[FRIAM] The new evil empire

Russ Abbott russ.abbott at gmail.com
Mon May 31 15:59:08 EDT 2010


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Apple wants to be the new Microsoft. It wants you to buy applications that
run locally on your computer iPad, and it sees its competitive advantage as
having the most developers and the most applications (hence all those
“there’s an app for that” ads). As Microsoft showed, if you can get a lead
and become the developers’ platform of choice, you can benefit from network
effects. ...

In April, Apple changed the
the iPhone developer agreement to prevent developers from using
cross-compilers to create iPhone apps. A cross-compiler is a tool that
allows you to take an application you wrote for one platform, push a button,
and repackage the application for another platform (in this case, iPhone
OS). The immediate target of this was Adobe, which was developing a tool
that would enable developers to take Flash apps, push a button, and make
them into iPhone apps. This simplest explanation for this is that Apple, as
the market leader, wants to make it* harder* for people to develop for
multiple platforms at the same time. “Write once, run anywhere” — the slogan
of Java, but also the essence of developing for the web — is *bad* for
Apple, and they want to make it as hard as possible. (John
a different argument that Apple wants control over their platform and
doesn’t want cross-compilers between it and the developers, but that
interpretation is not inconsistent with mine.) In other words, if you’re
number one, then openness just helps the competition, because if developers
have to choose just one platform, they’re going to choose yours.

So Apple is competitive; we knew that already. And they don’t want to repeat
the mistakes of the 1980s and 1990s; we knew that already, too. But I think
the important point is that they are promoting a model of personal computing
where most of the developers write for the iPhone OS, and if you want to use
their applications you have to buy an Apple hardware product.
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