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Aug 08

Apple sea change in effect? Control and Data

Apple, Ruby, Tech Add comments


photo thanks to palestrina55

It has been a crazy few weeks. After writing about my changing thoughts on Apple I have come across a lot of Apple news that makes me really want to swallow the blue pill.

After the blitz of news on the craziness of the Apple review process (concluding with Google Voice) we had vocal figures such as Michael Arrington coming out against the policies.

Jason Calacanis laid out his case against Apple (in which he wants you to buy a ticket to his show even to read it… and I like the TechMeme “tip” ;)

It feels like we are at the start of a real sea change. A bunch of people reached out to say “I am kinda feeling that too.” Jason discusses:

  • iTunes anti-competitive practices
  • Monopolistic practices in telecommunications
  • Draconian App Store policies that are, frankly, insulting
  • Being a horrible hypocrite by banning other browsers on the iPhone
  • Blocking the Google Voice Application on the iPhone

We are being far too easy on Apple. Jason is right, we should be outraged!

I have been thinking it kinda fun and cute to watch Palm and Apple go at it on whether the Pre should be able to talk to iTunes. Instead, I should be friggin’ up in arms. If I was a Pre user, doubly so. Don’t lockup my darn data Apple. I have never given into the iTunes way, and keep my media DRM free and with my own formatting. Less convenient…. but I just had too. Now I am very glad. The next war will be around data and who owns it. Hopefully the winners in the cloud grok ownership, and we get the best of all worlds, being able to go between services and devices.

Apple is treating its users badly, and its developers even worse. Developers, like anyone really, don’t read what they sign… and we all need to be talking about that.

Hopefully the publicity keeps poring in on Apple and we get more than Phil Schiller saying a few words. It will be tough to keep it up, as Apple will continue to produce fantastic goods.

For example, I still read this about iTunes 9 and think “finally! I can deal with my applications through the desktop. Yay Apple!”

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23 Responses to “Apple sea change in effect? Control and Data”

  1. help4mac Says:

    I think you are exaggerating a bit. First of all iTunes and Palm – well I don’t give a shit about Palm. Time was mac people were begging Palm for PP-Mac integration and then they didn’t give a damn. What goes around comes around! Now they want a free ride on the back of iTunes. let em hire some coders – you for instance – to make it happen.

    Regarding censoring on the App Store and Google voice – well we’ve been taken over by a combo of the right wing conspiracy and the telecom biz. Hopefully Apple will figure out how to manage “risky apps”. regarding the telecom business, Apple warned it was a dirty biz. But the health care business is worse and can impact your life a lot more!

    And they don’t exactly ban other browsers from the iPhone, ya just have to use webkit. That’s probably a security thing.

  2. captain Says:

    “I have been thinking it kinda fun and cute to watch Palm and Apple go at it on whether the Pre should be able to talk to iTunes. Instead, I should be friggin’ up in arms. If I was a Pre user, doubly so. Don’t lockup my darn data Apple.”

    Your data is not locked up, as long as it’s DRM-free. Third-party apps like Doubletwist can read your iTunes Library XML file and thus sync music and playlists stored into iTunes with a wide variety of MP3 players and phones, including the Pre.

  3. Ian McKellar Says:

    Wow, I love people like @help4mac who somehow have some affection and allegiance to a company. Apple’s treatment of their customers has been going from bad to worse. I personally choose not to be treated like that. I guess if you’re into a bit of masochism it’s fine, but I guess I’m a little old fashioned.

  4. David Says:

    You still have your pills mixed up.
    Blue pill = Wake up in your bed and believe what you want to believe, i.e., stay in the perfect cosy Matrix and continue to be a slave
    Red pill = Find out how deep the rabbit hole goes, i.e., wake up in the ugly real world free and see the truth. That’s the pill that Neo took.

    That should be easy to remember, since there’s one operating system in particular that uses blue-pill–shaped buttons.

  5. Hypertrout Says:

    Thank you help for mac. Spot on.

    I believe there might be some other way for users to get their music onto there palm. What about the music they purchased through iTunes? Fair question, just not a very good one. If I purchase a music album does the seleer some how have responsibilty towards me now that I have a disc player?

    How bout all you crybaby hack writers start your own computer/music company. … then you can run it just the way you would like.

  6. Joeri Says:

    Paraphrasing help4mac:

    - Apple is being bad, but palm used to be just as bad, so that makes what they do perfectly fine.
    - Apple is being bad, but health care companies are worse, so that makes what they do perfectly fine.

    Bad behavior is still bad behavior help4mac, don’t try to sweep it under the rug.

  7. Robert Kaiser Says:

    I really do hope more people are seeing that and finally not swallow the blue pill again and keep on pretending everything’s nice in their iLife (or Apple world, whatever name you prefer) but take the red pill and see that as nice and shiny it looks, it’s built upon some really bad tactics.

    I never went with it, but I really liked how Steve out how good DRM-free music available in their shop is – until I found out I couldn’t buy those songs as I can’t buy from the iTunes store unless I have iTunes installed and I can’t install it as it’s just not available for Linux and don’t want to install it as I have other media apps I prefer. Bummer.

    Those examples are lurking around everywhere when it comes to Apple – something looks very nice indeed at a first glance but starts to suck you into heavy vendor buy-in very soon.

    Somehow this reminds me of “We want perfection, and all we want to do is bring it to everyone. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.”

  8. unscriptable Says:

    Hey Dion,

    I, like help4mac, think that you’re blowing this up a bit. Remember back in 2007, the days when Verizon ruled all and limited everything: data, voice, voicemail, music? They charged $2.50 for a friggin ring-tone back then!

    Apple has helped wrest control from the phone companies. The original iPhone plan was $60/mo for unlimited voice, data, and SMS (an amazing price at the time and the $75/mo equivalent for today’s iPhone is still a bargain compared to Verizon’s Blackberry plans). What phone company in their right mind would have even thought to allow users to download YouTube videos without charging extra…?

    Fine. That was then. This is now. Sure, Apple has been struggling to manage the App Store approval process and, so far, has been bungling it badly. Most of it has been mismanagement and that’s forgivable, imho.

    They’re also locking down iTunes against the Palm Pre. I would be surprised if Apple didn’t do this. Apple built iTunes through extremely hard work to overcome the RIAA’s stranglehold. Why should Apple just let other vendors walk in and reap what Apple has sown?

    What’s worth mentioning — and the only complaint against Apple I’ve heard so far that is worth serious argument — is that Apple is denying apps categorically. Any apps that compete with Apple (or AT&T, it seems) are not allowed onto Apple’s handheld devices. Again, I can understand that Apple doesn’t want other vendors to come in and reap what they’ve sown.

    However, now that Apple has created a computing platform — and more importantly, a complete mobile ecosystem — vendor lockout is unconscionable. (Yes, I am agreeing with you, here.)

    But I am not overly concerned at this point in time. Apple absolutely has to tread carefully or risk losing its market leadership position and getting sued by shareholders as a result. Let’s not forget that all publicly-held corporations, even Google, have to maximize profits to shareholders.

    I believe Apple knows what it’s doing. It knows that it must find balance between shareholder profits and a happy tech community (the iPhone’s early adopters and biggest market segment). The fact that Apple’s and Google’s boards of directors have so much overlap (or did until last week) is a _good sign_. (Just because Schmidt has left doesn’t mean the collaboration has ended, of course.)

    Google and Apple have a common motive: to create an open computing environment in which they can compete fairly against Microsoft. Look back a bit: Apple’s Mac division has been struggling to stay relevant since the 80’s, in part due to Microsoft’s belligerent monopolistic hold on the industry (yes, in part due to their own mistakes, too). Don’t you think they’d be extremely cautious of letting Microsoft take over this time around? “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

    Google has been helping to level the OS playing field by building their browser-based app suite. Apple is 100% on board with this. How do you compete in such an environment? 1. Make sure your browser is blazingly fast and capable to run these cutting edge web apps. (Safari) 2. Make sure your non-browser apps and OS are also blazingly fast and capable to run apps that still don’t work well in a browser. (Snow Leopard) 3. Support open standards in your products. (OpenCL, OpenGL, HTML5, etc.)

    Apple’s been doing this on the iPhone, too. Remember when Steve Jobs announced that app development for the iPhone would be done via open web standards? And remember how most of us whined and complained that Apple needed to release a native SDK? Apple relented and, in the end, benefitted greatly, but let’s not forget that it was us, the early adopters and tech community, that lost sight of the goal: an open computing environment.

    I, too, temporarily gave up hope with Apple when they started categorically denying PhoneGap-based apps (cross-platform web-based apps wrapped in a mobile browser wrapper). This hit me particularly hard. I felt I was the sole voice against the native SDK when it was originally announced, and now I felt utterly foolish that I believed Apple would embrace open web standards at all.

    But that has changed; PhoneGap apps are flying into the app store once again. More Apple bungling, undoubtedly, in hind sight.

    Apple’s m.o. has always been to rid the world of DRM, too. That’s been on Steve Jobs agenda since day one. That’s how Apple believes it has opened the playing field for music on mobile devices, and that’s as far as they’re willing to go without payback. Don’t expect them to open iTunes and the App Store without getting a piece of the action.

    Sure, other platforms are much more open than the iPhone. Android is the best example. Palm is making a good effort, too. But these platforms don’t have nearly as good a chance of staying viable as the iPhone. Against Microsoft and RIM, only Android has a fighting chance at garnering a small minority market presence. At the present moment, iPhone is the only hope. If you don’t agree, then you are clueless to how much power Microsoft still holds over the industry, even against Google.

    Am I happy with the current state? No. I wish everything was completely open and fair now. But thanks to Apple, Palm, and Google (and let’s not forget Mozilla and other OSS providers, but that’s another long story) it’s going in the right direction. Slowly. Sometimes too slowly, I think.

    I don’t know what got up Arrington’s sphincter. I think he should loudly and clearly express his dislike of the current situation, too. Go ahead, make some threats. But abandon the iPhone? The platform that stands the best chance to level the playing field through open standards? Sheer stupidity at this point in time. Don’t follow his lead, Dion.

    – John

  9. zadośćuczynienie Says:


  10. unscriptable Says:

    Michael Arrington should be encouraging developers to embrace multiple platforms. Encourage PhoneGap, Appcelerator’s Titanium, and other cross-platform tools, especially those that promote open standards. (Sorry, Microsoft, your “solution” ain’t so good, as far as I can tell.)

  11. drmca Says:

    People are getting seriously spoiled these days. The sense of entitlement to everything and anything is absolutely amazing to me. It’s very reminiscent of grad students complaining to teachers about the grades they think they should get as opposed to the ones the teachers gave them.

    First off, let me say that I disagree with Apple rejecting apps that compete with their own. That doesn’t make any sense, mainly because they don’t charge for their apps. That’s not right.

    But the rest of the stuff about iTunes? Please. You have a choice of music management software. You have multiple music formats. If you don’t like iTunes, don’t use it. It’s free, anyway. My personal favorite is Robert Kaiser complaining that he can’t get into the “iTunes Music Store” without installing iTunes. “I don’t want to install it.” Do you want Apple to just start beaming the songs directly into your head? Talk about lazy and spoiled. It is not a burden or an imposition to expect that you install a free apple program to access apple’s music store.

    And to the OP, you never gave in to the iTunes way. Bully for you. That’s your choice. Unlike the Microsoft monopolies, Apple isn’t forcing you to do anything you don’t want to do. Unless you buy Apple products, and even then, they’re not forcing you. You have a choice of music software, music playing hardware, and music stores. You may want to use the Apple ones because they happen to be better than their competition, at least in ease of use and features. If not, then don’t use them. It’s that simple. No one is stopping you. You sound like someone complaining that Gillette won’t allow Schick blades to be used on their Mach 3 razor. How dare they? How dare they spend their money creating a product that people choose to use because it is better than the competition, but have processes set up so that they can actually make money off of their investment? Again, this isn’t a monopoly, not by a long shot.

    Oh, and complaining about “draconian DRM” as if that’s Apple’s fault is ridiculous. Who was it who pushed the music companies into the DRM-free iTunes plus format? That’s right, Apple. The DRM isn’t coming from them, and they’d be just as happy as you to be rid of it.

    I’m sure I’ll be written off as some sort of Apple apologist. But it’s not about apologizing for any company. I don’t love companies or treat them like a favorite sports team. If a company is doing something underhanded, I’ll point it out. But all Apple is doing here is making great products that people want to use, and then leveraging that to create a scenario where the best use of their products is to use them all together. That’s not a crime, not by a long shot, and you can complain about it all you want but you’ll sound very petty in the end.

    Again, the app store stuff is a different story. I’m still confused as to how you can link app store policies with the fact that Apple doesn’t do absolutely everything you want them to with their music ecosystem.

  12. Eric Says:

    drmca has it right. Don’t like iTunes — use something else. Don’t like the app store policies, buy a different damn phone and shut the hell up.

    Your podcast? Deleted from my iTunes.

  13. Duv Says:

    You know for all the raving fanboi’ism, there is one thing that I think tends to be over looked.
    Apple, like any company, will do things that is in it’s own best interest. Be it open source or not, so long as it moves the bottom line and keeps them form legal scrutiny… they will do it. And that is the thing with Apple right now (aside from “Dear Leader’s” notoriously massive ego and temper), they have grown to a point where playing lip-service to the concept of “open” seems to pay very well.
    But I can’t see Apple doing this much longer, it will stunt their growth in the financial sector as it’s begun to in the technology sector. If they continue like this, they will peak and lose like any other company. Unless they adapt, which is something that (if history speaks) Apple tends to have trouble doing.

    The funny thing about any response like “Don’t like iTunes, dl something else” is that the market is so tilted to the iTunes ecosystem that anything else attempting to get into the market has a VERY long climb unless they have means to leverage the iTunes network to their player/device. Palm has been kind of forced into a cat-and-mouse with Apple as an example of it may have to take to wrestle market share away from Apple… which Apple protect with the zeal of a madman.
    App approval process has also been something of a worrying point, it a mess. And really only complete transparency will clean. Apple has not been talking which continues to be a bothersome annoyance to developers that just want to get back to programming something “cool”… and then there are the denials/rejections, which I will not being to get into since it something of a dirty laundry list of anti-competitive cruft and sheer stupidity.

    Simply put, I think that the time is coming to begin to make it obvious to Apple that this behavior it’s welcome and shouldn’t move the bottom line by much. If they continue like this, it will happen anyway by customer revolt (i.e.: “Voting with the wallet”, “Voting with feet”) but they will lose so much in the process that they really shouldn’t court this kind of action (or worse, government-imposed intervention).

    That is my feeling on the matter.

  14. Dion Almaer Says:

    A lot of good passionate opinions which is great.

    I don’t buy the “just buy another X” or the comparison to Gillette though. While expensive, I am hardly “locked in” with a razor. I can change pretty quickly.

    With iTunes though, that isn’t the case. I also don’t think that many users really understand their actions. My parents probably don’t understand what AAC / DRM means. iTunes makes it very easy to buy HD / AAC for a reason. I often mess up and get HD for an extra buc just because of the labelling!

    You can always “use something else”. We didn’t have to use Microsoft during the monopoly years either, yet that didn’t mean that they had used monopolistic practices.

    I am not saying that Apple necessarily has, but it is good to at least think about what it means to build out your AAC playbook, or what it would mean if you saw a new phone that you would like to switch too etc.

    One of the reasons that open platforms are so great is that we have choice. The more the merrier, and this is why I am re-thinking my feelings towards Apple. That is all. I find it interesting to see “you wrote a post on this, I must delete your podcast from iTunes!” Taking it a touch too far perhaps?

    All I want is to start discussions. There are some really good valid points just on this little blog post, and I learned about interesting points of view.



  15. drmca Says:

    Sorry, but I don’t see how you’re locked into Apple anymore. A year ago, I could see it, with the Fairplay DRM (which again, isn’t apple’s fault anyway). Now, with the entire iTunes library available DRM-free, where’s the lock in? AAC without DRM is an open format.

    As for the ecosystem being tilted towards Apple, that’s not necessarily a fair statement. What is a fair statement is that Apple’s respective products across the ecosystem are generally better than their competition. The issue isn’t that people are forced to keep using iTunes. The issue is that they would prefer to keep using iTunes because by and large people like it better than alternatives, and it’s free. If I switched to a Pre, and all I would have to do is point it at my root directory containing my MP3s and AACs. But I won’t, because I prefer using iTunes because i like it better than the alternatives.

    The thing that bugs me the most about this is that there’s a backlash building based on a false sense of entitlement that is essentially trying to penalize Apple for doing a good job. They make great software and people prefer iPods because they are so much better than the alternatives. The idea of penalizing them for this is, in my opinion, philosophically wrong in every way. People can use alternatives. But they don’t, not because they are forced to, as was the case with IE and Microsoft, but because they would prefer not to.

    There’s a big difference between someone saying, “man I wish Apple would support Ogg Vorbis” or “I wish Apple had iTunes on Linux” and “Apple has to support Ogg Vorbis” and “Apple MUST put iTunes on Linux”. The people who use the “must” form of those statements are mistaken. And that’s the root of the whole thing: people are angry at Apple because they don’t do everything they want them to do, and also because they’re “stuck” with Apple because the alternatives are crappier. I can understand the wish to have additional features, but to treat Apple as if they’re conducting criminal behavior because they don’t cater to your every personal whim is, in my opinion, ludicrous.

  16. dion Says:

    As I mentioned in my last post, Apple is just a company, and isn’t “evil”. It does its job which is to try to get returns for its investors. That being said, companies do have “values” and when I give money to companies, I think about that. I have yet to make a purchase at Walmart for example, which is my prerogative.

    As Jason points out, lot of us give Apple a LOT of money each year, so it is OK for us to think about what we want to help fund too.

    Apple creates fantastic products, but everything is grey. As much as you call out “everything else is crap!” you can’t think that Apple has been as restrictive as they are withOUT thinking about lockin and the like.

    Also, if you allegedly looked at the alleged iPhone SDK agreement you may allegedly think about how it allegedly goes incredibly far against the rights of alleged developers. If they allegedly ask you to allegedly sign away your future alleged rights (via allegedly saying “if you sign this, you also are signing anything that we allegedly change in the alleged future).

    Note, although you are taking a strong stance, the point at hand here is to talk about what Apple may or may not be doing and weighing up what it means.



  17. Duv Says:

    I just can’t seem to buy that with the nature of which artists and/or record labels have seem to bought into the absolutely rabid need to have product pushed through the Apple iTunes channel. You see it time and time again with any label and/or artist(s)… Apple is currently the best one can do to get access to a large amount of people, and in music that has alot of value to any channel.

    It’s something that has been changing but VERY slowly. Sony and any artist that associate with Sony/BMG seem to be a rather good example of a revolt, of sorts. Most of their high-lining talent seem to have this big market push for Real Networks’ Rhapsody (Jenifer Lopez, Beyoncé Knowles, Rob Zombie, Etc.)… and it’s something that is pushed hard, customers get allot of access to things through Rhapsody that would take prolonged amount of time to reach Apple or hasn’t been released otherwise (via CD or anything else).
    To say that it hasn’t helped is an understatement (it’s been ongoing for a few years now), Apple’s presence in the market is so vast that even though Sony does it’s best to avoid them… they will still (grudgingly, I assume) release product through iTunes (which in turn in tie completely into the iPhone and iPod only).
    This is what happens when ONE company rules on both ends of the channel (the method to pool all content and the consumers). They become this 800 lb. gorilla that needs to be dealt with either by market pressure (which isn’t working currently, since I can’t name one company big enough in this space to sway the minds of labels/artist[s] and customers to come to them) or intervention of some kind, it’s happened before to (and that intervention is still ongoing depending on where you are) Microsoft and if Apple keeps acting like it does (catering only to itself, DRM content or not), it will happen to them.

    It’s more a matter of how that bugs me, any time intervention happens… it’s a desperate play, no matter how good it is. If Apple continues to invite legal scrutiny, it will happen… and the results of such are never pretty.
    I would rather that it NOT come to this at any cost. Since we will all lose more than we gain when it does happen. Which is why I say that it should be made to light to Apple that this behaviour is not welcome… they can’t just keep catering their channel only to themselves at the exclusion of others. The more that they do that, the more a Lawer at the DoJ is licking his lips.

    @Dion Almaer:
    It’s something that I think people have to come to realize. That dependence on one source for content can be VERY dangerous to all involved.
    Maybe that it why I am liking the shift in the Mobile space, it tend to be something that doesn’t happen for very long. Mobile developers, by their very nature, tend to be nomads when it comes to platforms… loyalty isn’t something that will last long since the technology there is always changing, so soon rather than latter there is a new platform to explore. An customers equally as fickle for a new device, so for now… it keep governing bodies from getting involved, since the market it doing it’s job.

    It a rather small thing that any company in open-source business seems to get. People can and will move, they can’t stop that… nor should they make it hell to do so. Why? It tend to push these businesses to value EVERY customer that looks at their product, so they got to at least give someone something of value to keep them coming to them for the same product that someone else has.

    With most things that Apple is involved in (save for OS’s) they don’t have that kind of drive. They seek to dominate to the point of completion, they drive to own 100% of any market that they are in. Diversity and Competition in any market tends to help keep any business for getting out of control with dominance… it something that iTunes and iPod doesn’t really have, music distribution (and Personal Media Players) is diverse but nothing seem to be at the level of keeping up with Apple. It seems to be happening with the iPhone as well but between mess-ups with Apps, the constantly changing face of mobile, and better products from competitors, I doubt it will happen or if it does, it will not be for long

    Still it’s something to keep an eye on.

  18. welfaremike Says:

    Nobody has really gotten the point here: Apple didn’t tell Palm it couldn’t write it’s own sync management software for the Mac. Palm just chose to try to leech off of iTunes. With the DRM restrictions lifted, those songs you bought on iTunes could be synced through Palm software. But they chose the lazy route and they’re about to get b!tchslapped by the USB people for spoofing a vendor ID.

    I’m a huge Mac user, but I also hate alot of Apple’s BS that’s going on right now. Their App Store policies are bunk. But there are soooo many options out there for music. iTunes just happens to be the most popular and widely used one. Nobody cries foul when an iPod can’t work with other syncing and music management software, but only when the device they bought that *wasn’t* an Apple product can’t sync with iTunes.

    It’s real popular to hate on Apple right now, but most of it is illogical and unfounded. Except for the App Store BS. That’s just crap.

  19. Robert Kaiser Says:

    My point on the iTunes story is that one shouldn’t have to install any specific software on a computer just to buy DRM-free music. OK, now I can go and buy similar MP3s from Amazon or others, and Apple just won’t get my money because they don’t let me go shopping on their so-called online shop with just a web browser.
    As someone said correctly, Apple, just like Microsoft, is using user experience to generate money. I like the approach to using money for generating user experience better. I often fail to understand how people become fanboys of the former and believe it would be for their own good. I am a fan of the second approach though, and one can even make a living based on it, as Mozilla among others shows perfectly.

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  21. mrmambo Says:

    I’m so sorry developers don’t get to create whatever they want to for whatever platform they want to write for. It’s not like AT&T or Apple have invested millions in creating the platform. Why should they have any say over what gets loaded on their phone…it’s not their business they’ve created, right? It’s all for the developers!

    Dammit…what bastards these companies are for creating opportunity for others in the first place…

  22. Lava Says:

    “The thing that bugs me the most about this is that there’s a backlash building based on a false sense of entitlement that is essentially trying to penalize Apple for doing a good job. ”

    Well, said, drmca.

    Michael Arrington, Jason Calacanis – two latest members of the growing circle jerk of elitist self-entitled tech royalty (and Calacanis can’t even present cogent arguments that make any sense, just nothing but sound and fury, signifying nothing).

  23. Tenant Screening Says:

    its a good thing to know that Im not the only one encountering this kind of problems …”I have been thinking it kinda fun and cute to watch Palm and Apple go at it on whether the Pre should be able to talk to iTunes. Instead, I should be friggin’ up in arms. If I was a Pre user, doubly so. Don’t lockup my darn data Apple. I have never given into the iTunes way, and keep my media DRM free and with my own formatting. Less convenient…. but I just had too”
    I hope the change the way things work…until then, we could just wish…

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