Apple's Walled Garden Will Hurt iPhone Innovation

from the barriers-to-entry dept

The release of Apple iPhone SDK got a ton of attention on the blogosphere. Personally, I found the announcement to be a huge disappointment, because the rules for getting applications on the iPhone are chock full of restrictions. TechCrunch notes some of the major ones: No VoIP over the cell network, no exchanging data between applications, no multi-tasking (third-party apps quit when you switch out of them). But the more serious problem isn't strictly technical, but contractual: the only way to get third-party applications onto the iPhone is through Apple's "App Store." And Apple plans to carefully monitor the apps available through the store. Apparently "porn, privacy-breaching tools, bandwidth-hogging apps, and anything illegal" are examples of what will be off-limits, but that's not an exhaustive list.

The problem here goes beyond the mere possibility that Apple might block apps that some users would find useful. The more serious problem is the effect that the approval process will have on developers. Given how vague the rules are (what counts as bandwidth-hogging?) and that Apple is free to change them at any time anyway, it's going to be risky for a developer to start developing an iPhone app that Apple might reject. TechCrunch wonders, for example, if Apple would allow an app to download songs from Amazon's MP3 store. To avoid a nasty surprise at the end of the development process, any serious developer will want to talk to Apple ahead of time, but negotiating the feature set ahead of time could delay the product by months.

Perhaps most importantly, these barriers are going to be a serious disincentive to casual tinkering. Some of the greatest applications on the Internet -- including email and the Web -- were developed by one or two guys without the support of a large organization behind them. They were able to deploy their applications because the Internet (and the ARPANET in the case of email) didn't have any kind of approval process. You could just install your application and start using it. On an open iPhone platform, the killer mobile app might have been developed the same way. But if a developer has to spend a lot of time arguing with Apple's iPhone bureaucracy, they're likely to give up and develop the app for an open platform like Google's Android instead.

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: innovation, iphone, sdk, walled gardens
Companies: apple


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. identicon
    DanC, 10 Mar 2008 @ 11:09am

    Re: A walled garden works

    I think there are a lot more people in the world that would be happy with a walled garden that is easy to use and works than an open garden that they have to spend hours trying to figure out.

    If a walled garden where Apple makes all the important decisions works for you, than more power to you. Apple has built its core base on those would rather remain blissfully ignorant. But Apple is finally making products a large portion of the public want to buy, and its trying to exercise the same kind of control over a much larger audience.

    They recognize the fact that their walled garden will inherently suppress innovation, which is why they're offering the venture capital funds. It'll probably work in the short term, but eventually the developers are going to be sick of Apple's restrictive rules.

    All the people that don't want to be in the walled garden make it so that the people who would be happy there are afraid to pass through the gate.

    Actually, we just think it's better to be informed than ignorant. Consumers should be able to decide what applications they put on their iPhone. Creating a certification program that designated the apps as "Apple approved" would make more sense, and allow developers the freedom to develop without restrictions.

    Eventually, the SDK will probably be leaked and hacked (if it hasn't already) and you'll see "unauthorized" programs coming from people that actually want to use their iPhone beyond Apple's control.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.