So the cat is out of the bag; Steve Jobs has been staying up late, creating the next generation mobile device. Will it be successful – yes of course. Will Apple become a leading media aggregator – definitely. The question, however, is how many enemies can Apple handle? Here are a few that come to mind:
- Microsoft: Competing on everything
- Google: Refusing Google iPhone applications and competing with Android / The Chrome Operating System
- Motorola / IBM : Switch from PowerPC to Intel chips
- Samsung : Switch from the iPhone Samsung CPU to a proprietary version on the iPad
- Amazon: Competing with Kindle and Amazon’s digital it’s media aggregation empire
- Adobe: Apple’s refusal to support flash on the iPhone and iPad
It’s hard to find anyone that Apple is playing nice with these days. Intel may be a friend now, but with Apple creating proprietary CPU’s its conceivable that Intel will be shut out too. Perhaps, the most interesting rival is Adobe. iPhone users have been outright nasty in criticizing Apple for its lack of Flash support. The reason given was that it was too resource intensive for the iPhone, and “Flash Lite” lacked enough features to make it worth supporting. Adobe and Apple were working on a version, but it never saw the light of day. Following the iPad announcement, the community jumped all over Apple for again not supporting Flash and Jobs said internally that Flash is too buggy and it would sacrifice the user experience.
While its true that Flash is the ubiquitous multimedia engine on the Web, and that a browser lacking Flash is severely limited, it’s likely this move has much more to do with Apple’s insatiable hunger for control than concern for the user experience. With Flash enabled on the iPhone or iPad, anyone can commercialize an application without Apple’s permission. If you could watch Hulu for free, would you buy TV shows from Apple? Flash is effectively a mini-operating system. Rather than write new software, developers could re-use existing code from web applications and dramatically reduce switching costs to / from the iPhone platform. Clearly Apple wants to increase these switching costs. Flash would effectively remove Apple’s veto rights on applications ported to their platforms. Google Voice and Latitude were vetoed. Try and find an alternative iPhone media player in the app-store; Apple will not allow anything to compete with them.
With Apples dependence on 3rd parties for content and applications can they continue to thrive by isolating themselves? For the moment the answer is a resounding ‘yes!’ In spite of their closed, secret culture and draconian policies, they continue to drive the top developers, artists, and musicians to greater heights of innovation. They have leadership that can inspire and can create new markets where others have failed. Perhaps the mobile world just isn’t ready to be open yet – let’s watch the Google Android and find out.