By now you are no doubt aware of Apple’s closed platform of OS X available on the iPhone, preventing third party software from being created for the device. In fact, you may be encouraged by the fact that the device will offer future software titles through the user-friendly iTunes stores. However, what you may not also realize is that Apple is closing the door in terms of a varied and diverse software landscape for its technological darling.
Apple is dealing a major blow to the mobile software industry as a whole. By promoting software as a feature of hardware, the company could perpetuate an assumption that software is no longer a separate entity of a mobile device, leaving consumers with the perception that hardware makers are the only providers of high-quality, compatible titles. Almost brings you back to the old days of Mac vs. Windows.
While Mac vs. Windows on the PC platform was partially alleviated when Apple allowed MS Office titles and windows to run simultaneously with OS X, there is no foreseeable end in sight to Apple’s hording of software development rights. In today’s Wall Street Journal, Apple CEO Steve Jobs claimed “The iPhone is the most sophisticated software platform ever created for a mobile device.” Adding, “We think software features are where the action will be in the coming years.”
This “action” will most certainly mean increased revenue for Apple and decreased options for consumers. Did I also mention a little something call Microsoft Exchange? Because without it, you won’t be able to effectively accomplish work tasks in conjunction with the Microsoft based software your office most likely runs on. And as for you email and phone call only people, good luck getting the IT department to let you use IMAP for confidential company emails.
The real cost of Apple’s closed platform will not be immediately apparent. In fact, it may not be immediately impactful. However, the mobile software industry will be dealt a significant setback if Apple is able to shift consumer perception to the thinking that software is an exclusive component of the hardware upon which it runs. When in reality mobile software is, and should be, its own entity separate from any particular line of product or hardware.
If this is allowed to happen, the diversity and number of software titles available will slowly dwindle until we are once again, much like the early Mac and Windows wars, tied down to a specific and lone set of applications based upon which device one buys. If I remember correctly, Mac was on the short end of the stick in terms of applications and software in those days. And even though Apple’s predicted 10 million units sold seems like a huge number, it is still only a fraction of the mobile device market with Blackberry and Windows Mobile powered smart phones both eclipsing Apple’s sales goal several times over. Thus, Apple will have to create some very strong applications in order to compete with the thousands of developers worldwide working to create software for the Windows Mobile platform.