The Worm in the Apple

 The blogosphere is buzzing with reaction to Jason Calacanis’s epic post on Apple’s uncompetitive practices. Basically, as concerns iPod, iTunes, switching off apps it doesn’t like or who it thinks are a competitive threat, Calcanis thinks that Apple is acting like a monopolist and should probably be investigated by the DoJ. His most telling points come in the comparison between the current behaviour of Apple and the ex-great monopolist Microsoft:

On iTunes:

Think for a moment about what your reaction would be if Microsoft made the Zune the only MP3 player compatible with Windows. There would be 4chan riots, denial of service attacks and Digg’s front page would be plastered with pundit editorials claiming Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer were Borg.

On Apple’s draconian apps policy for iPhone:

Imagine for a moment if every application on Windows Mobile or Windows XP had to be approved by Microsoft–how would you react? Exactly.

On banning other browsers on the iPhone

Apple was more than willing to pile on after Microsoft’s disasterous inclusion of Internet Explorer with Windows. In fact, what Apple is doing is 100x worse than what Microsoft did. You see, Microsoft simply included their browser in Windows, still allowing other browsers to be installed. In Apple’s case, they are not only bundling their browser with the iPhone, but they are BLOCKING other browsers from being installed.

The standard Apple response to all this is that the restrictions Apple places on its products are necessary to ensure the quality of the user experience, that Apple deserves to be paid for the innovations it has brought to the marketplace and the consumer freedom it has enabled to use things like the mobile internet, to make online music easy and fun to use etc. But these remain the classic arguments of all monopolists, and are identical to the ones Microsoft used back in the days it was being investigated.

Baruch has often thought of what would have happened had Apple actually won the market share wars of the early 1990s; its instincts are much more controlling than Microsoft’s. Would we really have had an open-source internet? Would we really have had all the innovation spawned by cheap and ubiquitous computing?

Needless to say, this is not being well received by the hordes of Apple aficionados, the self-confessed fanboys. Baruch is constantly amazed at the level of brand loyalty Apple has managed to instil in its punters. I certainly don’t feel the same way about my crappy old Toshiba (although I would be cross with anyone who disparaged my Subaru).

Count me firmly in the Calcanis camp on this. As every reader knows, I make no secret of my dislike of the company, for very much the same reasons Calcanis does. Reader Verec, in the comments attached to the last post, accuses me of “anti AAPL bias.” But “bias” is a loaded word. Is a well thought out position against something, a consistently held position, bias? For those utterly convinced of the righteousness of the other, the pro, side, it may appear so. And that is probably why it is generally very hard to have a proper conversation about Apple on the interblogs.

At the risk of throwing lighter fluid on the flames, I blogged this on Apple, almost 2 years ago:

. . . I do so very strongly dislike Apple as a company. They sell high quality hardware it is true, but so overpriced; you pay a premium to be unable to use 90% of the world’s software without running some other complex program to do so. I hate the cutsie-coo operating system and the self satisfied “pop” when you close a window. I find the advertising unbelievably irritating, with its “Think Different” slogan, which when you think about it is a pean to its lack of market share; if they had managed to sell more Macs than PCs would they be telling us to “Carry on Thinking the Same” to make us buy more Macs? More than that, I pity the ponytailed, smug, pseudo-individualist, and above all gullible Apple fanboys, who all believe they are part of some greater social movement representing god knows what but who are in fact the victims of some corporate succubus which cares not a jot for them except how much more they can milk them. And the fanboy’s anger at the Wintel axis ignores the fact that the only thing which kept the company afloat during the dark times was Microsoft’s charity; that and the need to pretend that Windows was not in fact a monopoly.

No, Apple is the antithesis of what a Spinozist technology company should look like: closed, not open systems; overly pleased with itself and arrogant; and its advertising and brand values appeal to the grossest of the Passions: envy, pride, confusion and fear. In their defence, the flip side of their arrogance is a certain appealing audacity. The company from time to time (but not as often as we think) creates attractive and innovative products. But net net they have to go in the Stupid Cartesian bucket.

It’s nice to finally have company. And now we have that out of our system, let’s hope that ‘s the last blogpost about Apple here for a while.

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8 responses to “The Worm in the Apple

  1. ” I hate the cutsie-coo operating system and the self satisfied “pop” when you close a window.”

    What are you talking about?

    Also, the iPod isn’t the only MP3 player compatible with the Mac. It’s the only MP3 player supported with iTunes. There is a difference.

  2. 100% agree! I had a run-in with this fact yesterday. I decided it was time I started developing apps for my iPhone, went and signed up for the Apple Developers Center, etc. only to be told upon signing up that you MUST HAVE a Mac (latest version O/S also) if you want to develop for the iPhone. I don’t own a Mac, nor do I ever want to.

    As for developing programs for PC’s, I’ve done it in Linux, Windows, and…. on a Mac! This totally blew my mind, so I rattled off an e-mail to a buddy who develops iPhone apps, and who I know HATES Macs as much as me. He just confirmed my worst fears that he had been forced to go out and buy a Mac.

    So much for me doing any iPhone app development.

  3. Comrade de Chaos

    I am neutral on Macs. Used to love them back in 03 – 05 for simplicity but cooled off due to the very mentioned above reason. Last draw was them forcing me to buy new OS to run Windows (the free existing online patch was taken off.)
    However one should not discount the irrationality and herd behavior of consumers. In addition apple has a goof chance of capitalizing on media and related content by enabling e-shmodes to transfer data/media/web pretty much anywhere.
    When it comes to Apple valuations, it’s hard to find a large cap fund in your average 401K that ignores it at any PE range. Take into the account all of those Apple fans that believe in investing in what they “know/can hold” and any long term investment in both long & short direction is plain boring (will be highly correlated to S&P/tech industry + slight premium .)

  4. Much as I am as afraid of GOOG as everyone should be (“All your database are belong to us!”), I can’t actually find anything bad to say about them. Still love my G1, use gmail, Google Sites and now Google Code (creepy, but very cool), will go long GOOG for the long haul if this disaster rally ever breaks.

    Plenty of reasons to detest AAPL; been saying for a while that they are the new MSFT, and really with their software-patent play as far back as 1989 (attempting to patent ideas they lifted from Xerox PARC), they started their patent-troll career.

    Interesting aside: turns out RHAT (no surprise) but also IBM and GOOG are major supporters of Linux kernel development. No sign of AAPL, of course; do they contribute anything anywhere?

    http://www.linuxfoundation.org/publications/whowriteslinux.pdf

    • Yes Cash. I agree. A coalition of the open-sourcers should coalesce to destroy this mad fruit.

      Or at least weaken it to the point it can do us no more harm.

  5. Chili Palmer

    Tough room.

    So here we have a little company that struggled with also-ran status for years buggering on with its self reinforced belief among the near cult like charming little gatherings each year that it was doing the right thing to build simple beautiful albeit expensive machines, and that someday the world would figure out how right they were.

    That actually didn’t work out so well and DOJ would put a serious hurt on itself trying to prove any monopoly tendancies to any company, like , say, APPL with what ,<5% PC market share.

    No they come up with something that I think they would admit is designed to be a protected platform like iTunes/iPod/iPhone which by all accounts works flawlessly. Much more than we can say about anything MSFT.

    Do they want to protect this no longer so little fiefdom. You bet your earbuds they do. Should they? Long as they keep making tech toys that work this well for really not much at all, I say yes. Don't want Google to help people make VOIP calls over your phone? Strange wny not?! Maybe cause you could wreck the whole freaking business! That's why.

    But of course the hard part of this is sthat Mr. Jobs is a disrupter. NOw when he gets big he finds out their are disrupters who would like to disrupt him since he now has something big enough to disrupt.

    It will be interesting to watch him wiggle. I love watching tech eat their young.

  6. Nokia bets on Linux in iPhone battle

    http://www.reuters.com/article/technologyNews/idUSTRE57P1SG20090826

    Been watching Maemo with interest for a while. It is Debian based, as is OpenWRT (I’m connecting via a DD-WRT repeater, but only because the crappy post-Cisco Linksys router only has 2MB Flash).

    http://maemo.org/intro/

    Maemo could turn out to predominate over Android in the long term, especially for larger devices, given that Android at the application level is limited to the Dalvik java-variant engine, whereas Maemo appears to support both QT and GTK, and can be coded for in at least c, c++ and python, meaning it is pretty wide-open. If it makes the jump from Nokia into the mobile ecosystem at large, it could become quite interesting.

  7. Cash Mundy, apple develops, at least, webkit and CUPS (yes, the printing system), both stuff used by everyone in the OS world.

    in fact, they contributed more that canonical, the guys who make ubuntu but contribute ZERO for the community.