Geek News: Latest Technology, Product Reviews, Gadgets and Tech Podcast News for Geeks

Apple Gets Away With It

Posted by Andrew at 6:05 PM on April 12, 2010

I’m a long-time user of Apple products, going back as far as the Apple ][ and more recently with an iPod Nano.  I wouldn't regard myself as a fanboy but rather appreciative of good design.  However, I'm amazed at the things Apple is getting away with at the moment - things which I think are plain wrong.

My issues are primarily around the fact that iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad
- are locked down to only allow approved applications to be installed
- that approved applications are only available through Apple's App Store
- that developers are consequently forced to pay Apple for the privilege of selling in the App Store
- that the approval process and standards for applications are unclear at best, spurious at worst and subject to change

As for the nonsense regarding Adobe's Flash, I'm deeply suspicious that Apple appears to be abusing its market position to encourage the adoption of one technology (HTML5) over another  (Flash).  HTML5 is an open standard which gives some moral high-ground but I can't help wonder if things would have been any different even if it was proprietary.  You'd think that more of the website owners would be complaining but I guess all they can see is the kerching of cash.

I don't have a problem with Apple deciding what they're going to sell in their App Store - it is their store after all.  It's the lockdown of the devices and the necessity to jailbreak that make the situation wrong.  If I want to have objectionable apps or adult material on my iPhone, that's my decision, not Apple's.

Imagine for the moment that Apple is actually Ford, you've bought a Focus and you want to personalise it with some body parts and accessories.

- you'd have to buy all your parts or accessories through Ford
- Ford would decide what parts or accessories are available
- suppliers would have to pay Ford to stock their parts or accessories

This kind of behaviour in the auto industry was banned in the UK and the EU several years ago and I assume also in the USA.  The auto folks brought it on themselves by keeping prices high, but just because the apps in the App Store are cheap, it doesn't mean that it's right.

[updated to reflect store = App Store, not mall store]

7 Comments

  1. From John Knights at 9:37 am on April 13, 2010

    “I don’t have a problem with Apple deciding what they’re going to sell in their store – it is their store after all”

    There’s your money quote. It’s also their “everything else” and if you don’t like it there are a million other companies out there who will sell you something that will fit your personal agenda.

    The analogy with Ford is not very good by the way. Ford do not have a high street store (or online one?), you do not have to buy all your accessories through Apple and indeed Apple sell competitors products (that do exactly the same job as their own products) through their stores. Ford DO approve certain products for use with their vehicles, especially where safety is a factor and rightfully so and it voids their warranty if you fit random pattern-parts that you bought cheaply from eBay for example. Developers do NOT pay Apple for the privilege of selling through them, like any vendor Apple take a cut of the revenue.

    They are not a charity. Go buy an HP or Dell or something and get over it.

  2. From Pete at 1:52 pm on April 13, 2010

    kerching?

    I see what you are saying, and I see what John is saying, and you hoth have valid points.

    The bottom line is what do you, the consumer want as an experience?

    If I own a Ford and I don’t want to take any risks, then I buy Ford parts, or Ford approved parts and go to the Ford Dealership to install them.

    If I want to do my own thing, I buy questionable brake pads and service my own brakes.

    If I don’t want to learn anything, or risk anything, I go the Apple route.

    If I want to learn something, I do it my way and assume the risks.

    I own a Personal Media Player (COWON Q5W) which, even 3 years ago was more powerful than the current iPad/iPod, but it requires me to work to make it do what I want, but then it does what “I” want, not what Steve Jobs thinks I want. And it does. It’s quirky, but who cares. If I screw something up, I just fix it. No harm, and if it doesn’t work, I assume the risk.

    I own a Chrysler, and I get them to do my brakes. I don’t want to risk my family. If they don’t do it right, then I sue their asses.

    Personal choice. That’s what it’s all about.

    (And it’s fun owning a device that nobody in my sphere of influence has ever heard of, but “ooohs” when they see it.)

  3. From T. Algren at 6:41 pm on April 13, 2010

    HTML5 is an open standard and Flash is a huge cross-browser remote code execution hole waiting to happen. Why should Adobe ‘own’ that market, any more than Apple? No need to don the tinfoil hat (at least in that case).

    Disclaimer: I went to MacWorld in ’84, but the only Apple hw I own is an iPod mini from a company party a couple years back…have a droid instead of an iPhone, too. :)

  4. From quimby at 8:08 pm on April 13, 2010

    @john knights

    jesus, read the damn article again. you missed all of the salient points. and your understanding of the ford analogy is non-existent. developers have to pay $99 to gain access to the programming tools that will let them create apps for the app store, look it up. PLUS, they get a cut of the revenue.

    please take the time to read and COMPREHEND before you start coming off like a apple employee with too much time (and too little rational thought) on your hands.

    jesus, people like you piss me off… :E

  5. From John Knights at 11:34 pm on April 13, 2010

    The author stated that developers are forced to pay for selling on the Apple Store – they clearly are not.

    The Developer program charges $99 for a software package that allows you to develop yes and lots of people will pay for the software just to play around for their own fun. That is not the same as Apple charging you to sell on their store – they do not, they simply take a cut of the revenue JUST AS ANY RETAILER DOES.

    My correction of the author’s analogy is sound. You cannot compare a car manufacturer and computer software development in the terms stated. The Author even had to edit the article after my initial feedback to clarify his statements…

    Please take the time to THINK and STRUCTURE your English language properly, you come across as a Windows fanboy who will dive into any Apple article guns blazing.

  6. From Andrew at 8:06 am on April 14, 2010

    The comments have been going for a few days so I thought I’d pop in and respond to a few.

    First of all, apologies for the confusion regarding “store”. I’d always meant the App Store but I wasn’t 100% sure what it was called.

    The main issue that seems to about Apple as a retailer taking a cut and whether it is forced or not. I’d argue that it is forced because a developer can only sell iPhone apps through the App Store.

    The App Store is not like a bricks’n’mortar store. Retailers take mark-up over the price paid to the supplier but this covers the risk of the goods not selling (unless on sale-or-return). So Shop A buys 100 trousers @ $20 each. Supplier gets $2000. Shop sells at $25 and makes a profit of $500. Or else, trousers fail to sell well so price is cut to $15. Shop loses money (not the supplier).

    Also, should Shop A decide not to stock the trousers, the supplier is free to approach Shop B and see if they want to sell the trousers. And it’s this latter part that illustrates the issue. As an app developer I can ONLY sell through Apple (at least as far as I understand things).

    If I was WinMo, PalmOS, Symbian or Maemo developer I can choose to sell through several webstores (which yes, take their cut) or I can even sell it through my own website. If I develop for Apple, it’s their way and their pricing.

    Now you could argue that given the number of mobile operating systems there is sufficient competition that market forces should be enough to keep Apple in line, but my concern is the Apple has become a de facto monopoly. I would agree that Apple does not have a monopoly on the mobile phone or even smartphone market – I believe the figures suggest that RIM is the market leader though I could be wrong. But is it a de facto monopoly in the mobile apps market and is thus able to impose unfair terms and conditions?

  7. From Andrew at 8:16 am on April 14, 2010

    Regarding HTML5 v. Flash, I really don’t know what to think. The best view is to say that Apple decided to embrace HTML5 as the future and it’s just unfortunate that so much of the web is in Flash. Forward-looking web sites saw the writing was on the wall, so moved to HTML5.

    Another part of me says, why on earth would Apple want to deny their customers a full web experience? Yes, Flash isn’t perfect but many (most?) of the top 10 websites use Flash, so why ruin it for the customers?

    Who knows?