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.

Filed Under: iphone, walled garden

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  1. identicon
    Joe, 5 Oct 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.

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