Archive for March 2, 2011

Wednesday, March 2, 2011 [Tweets] [Favorites]

iPad 2 Smart Cover

Khoi Vinh:

Through and through, this strikes me as a truly clever design, the kind of protective layer that only Apple — and none of the third party case manufacturers vying for this market — can come up with, because they can make all the pieces fit together. It also strikes me as the kind of intelligent engineering that Apple should be coming up with, meaning it corrects the blight on industrial design that was Apple’s old iPad cover

The original iPad case was, I think, the only Apple product that I’ve ever returned for a refund. The new one looks like a home run.

BugzKit

BugzKit is an Objective-C library for the FogBugz API, used to develop LadyBugz (via Brandon Sneed).

The Apple Strategy Tax

John Siracusa:

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.

Dirty Percent

John Gruber:

Apple doesn’t give a damn about companies with business models that can’t afford a 70/30 split. Apple’s running a competitive business; competition is cold and hard. And who exactly can’t afford a 70/30 split? Middlemen. It’s not that Apple is opposed to middlemen — it’s that Apple wants to be the middleman. It’s difficult to expect them to be sympathetic to the plights of other middlemen.

Middlemen often provide valuable services. Apple is not willing or able to replace them all, and even if it did it surely wouldn’t do a superior job in all areas.

Why not allow developers and publishers to set their own prices for in-app subscriptions? One reason: Apple wants its customers to get the best price — and, to know that they’re getting the best price whenever they buy a subscription through an app. It’s a confidence in the brand thing: with Apple’s rules, users know they’re getting the best price, they know they’ll be able to unsubscribe easily, and they know their privacy is protected.

This is “best price” as in “you can’t buy it elsewhere for less.” However, even if Amazon et. al. find a way to play ball, Apple’s 30% has to come from somewhere. Prices everywhere will end up being higher than in a world without this Apple policy. Credit card fees, net the cash-back, are perhaps in the range of 1%, which makes Apple’s fee stand out even more.

There’s one striking difference between the subscription controversy today and the App Store controversy in 2008: with subscriptions, Apple is taking away the ability to do something that they previously allowed. There was never a supported way to install native apps for iOS before the App Store. Subscriptions sold outside the App Store, on the other hand, were allowed until last month.

And part of the concern is, what’s next? In another year or two, will Apple try to regulate and tax more types of goods and services? That has to be the operating assumption now.

The whole premise of Windows (and other personal computer systems) is that it is open to third-party software. Apple couldn’t just flip a switch and make Mac OS X a controlled app console system like iOS — they had to introduce the Mac App Store as an alternative to traditional software installation.

Apple can’t flip a switch, but the Mac App Store gives them a ratchet that can produce much the same result over time. There are already some carrots and sticks. App Store apps get automatic installation, updates, and crash reports; non–App Store apps no longer get updated listings on apple.com. The direction of the trend is clear. Would anyone be surprised if future versions of Mac OS X made additional features and APIs available only to App Store apps? There will probably be some sort of pragmatic handwaving, just like the iOS App Store was necessary so that apps couldn’t bring down the cell network, but the bottom line is that Apple could do these things without the App Store and chooses not to.

iOS isn’t and never was an open computer system. It’s a closed, controlled console system — more akin to Playstation or Wii or Xbox than to Mac OS X or Windows. It is, in Apple’s view, a privilege to have a native iOS app.

Exactly. Unstated is that Apple sees a future where most devices run iOS, and Mac OS X takes on more characteristics of iOS (both good and bad).