by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
iphone, walled garden

Apple's iPhone Walled Garden An Opportunity For Competitors To Make The iPhone The Next Hiptop

from the as-it-should-be dept

While we agree with some others that Apple's decision to focus on a walled garden approach to iPhone apps seems short-sighted, it certainly does open up an opportunity for competitors -- and those competitors seem to be realizing it. A bunch of companies are starting ad campaigns around their mobile phone offerings highlighting how open they are compared to the iPhone. That would be competition at work, and a response to anyone who may be suggesting that Apple should somehow be required to open up. Of course, touting openness is just one part of the story. It helps to also have some really good technology to stack up behind it, and on that front, most of the competitors still have a long way to go. That probably means that Apple's closed strategy won't hurt it very much in the short-term, but it does open up a huge opening for someone who can actually get closer to matching the iPhone on the technology side.

Apple could respond by opening up a bit more (and there's some indication that they're doing exactly that), but building up a strong developer community from the beginning would help keep the iPhone miles ahead of the competition. In fact, the iPhone craze is somewhat reminiscent of the hype surrounding Danger's Hiptop five years ago. It was launched on T-Mobile (under the "Sidekick" brand), but again as a closed platform. It took months for Danger to get a real developer program going, and even then it was pretty weak. Without a strong developer community, many other devices passed by the Hiptop, where it had had an early advantage. While Danger has been able to do okay with continual Sidekick updates, it never really reached its potential as one of the very first truly usable mobile data devices for the masses.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Brian, Oct 5th, 2007 @ 5:54am

    I'm No Expert...

    ...but I've been doing a lot of reading about the iPhone (I have an unlocked/jailbroken/1.0.2) and where it's headed. Apple has alienated so many good customers over the past month that they really need to do something to garner some goodwill...the web-based SDK is not the answer. By all accounts, the phone will not function as a phone while EDGE data is being passed meaning any apps running through the browser will make phone a Touch. I coud be misunderstanding the whole thing though. All I know is I had no interest in smartphones/3rd part apps/etc until the iPhone came around--I expected that the future would bring full integration with my OSX laptop (Mobile Delicious Library?!) and cool 3rd party advancements. MAybe I'm expecting too much from Apple but I really don't see any other company fulfilling my needs--that's why this is so disappointing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Gray, Oct 5th, 2007 @ 6:03am

    Black and White

    As a Palm OS Treo user, I see the trade off between open and closed. Too much open, and you risk losing stability. Too much closed, and you risk flexibility. As with most things in life the way is not black or white, but a shade of gray.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Overcast, Oct 5th, 2007 @ 6:38am

    Well, open and closed are really not the point with forcing a lockdown to one cell phone provider.

    It's kinda getting 'open and closed' confused with 'choice'.

    I'm not sure there's anymore risk to having a choice of cell phone carriers than just having AT&T.

    But you know, it's not just Apple making themselves seem so closed minded, AT&T is doing a superb job too. If their service was so wonderful, then why FORCE people to use it? If it's so great, wouldn't people be using it willingly?

    Only reason I see to force anything is that you have a cool phone with garbage cell service and you're forced to use it.

    Again, Thanks! But... no thanks :)

    I'll be sure to avoid both in the future. And people talking Microsoft pushing 'propriety'....

    But yes, it should open the gates wide for a competitor. Remember... IBM did close to the same thing years ago, not opening up Microchannel architecture to others. Thus: PCI

    Apple's done this before too - forcing you to buy their software and hardware. Both overpriced (sound familiar) and we see how much of the market they got out of that.

    Rinse and Repeat.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    John Doe, Oct 5th, 2007 @ 6:56am

    Could we serious get off the topic about closing off the iphone only to ATT. It's called a corporate world for a reason. Also Apple didn't force anything on anyones. You bought it because you wanted it. Apple can do what it does, because they've been successful so far. As a PDA phone, the iphone is hands down one of the best ones I've used. I no longer have to carry around three different devices with me to classes.

    I myself have ATT, but found it stupid to activate my phone and renew my contract for another two years for a unsubsidized phone, so I unlocked it. It's kind of stupid that current ATT user have to activate their phone for a "iphone" marketed data plan.

    On to the topic of open source, I have nothing to say but good things so far about the "hacked" iphone. I wish they had flash plugins....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Cixelsid, Oct 5th, 2007 @ 7:13am


    The iPhone blows goats. Here's prob the most objective review on the net:


    Go read it and realize what a douchetoy the iPhone is.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Uniboy, Oct 5th, 2007 @ 7:14am

    iPhone Unplatform

    I read a great 3-part article about Apple's closed approach to the iPhone and how it will not be another iPod.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Rob, Oct 5th, 2007 @ 8:44am

    What about Openmoko?

    So with the next model of Neo from http://www.openmoko.org coming out shortly, why would anyone want an iPhone anyway? The Neo is completely open, even the source code for the OS is available. Develop away! The Neo has a VGA screen, too. I'm waiting for it instead of wasting money on an iPhone.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Joe, Oct 5th, 2007 @ 9:00am

    Openness = Less opportunity for $$$

    The problem with both the hiptop and the iphone is that both T-Mobile and AT&T expect profits from the masses. No carrier will want to offer an open device, because it is simply not as profitable. It is not however, because the phones don’t exist already. If you examine the European and Asian markets, such open phones (i.e. Nokia N95, E61i) do exist. Unfortunately, no U.S. carrier officially supports open phones and do not encourage using such phones. For carriers, particularly T-Mobile, who have the cheapest unlimited data plans in the industry, there have to be additional revenue sources. Carriers see opportunity in forcing consumers to purchase additional functionality in the form of ringtones and other applications. As a result, carriers invest in integrating features into their network, like the iPhone visual voicemail for AT&T and the Hiptop specific IM functionality and web caching for T-Mobile. Ideally, cell carriers want to become like cable TV industry, where the devices are proprietary and consumers are charged for every additional feature. 3rd Party developers are negative in this regard because they enable some of these additional features without the carrier getting in on the action. An open SDK gives the consumer too much choice. Right now, the networks are not publicly accessible, which gives leverage to the providers and not the consumers. The only salvation from such a monopoly is to have an open network. If Google is successful in bidding for the 700 mHz band and decides to open it up, the carriers will lose their network leverage, which is why they are trying to block Google with everything they have. As for Apple, it made the decision to close the iPhone to AT&T for the simple reason of profit sharing. It behooves them to keep that system closed even at the cost of functionality because it gets a cut every time somebody dishes out for a new ringtone. I am confident they will enable more iPhone functionality over time, but because the device is selling well and is so far ahead of anything else on the market, there is simply no motivation for Apple to release an open SDK.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    j__1, Oct 5th, 2007 @ 10:54am

    Re: Openness = Less opportunity for $$$

    Agreed. Great post.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Nelson, Oct 5th, 2007 @ 10:58am


    We need to turn the business model upside down... with content, 700MHz, AWS, TMO, Apple, Viacom, Universal, Blackstone, DT, Google, M$, Cisco,Uncle Same and anyone else that wants to play.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Nelson, Oct 5th, 2007 @ 10:59am


    We need to turn the business model upside down... with content, 700MHz, AWS, TMO, Apple, Viacom, Universal, Blackstone, DT, Google, M$, Cisco,Uncle Sam... and anyone else that wants to play.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Brian, Oct 5th, 2007 @ 1:19pm

    Re: And here's the link

    Are you Brian Holdsworth? That's the second time today you've praised the article/provided a link. Just curious.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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