What If Microsoft Had To Approve Every App On Windows?

from the playing-the-what-if-game dept

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.

Filed Under: closed, innovation, openness, platforms
Companies: apple, microsoft


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  1. identicon
    Jake, 29 Jul 2009 @ 2:02pm

    The first commenter does actually raise a good point. Screening for malware and apps so poorly-written that they'd screw something up is pretty sensible; I only wish CNET would filter out some of the dreck that gets uploaded there, and surely refusing to stock a product because it sucks isn't going to dis-incentivise people from innovating! Where Apple are going wrong is that they're trying to quality-assess everything themselves rather than letting their users be the judge, and deleting anything that gets a consistently low average user rating after a certain period.

    Besides, given that the iPhone was marketed as a status symbol for idiots with too much money rather than a practical device for doing something useful with, I suppose I can hardly blame Apple for not trusting their user base to not screw their phone up and then whine to them about it.

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