I've been pointing out why an open platform
beats a closed platform over the long haul with regards to the iPhone, and linking to various stories
concerning the arbitrary nature of being allowed (or not
) on the iPhone. But, Harry McCracken, over at Technologizer, does a great job illustrating the point by playing the "what if" game, and thinking about how Windows would have developed had Microsoft similarly controlled every app
. It doesn't take long to realize how much slower innovation would likely have been on the PC platform (though, it might have opened up more of an opportunity for other platforms):
Would Microsoft have distributed Microsoft Office rivals such as SmartSuite or WordPerfect Office via its app store?
Well, maybe, in theory at least-after all, it doesn't sell Microsoft Office as part of Windows, so it couldn't use the "it duplicates functionality that's already in the product" excuse. Call me a cynic, though, but I suspect that competitive office suites would have run into trouble if Microsoft had controlled all Windows software distribution. And hey, didn't WordPerfect duplicate features in Notepad?
How about Netscape Navigator?
When Netscape first appeared in 1994, the current version of Windows (3.11) didn't have a browser. Even Windows 95 didn't have one at first--Internet Explorer was part of the extra-cost Plus Pack. Then again, Windows 95 did ship with the dreadful client for the original version of MSN, a proprietary online service which definitely did compete with the Web. That might have been reason enough for Microsoft to nix Navigator for duplicating Windows functionality. And once IE was part of Windows, Microsoft could have given Navigator the boot retroactively.
Safari? Firefox? Chrome?
They all appeared long after Windows got a browser as standard equipment. No, no, and no.
And it goes on from there. Fun thought experiment if you're one of the believers that Apple's closed iPhone system is somehow "good" for innovation.