The Apple AppStore and the Freedom of Choice

By Kevin Shockey
July 5, 2010 | Comments: 4

This is first of many articles where I will examine Apple and their wildly successful AppStore. This examination is driven by my growing concern with Apple's business practices. Especially, in the creation of a closed applications development environment absent the freedoms we take for granted in most other platforms. In what I've begun to call the "Cult of cool," Apple has successfully lured millions of consumers to buy iTouchs, iPhones, and iPads. In doing so, they've built an attractive market for application developers.

Following on the success of the iPod, these devices featured stunning designs, smooth corners, elegant lines, and best of all, touch responsive screens. Just like the iPod, they also offered what Tim O'Reilly described as a platform that spanned multiple tiers. However, this time, the devices eliminated the middleman (the PC) and used either Wifi or 3G to directly access the new Apple AppStore.

For developers, Apple offered the lure of an obsessed customer base that quickly climbed into the millions. To pursue this new platform, Apple provided a software development kit (SDK), that made the process of building applications relatively simple. In conjunction with a generous share of royalties, these new devices lit the fuse on a decades long promise of the emergence of mobile computing platform.

For many, this combination of a passionate customer base and a capable SDK seemed perfect. For users of the devices, they were cool and fun, in short, the ultimate gadget. In addition, they could access an application store in the clouds that quickly filled with enjoyable, useful, and entertaining applications. However, for developers it meant agreeing to a closed, tightly controlled application approval process.

Most users of the Apple AppStore either didn't know about the restrictions enforced on the applications available in that store. They also probably didn't know about the restrictions associated with what applications could be run on their shiny new gadgets.

Conclusion

I've been a proponent of open source for many years, and learned a lot from my peers about why the freedom to choose what software we use on our computers is an important choice; a choice worth preserving. I do have to confess that I nearly bought an iPad; the lure of the "Cult of Cool" was strong. However, once I learned about the strict terms of the iPhone (iPad) SDK Agreement I knew that I couldn't give up the freedoms I had advocated for so long.

In a way, confronting the closed Apple applications development platform has rekindled my old desire to teach people about the importance of free and open source software. It also reminded me of the frustrations involved in advocating a freedom that most people can't understand. It is my hope that this series of articles will spread awareness of the anti-competitive nature of Apple's business practices, and illustrate why they should open the iTouch, iPhone, and iPad applications development environment and restore the user's freedom of choice.


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4 Comments

Oh please. Your missing the point. Linux is open source and it still hasn't made much of a dent and your trying to create a different definition of open source.. Windows isn't open source neither is Mac OS X. I write PC software and don't want it to be open source. Some free and some not.
Software choices, you have over 200,000+ to choose from for the iOS systems. Windows mobile 7 phones that will be coming out is going to be very similar the way Apple does theirs. You forget that phones and slates are for the masses not just the geeks meaning it needs to be simple and secure.
Lets take a look at android. I looked at developing for it and even have a droid. I hear and see how hard it is because of the different versions, different hardware it's a pain in the ass, you have to keep adding to your software because it doesn't work on this phone but it does on that one. Look at the rate new phones are coming out adding more to the mix. Actually I'm getting tired of getting or having to update software that I have like every other day there are 3 to 5 that needs updating. Let's take a look at another thing buttons are swapped around from one android phone to another. Search button is on the right on one and left on another. I for one don't want to deal with that. Good apps take time, thought and energy.
Since iPhones , iPads & Windows mobile 7 are for the masses they are trying to make it easy, simple, uniform and joy to use. There is nothing wrong with standardizing how things work. I don't like that one program on the droid uses the back button to go back and another it exits out of the program causing me to relaunch it. Let's let car makers arrange the gear shift so it doesn't have to be PRND, you get into your buddies car and smash it into the car in front of you because you thought you put it in reverse. You don't want to frustrate the users.
Its not the only phone on the market so people have a choice. Let Apple try to create a utopia it's their choice and right. You think your mother, or the regular Joe for that matter, cares if the phone is open or not, I bet not. They just want it to work, work well and with no worries. Only geeks care about this stuff and even I really don't care.
The market will decide no matter what you say about this. Why don't you spend your time and energy on something that truly matters like the oil spill. One phone over another isn't causing death and destruction like the oil spill is.

End Trans

Mitch, thanks for your feedback. Many of your points are valid. However, give me a chance to further elaborate on my concerns, as they say, I'm just getting warmed up.

Re: trying to redefine open source, I'm sorry I have to beg to differ. Open Source IS fundamentally about liberty, it is about choice. Therefore, it concerns me that "The Cult of Cool" is growing, without any alternatives, without any choices.

As you(I) said, perhaps the masses just want it to be easy, we totally agree, but what about those who do want a choice? Where is my opt-out choice? Where is my alternative to "accept" responsibility for the maintenance of my device, and obtain software from someone else other than Apple? Why do I have "jailbreak" these devices to run applications Apple decides are not worthy of placement in their AppStore? Why is "jailbreaking" potentially violate the warranty of my device?

Again, you are right, the market will decide, and they will undoubtedly continue to "vote" for things the way they are. However, that still does not erase my concerns. Using your car analogy, I have the rights, the liberty, to add in after market pieces sold by a second manufacturer without the original manufacturer's permission. This is the type of choice that some people want. This is where Apple is being anti-competitive.

Kevin,
I believe your talking about open plateform not open source, open source would not dictate what software you can load it would only allow you to see how the OS or program was written.
Jailbreaking, that sounds like a choice to me and then you can grab your gun and join the wild west. Yes it's not as easy as unchecking a box but again the majority of the masses are not Geeks and geeks can easily jailbreak. Do you think the apps that don't get approved are really worth it, do you really need that porn?

Your saying not having all the choice is very bad for the end users, showing your concern for the end user. So it's the end users experience and happiness that's important. If I develop for the android phones I will spend more time trying to get my program to work on most of the phones which instead of spending my time adding more features the users want or writing new apps. I've had several apps keep crashing. Why do you think it's so much a hassle with Windows because everyone was free to do what they wanted and MS spends their time trying to make it work better. It's also the reason that the new phones they are coming out with can only be 2 types and meet all the requirements because they don't want a repeat and end up like Android. There are what 10 or more different phones and soon andriod slates too with versions 1.6 to 2.2. I'm still waiting for 2.2 for my driod and now concerned that with 3 comes out I'm not going to get it because motorola has the Driod X. How is that a good user experience and after 6 months of owning it its now outdated. Anyway, someone developing for iOS doesn't have the fragmentation that Andriod does and the developers can work on features not fixes because of the fragmented hardware and OS versions. If you ran some companies app and it crashed you would leave feed back that it's crap etc and probably wouldn't download anything else you've written and now your brand and your bottom line is effected just because it didn't work on his android phone hardware and version but works perfectly on others. So higher quality programmers/companies and in the end will go where the money is and it's not on Android. Being an Android user and talking to other Android users I ask them if they have bought any apps, they all said no. Oh that just makes me want to write for Android phones even more....not lol. Free is good and nice but is $1 to $5 for an app really asking much, hardly spend more then that on cup of coffee or cigs. Android users feel that should get programs for free.

I have a friend that just got an andriod phone and loves it but the other day about noon was franticly looking for a charger because it was almost dead and she wasn't even texting or talking on it very much, I've experienced the same thing. How is that a good user experience having a program in the background eat up the battery and leaving you high and dry. I've had to pull the battery because I couldn't easily kill a program(s) and out of frustration.

How come more iPhone owners would by another iPhone compared to Android owner? Sure some of it is the hype, status and coolness but comes down to that it's because they are happier with it.

Even after all that is said you still have another choice, not to buy one. While your waiting around 6-8 months or more for a slate from another company I've been sitting outside having a cup of coffee and enjoying using my iPad. Not a big apple fan, obvious by using Windows machines and having a Driod phone, but I'm enjoying the use & freedom of using my iPad any were. Something I couldn't do with a laptop without hassle or even be bothered. I enjoy the apps and hardly use any apps on the phone. The wild west just doesn't appeal to me, I'm tired of wasting my time, I just want it to work and Apple is winning over the open platform.

End Trans

Came up with something new on the market and it mattered very much. They took into account customer's wish to have it. If it was anyone else think so as well. Evil is as yet no competition. That leaves me with me some questions in the air. Although no one can compete with them or are not allowed to compete. It's just like when Google. Just have a sort of monopoly in some areas. I for one hope that it will not take long until someone will get to grips with them.
From rca ieftin, Mihai

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