The essence of a “strategy tax” is something that keeps a company from reaching its full potential. Fielding an inferior product to avoid stepping on the toes of another one of your own products is one example.
Perhaps an Apple unencumbered by the strategy tax would have made iTunes able to rip DVDs just as easily as CDs. If there were DMCA concerns, iTunes could have ensured fair use, applying DRM to ensure that movies ripped from your DVDs would only play on your Macs and iPods. However, iTunes’s mandate is not to be the best media player and manager, but rather to help sell Apple hardware and digital content. At least that’s how it’s perceived outside of Apple.
Apple’s recent App Store changes, however logical and empirically justifiable they may seem, all point strongly to a company that has started to believe that what’s good for Apple is good for America. And indeed, this may be the only way to reconcile the inherent conflict of interest. The alternative is philosophically and practically untenable. Apple can try to be a good platform owner and ensure that popular apps like Kindle and Netflix thrive on iOS, and it can also try to advance its own competing services, but both efforts cannot succeed to their fullest potential.
There’s a similar conflict of interest for us consumers. I want to vote with my dollars, choosing hardware and software that work well. Short-term, I want to use the best products that are currently available. But, longer-term, I want to act in a way that encourages the development of an open platform, where developers and publishers can thrive, where the platform owner doesn’t determine which apps will be available and how they’ll work.
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