Apple’s Move to a Mobile Monopoly

Apple is moving inexorably to a Mobile Monopoly – it is the Apple mobile line up: iPod, iPhone, iPad, and iGiveUpWhatsNext. The Apple mobile lineup is closed ecosystem in which all plugins, extensions and apps must go through Apple approved software process. And those extensions and apps/plugins  must  use Apple approved software development tools. Hence Apple is not approving of any software like Flash, Java, or other browsers other than Safari for software development on its mobile line-up because these tools could allow developers to add software that was not sold through App Store. This software lockout forces all software on the Apple Mobile line-up to go through the Apple App Store. Kachhing!

All software/apps, games, books, videos, even ads must be sold through Apple Agents => iAds, iApps, iBooks, iTunes, and iGetYourBucks. And like Google through Search, Apple makes various percentages on all user transactions on its Mobile Lineup of cool, light-weight, must-have, low-power, high design+styling Mobile Devices. Steve Jobs has seen the power of monopoly with Microsoft and Google and he is not going to miss out this time. Hence at the iPhone OS4 announcement this past Friday Steve Jobs rejected unequivocally both Flash and Java on iPhone OS4 yet again [including Adobe’s workaround, Flash generated Objective C code is also “persona non grata” in the Apple Mobile Lineup].

Steve Jobs is betting big that his huge leads in mobile consumer smart devices [think iPhone, iPod and now iPad] can be extended into Corporate/organizational environs displacing RIM and Microsoft Mobile that currently dominate those markets – 57% smartphone market share for RIM+Microsoft in Feb 2010 according to comScore.
So the iPhone OS4  preview was chock full of corporate pleasing announcements:
1)multitasking both locally and for mobile services;
2)remote mobile device and software mgmt. tools;
3)uniform inbox, Exchange support, multiple mail accounts, and attachment opening among others;
4)Data+mail encryption and VPN security;
5)Basic improvements – files, folders, backgrounds, etc emulating Palm webOS and Android capabilities;
6)Corporate server based app distribution and Mobile device management.
And these were just the highlights. Infoworld’s Mobile Edge was so impressed they urged companies to switch from Microsoft and RIM to Apple smartphones and Mobile devices right away.  And even PaulThurott, a strong Windows supporter, acknowledges many of these same features as putting Apple’s iPhone and iPad on even if not better terms with Windows Mobile, RIM and Android.

Does HTML5 and Browsers Defeat the Apple Software Lockup?

The whole idea behind iPad and the Apple Line-up is to take advantage of the 80-20 rule. Only about 20% of computing users are doing high octane creative tasks on their computer – the rest are using their devices primarily  for lite tasks: social interaction and communication, games, music and video entertainment or  browsing the web. Maybe  half of those require simple word processing, spreadsheet number crunching, presentations, and/or  image sharing. What these 80%users want are  computing devices  that are attractive, hand-swipe easy to use, have great battery life and are highly portable and will work everywhere including direct sunlight.

Then there is the magic sauce. Apple Mobile device users want to be able to customize their mobile devices quickly and easily  with the apps and services they want – simple programs/apps that are free or inexpensive .  And finally allow them access to the Web using a browser interface. Ahah, you say, the Web breaks the Apple stranglehold on  its Mobile lineup. There are thousands of apps that run on the Web and all of these bypass the Apple iApp  Store.

Not so fast. Apple controls the only browser that runs on its Mobile Lineup – Safari. Safari might be brought under a similar regime to the iApp Store. Users have to pay at some future date to use critical JavaScript functions or libraries. Or a toll maybe charged for using certain websites .Just exercise your iGreedy imagination. Finally, Apple can have the last say on how/what browser apps  are allowed on board any or all of their mobile lineup since Apple controls the browser.

Summary

At least twice Steve Jobs  lost market leadership and even dominance – [think Apple II and Lisa/Mac]. With his Mobile Line-up,   Steve appears to want to control all of the processes on using his devices – and to profit as much as possible on every  extension of the utility of his device for every customer.  So he creates a closed development environ to help  secure his gateskeeping function – and voila you have The Apple Mobile Monopoly.

So Steve Jobs is setting up some  interesting tests in the IT market. Do users continue to buy the leader, Apple’s closed Mobile Lineup or do they consider Google’s Android or Intel/Nokia’s Meego which are considerably more open allowing Java and Flash development, have open APIs, and have less onerous App Store terms. Or do consumers really care? Android is starting to get major traction as March saw over 9000 apps registered for Android – ten more months of that rate of app creation and Apple’s number of apps lead vanishes – then it becomes App  and hardware quality as the differentiator.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has the problem that their Mobile Phone 7 is in the process of being birthed [I suspect  they will have to do another Vista and call it Wowsa Pinkie to make their holiday 2010 target for a somewhat Mobile Phone 7 intro]. But the broader issue is how will Microsoft, Masters of  Proprietary, distinguish their Mobile Phone 7 from Apple’s very proprietary Mobile Lineup – being half open?

Finally, in case you wondered, the markets are working. This Mobile Series of Events is not called the Clash of the Titans. Rather this is a case of Economist Joeseph Schumpeter’s Creative Destruction … uhh Creative Disruption.

2 thoughts on “Apple’s Move to a Mobile Monopoly”

  1. ­­If it walks like a monopolist, talks like a monopolist and acts like a monopolist, it probably is a monopolist.

    It seems that Apple is up to its monopolistic tricks again. I heard that they now will reject apps that have different content, but with the same functionality, like books. If you have one app that turns pages left to right, why would you want another? It’s like a bookshop that wants to deal with only one publisher. Perhaps the customers might want to buy from other publishers? Ever thought of that?
    Their excuse is that similar apps with different content clutter up the space. Well, there would be much less clutter if Apple would provide a subdivision among books. May I make some suggestions? Language perhaps? Fiction/non-fictions? Written/drawn? Detectives/thrillers/horror/literature etc. Perhaps a visit to the local library and a talk to the librarian might give Apple a clue.
    And what minority languages is concerned, Apple should count their blessings that in those large, empty spaces of the App store, there is at least some clutter in the corner. Apple seems adamant to remove that clutter so the space looks even emptier.

    The big problem here is that Apple may be shooting themselves in the foot. Arrogance will only go so far. When you deal with a partner, you expect honesty and reliability. When dealing with a monopolist or a dictator you expect less, but you are not forced to deal with them.
    Small publishers and honest people will walk away if Apple enforces this guideline. They embarked on this project and invested good money to make these apps. Apple suddenly decides to act on an obscure rule to shut them down. What obscure rules can we expect to surface in the future?
    A reliable partner creates a balance between the interests of himself, the supplier and the customer. A dictator tries to squeeze every drop from everybody. Egyptians could hardly leave, so they have taken the abuse of Mubarak for 30 years. Are we really going to wait that long?

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