Steve Jobs, the iPhone and open platforms

Steve Jobs, the iPhone and open platforms

Summary: In a Newsweek interview with Steven Levy, Steve Jobs said:"You don’t want your phone to be an open platform. You need it to work when you need it to work.

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TOPICS: iPhone
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In a Newsweek interview with Steven Levy, Steve Jobs said:

"You don’t want your phone to be an open platform. You need it to work when you need it to work. Cingular doesn’t want to see their West Coast network go down because some application messed up."

Dave Winer is not pleased that Apple has chosen to make the iPhone inaccessible to developers. In his Scripting News blog post, Dave writes: 

I don't believe for a minute that Jobs's closed-box approach to cell phones is the right one. Growth is driven by choice. The Internet grew because, for the 80th time, it was the platform with no platform vendor. The Apple II won, the Mac won, the PC won, even Windows won, because you could install any software you wanted on them. The iPod is a wonderful product, but damn it's time we made one that could run our software, could run any software, so users have choice, and so you don't have to buy new hardware to get software features, and so the market can grow at the rate of innovation, not at the whim of one marketer.

Apple is now bidding once again to become the total control platform vendor that they have always been inside. When they introduce the phone software to the Macintosh (seems inevitable, doesn't it?) will they shut down developers there too?

Mathew Ingram agrees with Dave that Apple is taking the wrong route in trying to lock users in with the iPhone. Scott Karp chimes in that Jobs is more focused on creating a user experience than building a massive ecosystem around Apple products. Jobs talks about third-party applications endangering Cingular's network, but the real deal is that he doesn't want to his to mess up the aesthetics of his latest creation by allowing just anyone to enter the inner sanctum of the iPhone.

Jobs is a strong willed, elitist artist who doesn't want to see his creations mutated inauspiciously by unworthy programmers. It would be as if someone off the street added some brush strokes to a Picasso painting or changed the lyrics to a Bob Dylan song. Jobs doesn't view the iPod or iPhone as part of the remix culture.

Jobs' modus operandi is to control the total user experience--the software, the fit and finish of the physical object, the marketing and messaging. With this first generation of a new product that is key to Apple's future, he is not about to let in software that could compromise the health or simple beauty of his new baby in its first few months of existence.

When Jobs said he doesn't want the iPhone to be an open platform, he more than likely meant that he doesn't want to allow third-party, downloadable software on the iPhone without a certification, quality assurance system in place that would ensure that the user experience continues to meet the Jobs standard. 

To Dave's point, the iPhone can be more successful if it is open to developers. Jobs has his own definition of well behaved bits, those worthy of being embedded in an iPhone. He will keep the lid on the iPhone until the user interface developed over the last few years has been validated by millions of users. The next stage will be to open up the iPhone to developers to some degree as a way to further differentiate Apple's offering and satisfy users. Given the iPhone is way more than a cell phone and it runs the Mac OS, there will be no shortage of ideas or applications, although Apple will be focused squeezing as much revenue as possible for itself out of every iPhone.

Topic: iPhone

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33 comments
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  • Wishful Thinking

    Apple has proven through their refusal to license their FairPlay DRM. They know that their iTunes customers don't even understand that they are locking themselves into lifetime iPod hardware purchases (which are about a year apart, as far as I can see).

    It is just one more immoral decision by the King of Hip.
    bnieland
    • lock in

      FairPlay is the real lock in and Jobs hopes he duplicate his success with the iPhone....and you are right customers dont understand or care...Randall Stross covers this in the NYT
      http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/14/business/yourmoney/14digi.html?ex=1326430800&en=4b16bfc0b9d74dd6&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss
      dbfarber
      • ZDNet Lock In

        A little pious aren't we? Prior to making broad statements regarding what
        customers do and don't understand, perhaps ZDNet could do an internal audit and
        let us know exactly to what extent lock-in effects it's opinions. Are we to endorse
        an open dev path to iPhone because barriers to this is lacking in the larger
        marketplace? If other vendors don't provide this path, are they any less greedy
        than Apple? If they do provide it, how is the marketplace being usurped? How is
        competition harmed? Let's agree not to punish success when it happens within a
        competitive environment.

        Or is this really a concern that the iPhone "somehow" has a competitive edge. Is it
        a worry that come June the iPhone party will start and ZDNet won't be invited?

        FairPlay is the villain? Most people have mp3's on their iPods! This is somehow
        painted as more egregious than say Windows Mobile, which seeks to dominate
        through a broad license, just as Windows has done, and use the diversion
        provided by hardware diversity to distract consumers from a lack of OS/
        experiential choice. The huge walled suburb of the platform mimics the larger
        marketplace in it's size and "diversity" (hardware only). It does so right up until
        you walk into the wall. Please don't try to tell us that true competition exists
        within the walled platform regardless of platform. Please understand that
        competition where it counts, in the marketplace, and between software solutions,
        will happen in earnest in June.

        If the "wisdom" of the market was good enough when Microsoft was on the rise,
        it's just as valid now.

        If iPhone wins, it will win on merit, just as iPods have done. Apple is offering a
        value proposition and nothing more. Please don't insult the intelligence of users
        and try to tell us we don't understand what we get for our money, or that we are in
        danger of getting trapped. Finally, understand that when I get this kind of minor
        FUD from ZDNet, I for one, am considering the record and agenda of the source.
        Harry Bardal
        • I wish you would face facts

          that the God you worship (Jobs) may not be all you think him to be.

          Once again, with Apple being mentioned in a negative light, you will take the bullet for Apple while all the while claiming Microsoft or some other naysayer of your religion was the shooter.

          I agree that if Apple wins in the phone market, that's good, but if it loses on merits, will you seek to accept the truth, or change nothing and blame someone else for the failure?

          Or will you just claim that the end users are not all that smart, as you do when they choose an MS solution?
          John Zern
    • More likely

      The consumers don't care. As my physics prof once said: If you can't measure it, you
      can ignore it.

      Is a fence is farther away than you'll ever travel are you fenced in? If DRM restricts
      something you'll never do, are you locked in?
      frgough
  • artist ?

    I believe the artists are the designers and engineers behind scenes.
    Jobs should take deserved credit for the energy, vision and entreprenurial spirit he puts behind, but from a strictly artistic point of view, he's more the marchand than the artist.
    umageller
    • In other words

      If iPhone was Starwars IV, Steve Jobs is George Lucas
      Len Rooney
  • iphone

    I have verizon and I will never switch to cingular or any other carrier.I want an
    iphone that will work with verizon
    hightechadrian
    • Motorola Q

      Save yourself some money and get a six month headstart with a $99 Motorola Q from verizon. It does just about everything the Iphone will do, on a (relatively) open platform, but requires a knowledge of how to operate a keyboard.
      afertal
    • Motorola Q

      Save yourself some money and get a six-month head start with a $99 Motorola Q from Verizon. It will do just about everything the iPhone will purportedly do, on a (relatively) open platform. It does, however, require a knowledge of how to operate a keyboard.
      afertal
    • Verizon

      Once Verizon sells a phone THEY pull out all the user features so that you have to purchase ringtones, music, and programs directly from them. At least with Cingular, you get it all.
      vlaslow
  • Apple Bimbo phone - a crippled closed system

    Yeah, save yourself some money (today) and get the $99 Motorola Q or one of many other Windows Mobile, Palm Treo or Blackberry smarthphones that do everything the Apple Bimbo phone does and then some, at significant fraction of the cost.

    The already shipping smarthphones are available from Verizon, Spring, Cingular, T-Mobile, US Cellular, etc. You don't have to break your family plan or pay through the nose.

    Unlike the Apple Bimbo phone, these smarthphones are real, they are not closed systems and they will not lock you in yet another Apple-only product line.

    The smartphones already shipping support thousands of 3rd party applications, have expandable memory and fully support the enterprise world with the email, calendaring, address books and office documents that the corporate world uses, including Outlook and Exchange. The Apple Bimbo phone does not and it is clippled and so many new ways.

    As usual, Steve Jobs arrogantly overhypes his vaporware. There isn't much on the Bimbo phone that has already been available (and shipping) since 2004. On the contrary, the Apple Bimbo phone has a number of serious limitations.

    Ignore the hype of the Apple marketing machine.
    sinpolines
    • Thanks

      But no thanks.

      I want an iPhone.
      Len Rooney
      • Who is the Apple Bimbo phone for?

        Not being a suitable smartphone for the enterprise/corporate world, being instead a way way way way overpriced stupid (not smart) phone for most everyone else... who is the Apple Bimbo phone for?

        for Jessica Simpson and Paris Hilton?
        Does Apple really think there are 10,000,000 million bimbos and Mac fanatics out there that a) can afford the Apple Bimbo phone and b) will actually not find it crippled, limited and actually stupid?

        10,000,000 units sold in the first year?
        at $600 PLUS over $2,000 totalling the required 2 year service?
        for a stupid overhyped phone with a scratched screen?
        sinpolines
        • Me

          iPhone is for me.

          I really like its overall simplicity, functionality, design, style, coolness of both its
          hardware and software. I'm sure they learned lots from the Nano and this new screen
          will be much more scratch resistant.
          Len Rooney
        • remember all those critics that said the Ipod was too pricey ?

          yet apple has managed to sell over 75million of them...Im a mac user but I dont have an ipod, most of the BIMBOS that bought the ipods are Windows users....are you one?
          vmlengima
          • Apple Bimbo phone & iPods - two different markets

            The cell phone market and the MP3 player market are quite different, especially if you are talking about a way way way way overpriced expensive crippled $600 Apple Bimbo phone with an over $2,000 total 2 year service contract.

            Look into what makes the bulk of the Apple sales and you'll see that it is the less expensive ipods, not the $250 or $350 models, and purchasing one does not require a $80 monthly bill for two years.

            Of course, the mayority of ipod owners are Windows music customers: no one uses those overpriced Mac closed systems. The ipod almost died until Apple released it for Windows.
            sinpolines
    • Open platform?

      What a joke. it hasn't even hit the market yet & this joker is telling you what it is.
      Microsoft, anything, is not an open platform. Maybe MS should get a piece of
      everyone's profits. Would that make you feel better? What an a$$. Maybe MS should
      run everything so that technology advancements can become stagnant waiting for MS
      to catchup. Get some help. Don't want one don't buy one.
      SquishyParts
  • You guys just dont understand

    I use both a pc and my Mac, I dont like the look and feel of the pc at all. if you look at almost everything that most manufacturers come out with whether its software or hardware its usually unattractive, Most of the products that apple makes are made to work with one another...easy to use, whether its installing a new program or piece of hardware its much easier, can you say the same thing about windblows? i dont think so. look at what motorola did with phone that runs Itunes IT SUCKED. Period.
    vmlengima
  • Moto Q??

    Check out what David Berlind has to say about the Q..
    http://blogs.zdnet.com/Berlind/?p=273

    It makes you want an iPhone despite its deficiencies
    DF
    dbfarber