Is Apple Finally Realizing That Competition Is A Good Thing

from the Perestroika? dept

For months, we’ve been arguing that an open, free market is the best way to operate a mobile phone application service. Yet, the leader in the industry, Apple, has continued to operate a Byzantine system of opaque and arbitrary rules. This is confusing to developers and limits competition.

Luckily, there are some signs that Apple may be loosening their anti-competitive restrictions. Since the beginning, Apple has asserted a right to ban applications that “compete” with existing functionality, even if those offer an improvement. In essence, this was nothing more than Apple disallowing competition with its built-in applications. Now, it seems they are changing their stance, albeit quietly, by letting in a number of mobile browsers that compete with Apple’s own mobile browser. While it isn’t official, and I’m not holding my breath, this hopefully signals a positive move for iPhone users and developers (not to mention Apple, whose product will get a lot more valuable).

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Companies: apple

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Comments on “Is Apple Finally Realizing That Competition Is A Good Thing”

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Joseph Sprintz says:

The catch? They're all Safari at heart.

“Now, it seems they are changing their stance, albeit quietly, by letting in a number of mobile browsers that compete with Apple’s own mobile browser”

Not entirely. The browsers must all be based upon Apple’s Safari Browser.


“The approvals do represent some leniency in Apple’s app approval policies, but don’t necessarily mean that the company is moving any closer to approving browsers based on a different engine, namely Opera Mobile and Firefox.”

Joe McGuckin (user link) says:

iPhone wireless syncing

I hear that Palm’s new iPhone killer will allow wireless syncing of
content (e.g. calendar, contacts, etc) – a feature Apple has neglected to

I predict we’ll see it in the next iPhone software release.

Competition is good! Apple makes great products, but they can get fat and
lazy like any other company.

His SHadow says:


But it’s Apples Phone, and Apples software, and Apple will define the user experience. Yes, it’s a handheld computer. But it’s not a PC, and it’s not running Windows. The developer tools are handed out with the understanding that Apple gets to decide what ends up on their phone. How did that open model work for Windows Mobile, or Palm? Oh that’s right. It didn’t. Unless you call a near endless parade of half assed unstable abandonware success. I had three Palm handhelds and 3 motorola phones over the last ten years. None of the firmware or software was ever meaningfully updated when it was updated at all.

I’ll take Apple’s closed model with a constant parade of updates, features and new software over the instantly obsolesced crap that came out of the competition, any god damned day.

Jerry Leichter (profile) says:

Competition has two faces

Not so long ago, I received a single Yellow Pages book from the local phone company each year. Every business in the area was pretty certain to be listed. The book was organized into generally useful categories with good cross referencing. (No, it wasn’t perfect.)

These days, I receive several different Yellow Pages directories. Each is generally of poorer quality than what I used to get. Each also has, inevitably, poorer coverage: Merchants are faced with the need to be listed in multiple directories, and each directory charges for that. Yes, I can look things up on-line – but frankly I have yet to find something as useful as the old Yellow Pages used to be. In the long run, the on-line alternative is all that will likely be left – the paper yellow pages business is fading. Competition has made it impossible for anyone to make a profit.

In this particular case, the “benevolent monopoly” approach was clearly better for *all* the participants. The expenses for merchants were lower; the phone company made money; and the public got a good product. Could the phone company have abused its position? Absolutely. Perhaps one can even find cases where they did. But over all, the old Yellow Pages existed as a valuable service exactly *because* it was a monopoly.

Apple has *always* looked for some “good” point along the closed/open spectrum. Sure, “good” means “maximizes Apple’s position” – but as long as Apple recognizes that that maximization depends on keeping most of its user base happy, that’s not a bad thing. Overwhelmingly, iPhone users don’t care one why or another whether the iPhone store is open or not. They care about what they can buy there, what it costs, how well it works. Right now, what Apple allows in seems to keep most their audience very satisfied. If you want more and still want an iPhone – jailbreaking is available. Apple’s been clever about making that hard – but not *too* hard. They don’t want to support it, but a jailbroken iPhone is still an Apple sale….

There’s little reason to believe that the iPhone browser would get any better if competing browsers appeared in the Apple store. The browsing experience is central to what Apple is selling, and they would concentrate great effort on it anyway. Competition here isn’t relevant.

On the other hand, it’s great for the market that Palm has something that actually has the potential to be a real competitor. It’s just unfortunate that Palm itself is so weak and so late to the game. None of the incumbent phone suppliers seem to have a clue about how to compete against Apple, and they are showing no signs of learning. As for Android – again, potential, but with other practical problems (no strong marketing/sales organization).

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