Steve Jobs, the iPhone and open platforms

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.
Written by Dan Farber, Inactive

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.

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