Saturday, February 27, 2010

Making Life Difficult for Android

I am sure you noticed that Steve Jobs was reported as really going at Google, and particularly targeting Android. There has also been a good deal of discussion on the Apple:Adobe kerfuffle over Flash. Some of the best points are being made by John Gruber at Daring Fireball:

Here’s what I mean about Flash Player’s performance being a distraction from the underlying story: Even if Adobe solves Flash’s performance problems, I still doubt Apple will want to include it in iPhone OS.

It boils down to control. I’ve written several times that I believe Apple controls the entire source code to iPhone OS. (No one has disputed that.) There’s no bug Apple can’t try to fix on their own. No performance problem they can’t try to tackle. No one they need to wait for. That’s just not true for Mac OS X, where a component like Flash Player is controlled by Adobe.
I say what Apple cares about controlling is the implementation. That’s why they started the WebKit project. That’s why Apple employees from the WebKit team are leaders and major contributors of the HTML5 standards drive. The bottom line for Apple, at the executive level, is selling devices. It may well be true that Steve Jobs doesn’t really give a shit about the web in and of itself. It’s just good business for Apple to control a best-of-breed web rendering engine. If Apple controls its own implementation, then no matter how popular the web gets as a platform, Apple will prosper so long as its implementation is superior. (Yet More on the Unfolding Future-of-Flash-and-the-Web Saga)

Its all about control. And you could say much the same thing about the recent row over Apple throwing out various dubious bad taste, vaguely ridiculous and smutty apps. Again this is really Apple asserting its ability to control not only the implementation of its hardware, but also the environment in its e-commerce operation. Its all about controlling the environment and the implementation. Of course, iPhone users and iPad owners will still be able to access and play bikini-shaking apps on their iPhone. It is just that they will have to be web apps. There is lots of wicked, I mean really bad stuff on the web and it will run in the browser but it doesn't go in the catalogue. Users will still be able to access any kind of pornography or worse, but Apple are saying loud and clear that they are not going to have them in their iTunes listings or in their e-commerce mall. It is pretty much the same issue of control as when a shopping centre landlord says: "No massage parlours and no abatoirs in this 5 acre park. Sorry, no boiling of bones here."

Why does control of this sort, both of the operating system and the environment, matter so much to Apple? It matters because the quality of the consumer experience is affected by these issues and Apple is trying, succeeding, in mapping out a high-end and smarter consumer experience. That is it.

But it isn't quite all. Have you noticed, how by asserting these standards and insisting on control Apple is parenthetically giving Android a tough hand to play? Android looks like being the number 2 (maybe it will be number 1, but it is starting at number 5 or 6) mobile platform. Apple is giving them some nice assets to start building their consumer experience: here you can have Flash. And a lot of the early Android phones will make much of the fact that they can run Flash. Here: you can have all the developers who produce Apps in lousy taste. Clever developers, ticked off with Apple who have a tendency to produce wobbly boob apps. These are what chess players call 'poisoned pawns'. There is no way that Android will not be able to welcome these gifts with, gritted teeth, open arms. But could it be that Android's playing field is being subtly polluted? Google really doesn't much like Flash either, and I suspect Eric Schmidt is not a great fan of iBoob, still less of BabyShaker. Is Android going to be the environment in which Flash stuff runs not too well? How are Google/Android going to navigate the smut field? Part of the point (a large part of the point) of Android is that it is a much more open environment than the traditional smart phone O/S. A large part of the point of the Android e-commerce system is that it will not have those 'ridiculous' Apple controls. Steve Jobs is totally and absolutely delighted that Android will suck up this stuff that he is throwing out of his shopping trolley. Couldn't be pleased-er when the Android e-commerce mall gets the reputation of having dubious apps.

No comments: