Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Why we should not let iPhone win...

Two articles that I spotted recently about iPhone apps, one rejected by Apple (, another (actually, a bunch of others) accepted (

While one might observe that the classiness of the Apple crowd appears to be long gone, the important thing is not that.

The ONLY way for a developer to release an app for iPhone is through the Apple store (contrast it to any other smartphone where any piece of software can be installed from any location, be it a PC, or the Internet, and anybody can build and release applications).

And for Apple to distribute an application, someone at Apple must bless the morality of its contents. In this specific instance, Apple decided that farting is OK, while boobs (even the covered ones) are not.

And this is why we cannot let Apple win in this game. Because if we do, we will be putting one company as a judge of what is appropriate, and what is not. And I don't think there's an entity in the world which is qualified to do this.


Илья Казначеев said...

And we shouldn't let Windows CE win, because MS is freaking monopoly, and you control or maintain strong presence on ten times more markets than you should be allowed by antitrust if it worked.

It's just cheating.

And Palm is dead, and Symbian doesn't look good, so what should we hope for? Android maybe?

NS said...

It's ok. This is precisely how Apple will not let iPhone win.

Anonymous said...

And we shouldn't let the XBox win, because Microsoft decides which games are allowed to run on the Xbox.

Sergey Solyanik said...

Microsoft is traditionally an arms vendor. We supply the tools, we don't tell you which wars to fight. Windows CE model is exactly identical to the PC model: we make the OS, device vendors decide what parts of the OS to put on their devices, whether to lock it down like iPhone, or let it run anything like Android.

The big problem with Android by the way is a total lack of business model.

It's not an attractive consumer device: even the Google functions work better on iPhone than they are on Android, and it's missing the killer consumer feature, which is the music distribution channel.

It is not a business device either - there's no interop with Exchange or anything else that matters to the corp types.

And it doesn't even have an owner - it's an open source platform. There's no marketing muscle behind it. Back a long time ago where I was in WinCE, the Pocket PC division was spending ~$90M in marketing, and was making about this much in return. By contrast, Nokia was spending $900M in marketing at the time.

Who's going to spend equivalent amount on dough on Android's behalf? So I am afraid once every Linuxoid has bought one of these, that's going to be about it, and in the end it will be about as popular on the cell phone as Linux is on the desktop...

Илья Казначеев said...

Arms monopoly is an especially nasty monopoly: it tries to convince everyone to fight each other!

As for me, I don't think Android's going to be popular unless they do something special about it.

Sergey Solyanik said...

Because of a hugely positive network effect, every successful computer product becomes a "monopoly".

Google has a "monopoly" in search (and I don't believe for a second that we will be able to change it - as far as I am concerned, MS competition with Google is an insane waste of money).

Adobe has "monopoly" in interactive web applications and in graphics software.

Apple has a "monopoly" in music distribution.

Amazon has a "monopoly" in online book selling.

Intuit has a "monopoly" in personal accounting. Peachtree - in small business accounting. Wolfram - in research software.

So what? Are all these companies inherently evil?

Илья Казначеев said...

Google doesn't have the monopoly here, yandex is strong enough.
I would prefer google for web search, but for blog search and news yandex is better here. I hope it wouldn't die, really.

The problem is that MS holds too many areas. I wouldn't whine if you controlled desktop and office, but: browser, a good chunk of server market, xbox - it's just too much for one company.

Sergey Solyanik said...

In addition to browser, we also have almost 100% of the notepad market!

Илья Казначеев said...

Heh, you don't really, since a lot of people use alternative text editors.
Google for "notepad replacement".

You've lost the browser monopoly, but you did have it, and you did exploit it.

Sergey Solyanik said...

Yep - congratulation us on completely dominating the Internet with the help of our browser monopoly!

Илья Казначеев said...

I'm deadly serious.

There in US you've got a LOT of software corporations:
Oracle, Sun with its huge enterprise Java, Red Hat and Novell, Adobe. Apple is huge and angry these days.

In 'emerging markets' as you call them, only MS is visible. Everybody except us the red-eyed open source fanatics care about MS software, services and certifications only.
You basically got those markets 'for free', and then moved in to rule.
Nobody've ever seen a software box not from MS, and anti-piracy measures are held as if there was an explicit microsoft tax which you just have to pay.

This is disturbing for me, I don't want to live a MS LifeTM, and I don't want to wake one day when I'll have to worship MS and accept its god-givenness, because you've destroyed all the competition. I, as a professional, really want platforms, OSes and browsers to thrive, good and different.

Sergey Solyanik said...

Could it be that one of the reasons Microsoft is all you see in emerging markets might be because as far as bang for the buck, we're the best?

In the markets where people don't have insane amounts of funny money to throw out on making a fashion - or social - statement, you're going to only see the cheapest - per unit of work - product. And it will absolutely dominate.

The other reason you probably see an inordinate amount of Microsoft is because we're the only company that takes devs REALLY SERIOUSLY. 90% of our work is for devs. So if you're a developer, and you're building software - you will see a lot of Microsoft.

Илья Казначеев said...

Given how it used to cost actual 0 bucks, you could be the best bang for the buck.
You've got market contaminated with your product when it was virtually free, and now it's pretty big, all yours and pays your tax.

The problem isn't that you deliver the best bang for the buck. The problem is that you're a monopoly, and that I see a lot of specialists, as they call themselves, who think MS as an excuse to NOT knowing anything besides your products.

They think that everything useful can be build with MS products only, and therefore, it's absolutely OK to not know anything else at all. I find that extremelly disturbing, to be fair.

And I, as a developer, want to have a right to NOT necessarily see MS products around. I'm doing java on linux currently, thank you, and I really really hope I wouldn't be ever *forced* to work on MS products *or* starve. I know a dozen languages including unmanaged ones, and a fair number of operating systems and platforms, so it isn't a particular job insecurity lament.
(I wouldn't starve, btw, I'll go translating or editing, but you've got the point).

Serguei Michtchenko said...


In your last post it sounds like you are implying that it's somehow Microsoft's duty to prevent this specialization phenomenon. Frankly I think that's kind of ridiculous.

Those 'specializers' would be right, at this point you probably can do just about everything reasonable with a computer using MS ware. Whether you should is an excellent question which many people are thankfully (for all including MS) asking.

It would seem those who don't ask simply don't like to use their imagination that's all.

Dzembu Gaijin said...

This post is BS ... I am sorry Serg :-) Pro M$ and false logic. What Apple did with iPhone is just GREAT.

Apple was a first that created and EASY and essentially FREE way to release CERTIFIED applications.

This way developers pay only 100$ upfront ( once) and End users feel safe. Posting and installing application is easy as well.

How easy it is to release a CERTIFED application for WinCE? It is damn hard and expensive: just fiddling information about it is a challenge.

I think we passed this point when users should install "un-trusted" applications and for small developer the only way to release such without gaining popularity is via Certification authority.

You can AdHock your "p0rn" application is you like but what the point ? Who cares about "banded" things that much ?

For "non-trusted" aplications ( or not moral - but some how p0rn and virsuses like to be together)
Make WEB application for iPhone if you like to show "boobs". Apple do not care and it will work good enough with HTML5 support they give you.

What we should not do, is to bring POLITICS BS in S/W development. "Let not Apple win". "Let's kill ...." Why all this hate and PR?

All we need is LOVE and have fun.

iPhone is fun. SDK is fun. AppStore is fun.

Please leave Steve Balmer BS behind and let it be

LOVE and PEACE on Earth :-)

Илья Казначеев said...

"you probably can do just about everything reasonable with a computer using MS ware."
I bet you understand that it should be a foundation to a huge antitrust process, breaking MS into a fine CIS of companies, if true.

Still, I think that one-trick "specialists" and, even more, one-trick curriculums is an unbearable insult to the whole IT. How would you call someone an engineer if he only knows products of one corporation? He's a TV set repairman, at most.

Apple might be evil, but two evils fighting is much much better than having a monopoly.

Sergey Solyanik said...

And you can do anything in computer graphics staying entirely inside Adobe software. And you can stay on the Internet for hours and not leave Google properties. Shouldn't these companies be broken up?

And there's really no credible mobile CPU except for Intel, and it also dominates in desktop and servers markets. Shouldn't Intel be broken up as well?

Except of course it takes insane amount of money to produce CPUs (just like it does producing good development tools, and by good I don't mean GNU "debugger"), and by breaking Intel up you will stall the progress in hardware by many years - until the next dominant force arrives. But of course, we're going to break that up, too...

You should read this, it will help you understand the economics of competition better, before you go ahead breaking things up :-)...

Илья Казначеев said...

So they should, like, let you perfectly compete in windows and office, cutting dev&server and msn and xbox&zune apart.

Adobe is much much smaller.

Intel should really be punished somewhat for their shady business methods, but I'm not sure whenever they should be teared apart.

And, I guess, something like hundred platforms are using gdb and they're happy with it.

That's all they've got often, and they've got it for free. And no, they can't buy something better, because "something better" doesn't exist for their (own) platform.

BadTux said...

So: I have a Palm Centro running PalmOS. I have an HTC Wizard running Windows Mobile 5. I have an iPhone 3G coming in shortly. So, which one of these shall I activate?

Well: The HTC Wizard has a brilliant underlying OS but the user interface sucks dead ducks. The many buttons on the side that for some reason all WM phones are equipped with mean that if I don't hold it carefully, I end up activating the "voice recording" or "camera" functions. The GUI requires that I use two hands to do most functions, one hand to hold the phone, one hand to peck at it with the stylus. To get a usable "tab bar" of applications running so that I could switch between them (and actually kill the ones I wanted to kill, rather than just put it into the background), I had to run a tweak called "Magic Button", otherwise I'm digging into menus to switch between running apps. And to top it all off, if the phone rang while I was running an application or two and I answered it and it turns out I was out of memory, the phone crashed and dropped the call and I had to reboot the friggin' phone, not able to get a call for two minutes while the phone rebooted. Bummer. Serious bummer. It's a great application platform, but as a phone, it sucks dead ducks.

Meanwhile, the Palm, despite the hoary OS (or lack thereof), is a user interface work of genius -- I can do *everything* with it one-handed by using the rocker and buttons. There are no buttons on the right side to activate odd functions as I grasp it with my fingers and the other buttons all fall where they can be easily pressed with my thumb. The web browser sucks dead ducks and the email application is so brain dead that it's pretty much useless. But as a phone and PDA, it is brilliant.

Now the iPhone... Apple is evil. There. I said it. But the underlying OS is brilliant, and the UI is brilliant. So my Wizard and Palm are getting retired, and my next phone is the iPhone 3G. Sorry. Microsoft just doesn't "get" it where user interfaces are concerned. Microsoft always confuses functionality with usability. It's not an accident that every Microsoft OS that I run has UI tweaks to improve its usability. Meanwhile, on my Mac I can't think of any UI tweaks that could improve its usability... it Just Works. Which is all that real people care about. Which is why I quit running Linux on my desktop and switched to a Mac, I got tired of all that tweaking and sh*t needed to get a usable UI, the Mac UI just *is*, there is nothing that needs done to it to be usable.

Oh yeah, the Android phone? I don't agree with your criticisms of Android insofar as the business model goes. Google has a clear business model for Android -- as something to drive traffic to Google's mobile web sites and Google Apps. Google is betting on mobile applications via smartphones and "cloud computing" in general as the next big thing.

On the other hand, I played with the released hardware and software and can quite confidently say that it isn't ready for prime time. The thing sucks battery like a Republican senator sucks **** in a Minneapolis airport glory hole, the user interface is every bit as confused and difficult to use as Windows Mobile (indeed, if you squint too hard you might think Google was trying to make a clone of Windows Mobile, and failing badly in the attempt), and the HTC hardware that works just fine with Windows Mobile is utterly overwhelmed by all the bloat that Google puts on top of it, making applications run at a crawl compared to the iPhone. Frankly, I am just baffled here. Google re-invented Maemo, badly. (Maemo being, of course, Nokia's own mini-Linux that runs on their N-series Internet tablets).

That said, there's still plenty of room for development here. And for the cell phone manufacturer there is a clear incentive to use Android rather than Windows Mobile -- Android is "free". ("free" in the same way that Google's search engine is "free" -- i.e., that its purpose is to bring eyeballs to Google's ads). But of course that assumes that Android gains the applications and the polish needed to be competitive. Right now... it aint' there. 'Nuff said.