards for Apps just like Wii and Playstation does.”

            Actually, this is a common misconception.

            If you want Nintendo or Sony’s money and influence to market and/or develop your game, you must follow their rules. If you don’t want their money and influence, you can pay for a developer kit and distribute it yourself. There are porn apps for Nintendo systems, believe it or not. But you won’t find them in a GameStop, that’s for sure. Go to Japan and check out some back-alley shops, though, and you’ll find them.

            This is different from Apple where you have no other choices. Again, the original discussion wasn’t about the App Store, but since you brought it up, I agree with you. Apple has every right to have what they want in their store. As I’ve said numerous times before, what I would love to see is Apple provide a way for developers to distribute their own Apps. Then I would love to see Apple take a scythe through their store and weed out the hundreds of crappy tip calculators, digital whoopie-cushions, game rip-offs, anyone who specifies “localhost” for their website, etc. If those people don’t like it, let them distribute their crap on their own.

            The iTunes App Store should be a premiere destination for The Best Apps.

            But there’s a difference between the App Store and the platform.

            To go back to my original analogy, I have no problem with a Ford Dealership that only sells Ford parts. But Ford cannot restrict my use of non-Ford parts by voiding my warrantee unless Ford can prove that the part was somehow faulty.

            This is what US Auto Manufacturers were doing back in the 1970s. This was deemed anti-competitive by the government and the Magnusson-Moss Act was born. It was deemed that the warrantee on the car gave the manufacturer undue influence over the buyer and that the manufacturer could force the buyer to only use the manufacturers parts by threatening to void the warrantee.

            Now how does this relate?

            Suppose I’m a developer who wants to develop an App using Flash. I cannot do this according to Apple’s developer guidelines. I must use Apple’s tools. That’s anti-competitive–Apple is shutting down an Xcode competitor. If I were to use to Flash to develop an App (as some have done with the pre-release tool), Apple would not allow me to distribute my App through their App Store, which is fine. I could distribute my App myself, but I would be limited to those people who jailbreak their phones. And Apple threatens to revoke the warrantee of anyone who jailbreaks their phone, reinforcing their App Store as the only place to get Apps. This is anti-competitive.

            See how it all comes around? Yes, Apple has every right to make whatever rules they want for their store because it is their store. But when the other pieces of the puzzle come together, it becomes anti-competitive.

            Again, as I’ve said above, the solution to all this is to allow developers to distribute their own Apps. Then the whole anti-competitive argument falls down. I could develop with Flash and distribute my own Apps. Apple can still say that they won’t sell my App if it was developed with anything other than their APIs. It’s their store and they can do that. But I can now legitimately distribute it and my customers could buy it without worrying about threats from Apple.

            I would have no problem with Apple putting up appropriate warnings when you install such things. Personally, I would love it if Apple were to have a way to “bless” Apps which are not distributed via the App Store. For example, if I buy a bluetooth pedometer, it would be nice to get the software for the iPhone in the same box with the pedometer rather than having to search the App Store and see what pedometers are supported by what Apps. To get that “blessing”, you would need to follow Apple’s rules. But like the Nintendo example above, you wouldn’t have to.

            You may be surprised to hear it, but I don’t think there’s any grandiose conspiracy. I believe that Apple is trying to have set of developer tools that they control so that they have an easier time making changes.

            But my answer to it is different from restricting what tools developers can and can’t use and restricting what users can and can’t have access to. Instead, I would use the bait of the App Store–a premiere environment to get The Best Apps. Being in the App Store becomes a privilege. You can try to find customers on the Internet, sure, but wouldn’t you rather have your App in front of customers with Apple’s endorsement? To use your Neiman Marcus example, if it’s in the Neiman Marcus catalog, you know it’s good. Apple’s App Store should be the equivalent–where you go for high-quality Apps from companies I can trust. Let the unworthy try to peddle their wares on the Internet streetcorner–“Hey, Mister, wanna buy an App? I got porn! I got rip-offs! I got tip calculators! I got fart noises!”

            Everybody is happy.

            “And who cares if Apple wants developers to create their iPhone apps on a Mac? What is illegal or immoral about that?”

            Actually, what I said was that I’m surprised that no-one has brought it up in the conspiracy angles. I’ve heard that Apple wants to restrict Flash because of the video angle (ie, no free video). I’ve heard that Apple wants to restrict Flash because they hate Adobe (Adobe has screwed up Apple’s plans before). I’ve heard that Apple wants to restrict Flash because it’s sub-par (no multi-touch support, it’s a least-common denominator solution). But I haven’t heard anyone point out this immediate benefit to Apple about restricting Flash–you can develop Flash Apps on a Windows PC and you have to go buy a “much more expensive Mac.”

            Personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. But if you like conspiracy theories, it’s as good a one as any and I’m surprised the conspiracy theorists haven’t glommed onto it to make Apple appear more evil.

            • Louis Wheeler says:

              @Peter,

              Peter, no comparison is ever perfect. I disagree that your comments are appropriate.

              ” I believe the original comment referred to developer rules regarding cross-platform applications. It has nothing to do with the App Store.”

              I suggest that you reread the article, because Gene talks about many things including the nature of on-line stores.

              “Uh, Walmart or Neiman Marcus are stores. They sell other people’s stuff. Neither Walmart nor Neiman Marcus have warranties.”

              Both stores have warrantees on their house brands. They often accept exchanges and refunds when a product does not satisfy the customer. Both have return and allowance rules. You can’t use up half a can of spray paint and return it to Walmart to get your money back.

              There are conditions of use on everything you buy. All this is based on the conditions under which the item is sold. Different products have different conditions. Product tie ends are often necessary.

              BTW, Applications are other people stuff.

              “If you want Nintendo or Sony’s money and influence to market and/or develop your game, you must follow their rules. If you don’t want their money and influence, you can pay for a developer kit and distribute it yourself. ”

              Why do you insist that Apple play according to someone elses rules? Why can’t Apple have its own rules? You can disagree with them all you want, but you have no moral high ground. They aren’t breaking any promises to you, so your only recourse is to have nothing to do with them.

              “Again, the original discussion wasn’t about the App Store, ”

              You need to reread the article. Gene talked about the store in terms of what is necessary to participate in it. I merely stated that on-line stores are not much different from regular stores. Your third party auto part comparison is irrelevant and self serving.

              What you are against is Apple’s exclusivity. You resent that Apple controls your ability to get an app sold through their store. Any vendor will tell you the same thing about Walmart. It is not easy to sell products through Walmart.

              Disagree all you want with Apple. Why should Apple agree with you? How is it in Apple’s interest to do what you want? They seem to be doing quite well without your assistance.

              Your goals are purely selfish. You want to hold Apple to a contract that you willingly break.

              “But there’s a difference between the App Store and the platform.”

              No, there isn’t. This is what Windows and Linux users often don’t understand about Apple: Apple takes responsibility for the total user experience — hardware and software. Apple has always had stringent requirements on the Mac. You can’t judge Apple by Wintel’s rules, as you insist on doing.

              Apple allows developers to provide applications which enhance the user experience. When a developer violated the Mac guidelines in the past, they could find themselves cut off. Those developers own their work, but they do not own a right to be on the iPhone or the Mac platforms.

              Flash, especially, has no rights, because it was never on the iPhone platform. Multi-touch technologies exclude the possibility of Flash, because Flash web sites tend to use Rollovers and there are none on Multitouch.

              “Again, as I’ve said above, the solution to all this is to allow developers to distribute their own Apps. Then the whole anti-competitive argument falls down.”

              Apple has provided a means for you to this: in Web Applications. Apple is simply not allowing this for on-board apps. The reasons are quite clear; the hardware for the iPhone is quite limited. It is not a full blown computer.

              I do not agree that the Magnusson-Moss Act applies to on-line stores. Or that the government has the power or the will to force Apple to accept Flash apps on the iPhone platform. Flash is a dying technology; only a fool would invest much money in developing for it.

              Face it, Peter, life often seems unfair. When other people exercise their rights, this often prevents you from doing what you want to do. Those other people may allow you to use the products which they create only under certain conditions. A Warranty is a contract; if you jail break your iPhone you void your warranty. This locks you into using Apple approved applications internally. So, you should not purchase an iPhone if you do not intend to keep your promises.

              Peter, this is also about marketing and product differentiation.

              Android is using the same business model as Microsoft’s “Plays-for-sure.” That was unsuccessful for Microsoft, so I can’t see Apple following that marketing plan. Apple has a successful business model; It is one which demands a ridged control. Why would Apple change a successful business plan? This is especially so, when this is not something that the customers want.

              “Actually, what I said was that I’m surprised that no-one has brought it up in the conspiracy angles.”

              If product tie ends are a conspiracy; then it is an open and transparent one. No one is forced to develop for the iPhone. It is useful to a developer to use Mac OSX when developing Apple Apps. Cross platform development tools have a strong tendency to produce bad apps, so Apple is restricting them. There is nothing illegal or immoral about that. Apple is violating no one’s rights.

              I don’t think this struggle is personal. Adobe closely realigned itself with Microsoft back in 1998 and gave very little attention to Apple. Mac users suffered from Adobe’s neglect. The only time Safari crashes is when I am running Flash Videos. I use ClicktoFlash to block the annoying Flash ads.

              Why should Apple care about Adobe? They are just not that important to Apple, anymore. Adobe used a series of intimidation tactics against Apple which worked a decade ago, but don’t work now. Why should Apple put up with an abusive relationship? Why shouldn’t Apple move on? Even if this inconveniences you?

              Flash is only temporarily popular. It will go the way of the Floppy Disk, soon enough.

    4. Brian M says:

      I wonder how any of the gaming platform developers (sony, Nintendo, Microsoft) would be affected if Apple’s Terms are forced to be changed by courts… If none of them have been found illegal yet, Apple wont’ be either.

    5. Louis Wheeler says:

      In a sense, that blog entry from Europe was correct. He was just totally ignorant of the technologies involved.

      Once Apple chose to use Multi-touch technologies on the iPhone there was no possibility of using Flash web sites without extensive reworking to avoid Rollovers. This effort would be so laborious that it made more sense to move to HTML5 and H.264. That seems to be happening rapidly on the Web. We can thank Apple for pushing us toward HTML5.

      It was all about profits, too. Apple must have thought that Multi-touch technologies would be so leading edge that it would compel people into buying the iPhone. That seemed to work. Perhaps, Apple was too leading edge, because HTML5 isn’t quite ready. It certainly wasn’t ready three years ago when the original iPhone came out.

      It seems rather odd that Apple is being blamed because it is pushing toward better technologies. But, every improvement gores someone’s ox. This time it is Adobe. Adobe responded by throwing a hissy fit.

      Naturally, Adobe has no store of good will built up with Apple, since Flash works rather poorly on Macs. Adobe has been rather irritating to Apple since 1998, when Adobe told everyone to move to Windows.

    6. Flash also works poorly, at least so far, on the Google Android 2.2 OS. If Adobe hoped those demonstrations would vindicate their position, they have been shown to be utterly wrong.

      Peace,
      Gene

    7. zek says:

      Apple aren’t stopping people from writing their apps for other platforms, just not letting them kludge together apps that work less well on apples’ platform because they have been written generically.

      Oh, and Warrantee means ‘person to whom a warranty is made’; it is not a spelling variant of warranty.

    8. Louis Wheeler says:

      You know, Zek, the cross platform and Flash quarrels are a losing proposition. Who’s listening this crap? Not Apple or the iPhone customers. Apple is posting record sales and profits.

      Who cares if there are disaffected developers or vendors? Who is listening to the Anti-Apple pundits?

      Sometimes, these endless discussions feel like a revolt of the geeks. Sorry Geeks, Apple doesn’t care much about you, any more. Apple has moved on to where the real money is

      Thanks for the reminder on warrantee, zek. I just hate it when I am imprecise; it reminds me that I am human. LOL

      But, you could be talking to Peter, too, because it was a group mistake.

    9. Stephane Beladaci says:

      @Mike, And get yourself some law classes. If there was no abuse of monopoly neither the FTC nor the European Commission would have prosecuted Apple. They got away with Europe after obeying and reversing the ban on conversion tool but it is not over with the FTC.

      Apple wants the browser to be useless from a commercial standpoint to force the use of the AppStore.

      But at this point it does not matter anymore cause Android already ate iPhone for lunch, the new BlackBerry PlayBook is going to take over and there will be an estimated 350,000,000 Flash enabled devices by 2012.

      This will end Macintosh style, where Apple is going to fall to a 10% market share and by 2012, developers and clients will rather ignore Apple entirely than pulling with their shit. It happened before, I worked on a dozen of project where cross compatibility was such an issue that we decided to drop Mac all at once (and WebTV at the time too for that matter).

      Sit and watch.

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