Regarding John Nack on Apple’s Control Over Native iPhone OS Software

I agree with much of this piece by John Nack today, regarding what everyone — developers, users, and even Apple itself — is missing out on because of Apple’s tight control and management of the App Store:

The effect on product development and innovation can be chilling. Yes, it’s easy to point to 200,000 apps on the App Store; it’s harder to note all those that aren’t there — serious apps that will be created only if developers know they’ll get a truly fair shot to innovate and compete. Anything else strengthens alternative platforms while undermining the Apple platform.

I’ve made a similar point myself, as far back as 2008. But it’s folly to pretend there aren’t trade-offs involved — that for however much is lost, squashed by Apple’s control, that different things have not been gained. Apple’s control over the App Store gives it competitive advantages. Users have a system where they can install apps with zero worries about misconfiguration or somehow doing something wrong. That Adobe and other developers benefit least from this new scenario is not Apple’s concern. Apple first, users second, developers last — those are Apple’s priorities.

Nack continues:

You shouldn’t care about this stuff because you love or hate Adobe. You should care because these issues affect your choices as a customer and a creative person.

But this assumes that one’s choices start and end with iPhone OS devices. The hottest competition in mobile devices is between platforms, not within Apple’s. This doesn’t work out well for Adobe, because they don’t have their own mobile device platform — their plan is to create a cross-device meta-platform built atop device platforms created by others. And, worse (for Adobe), Adobe (or at least many people at Adobe, like Nack) knows that the best mobile platform, the one whose aesthetic and audience most closely align with their own, is the iPhone OS.

To borrow from the Think Different campaign, “You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them.” That’s what I ask for Adobe technologies: let them succeed or fail based on their own merits, as determined by customers.

That’s exactly what’s going on. Apple is testing whether a tightly controlled and managed app console platform will succeed or fail based on its own merits, as determined by customers. There are different levels of competition. Apple has made its choice about how it wants to compete, and there’s nothing Adobe can do about it — other than proving Apple wrong by shipping compelling excellent software for Android.

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