Serving at the Pleasure of the King

It’s hard to begrudge a company the right to incorporate functionality that users have shown they want. Nobody complained when Microsoft introduced a basic anti-malware solution for Windows (well, no one but Symantec and McAfee and so on). The developer who fills in a “missing” feature of the OS ought to know that the gravy train is only going to last as long as it takes for the OS vendor to fill in the gap itself.

I suppose we can debate whether an offline Web page reader should be considered an integral part of an operating system, in the same way malware protection might be. And referencing the very product they were killing in the feature notes was crass, to say the least. Still, does anyone expect the Jobs-era Apple to be polite? Social mores are for the little people. The king is too important to be bothered with mere niceties.

And, @Mdhughes, let’s not rewrite history: NETSCAPE killed Netscape with their boneheaded decision to rewrite their code base from scratch–thereby going dark for three and a half years and missing the entire dot-com boom–only to resurface in late 2000 with Netscape 6, which is generally remembered as one of the worst browsers of all time. If they had released a halfway decent Netscape 5 in 1998 they’d still be with us.

Hmm, I tried posting a commen here earlier but it never appeared. Anyway…

Concerns about Apple’s tightly controlled rules for the AppStore are legit. But vendors incorporating other apps’ functionality? That’s hardly new, nor is it unique to Apple. Remember DriveSpace and EMM386?

Now, it Apple at this point rejected Instapaper because it duplicated iOS functionality, that would be deeply troubling.

While the reaction to Steve Job’s death was understandable considering the impact he had on a lot of people, we should be under no illusion that Apple is any more altruist that any other big company. They look after bottom line first and second.

I consider the iPhone the single most insidious piece of technology in human history.

It’s single-handedly gotten everyone comfortable with the idea of walled gardens and not having complete control of their hardware.

I pray that whoever takes over next won’t be nearly as successful at selling gilded cages as Jobs was.

All I can say is “dude, are you just waking up?” For someone that’s had an iPhone and been in this business for so long, surely you have to known this for a long time. Apple has had these policies in place since they launched the app store.

Also, at this point I think it’s unfair to call Apple a “King”. Unfair to kings that is. Apple is more like a despotic ruler…

“I consider the iPhone the single most insidious piece of technology in human history.”

Before the iPhone, applications were published through carriers, which required a 40-50% fee, plus bribes to get in. After the iPhone success, people started choosing phone first, carrier second, and developers were able to work independently.

I want to micromanage my phone as much as I want to install plugins on my microwave, and I’m really thankful for, to give you an example, a simplified multitask functionality. Compare that to 5 out of 10 paid Android apps in 2009 being task managers/monitors. What you call freedom I call hell. Thank god 99% of the market is with me.

I love Steam and the Apple’s App Store. My life just became so much easier with them.
I hope Marco can use some kind of document container and save to iCloud to solve this issue.

Apple is just pursuing the video game model but in a wider context of a platform that is meant to do more than just play games. Nintendo and others have been doing business like this for decades now. As a customer, I don’t believe their policies benefit me that much. The app store is still full of garbage that obscures the truly amazing and useful, and their policies don’t drive the creation of the latter. In the future, I intend to stay as far away from the king’s court as I can, both as a customer and as a developer.

The Reader aspect of Safari has been on Mac OS X for a couple of years now. It’s probably the only reason why I use Safari as my default web browser. Safaris can be a bit slower than Google Chrome on Windows, and it doesn’t have as many plugins. However, the Reader feature is a killer feature. And, it’s easy to use. Unlike Readability, it doesn’t send your content to a third party to see.

The Read Later functionality is also quite nice and first appeared on Mac OS X before the iPhone. Again, it’s nice because its a single click. It was obvious when these features first appeared in Mac OS X that they’d be sooner or later ported to the iPhone.

All operating systems, as they become more robust and compete for the consumer market, incorporate new features – many of them found in very popular third party applications that add basic functionality to the OS.

Marco posts an interesting scenario: Someone downloading something when they have Internet access that causes the cache and tmp to be cleaned, but then immediately is in a situation where new content can’t be downloaded because of a lack of Internet connectivity.

However, that scenario probably isn’t as common as someone trying to download new content and can’t not because their iPhone is really full, but because of temporary and cache files filling up the storage space of the iPhone. Now what should be done in that context?

We could create a file browser, and have the user try to figure out where the various cache and tmp directories are and clean them out – hoping that someone doesn’t do what Instapaper does and store files they want in those directories. Not a very iPhonish way of handling the issue. Or, we can do what the iPhone does and clean up what should be temporary storage when storage is low.

Apple could have taken two different approaches. One is to constantly scrub these directories. The other is their current approach: Allow apps to store files in these directories, but understand that when the iPhone is low on storage it will purge these directories.

I’m a huge Apple fan, and an iOS developer, but you won’t me see disagree with the base sentiment. The worst, I think, is that Apple, in Keynotes and investor calls, boasts of how much they are “paying” developers. While it is money transiting through their bank accounts (when you buy an app Apple collects the money, then forwards it minus their cut to the developer), using “paying” here is an outrageous claim if I’ve ever seen one. Developers earned that money from their customers. Apple is merely an intermediary in this transaction.

The matter of Apple adding a feature that partially or totally obsoletes a third-party app is… complicated. Let’s just say that if Apple couldn’t do so, the missing features would soon become omissions, and buying out the third-party app is not always appropriate. The computing landscape evolves (be it the need for concurrency in this multi-core era, the new user interface paradigms, network and broadband availability which makes browser’s offline modes look stupid nowadays, user expectations wrt to media sync, to integration with well-known services like Google or Flickr, to app workflow) and applications have to evolve with them; these evolutions include the changing scope of what an operating encompasses: what the browser was yesterday (remember when IE got included for free in Windows? Good times), reading list is today. However, the one-two punch of “I’m going to allow users to save synced bookmarks to read later. You don’t mind?” then “hey I’m going to remove your offline content now” sure is worrying. Many more are affected by the latter in fact.

I agree with the sentiment and this has always put me off developing anything for iOS. Well that and the fact you have to write in objective-c or something that will compile into it.

I don’t see iOS as solely an operating system though. It is more an appliance, out of the box you are getting a set of applications to achieve the common tasks you will use your phone/tablet for. They continually add features they find people will commonly use who’s ideas no doubt come from other apps and operating systems.

Microsoft got all the anti-trust issues because at the time there was a clear cut what an OS should be and what it shouldn’t. Since then Linux distributions and OS X have started to contain everything you need for a full computing experience, the lines are blurred much more than before. Can you imagine getting an OS without a web browser built in now. I can’t see Microsoft getting into legal issues again now the competition bundles so much together.

The court of the king is a lucrative place to be

The available numbers suggest otherwise for the vast majority of iOS developers:

I strongly believe that the current problems with InstaPaper are just more like some unseen bugs, as Apple won’t get any real benefit from that. It seems very unlikely that Apple would put an extra complicated ‘cleaning’ algorithm just to keep Instapaper out of business, and neither are Apple’s consumers going to upgrade to iOS5 just to get rid of InstaPaper app. I just hope it gets fixed soon for the better of the people. But again I never said that Apple never replicates popular apps to give them a run for money.

Every sometime Apple does replicates a popular App, but it keeps the healthy competition alive, I think of it more like breaking the monopoly, so that the original creator is continuously forced to innovate to something new instead of going for a retirement. In fact this is the way Apple works, thats how Mac came to life killing its own previous generations of computers like Lisa and Apple II.

I believe Apple’s philosophy has always been like, they just don’t give the better from what we have right now, they extract the maximum out of what the current technology can offer and put it on the table and then let the followers follow. Even if that means eating your children and siblings.

So, if you replace the image of King with King Cobra, it would make more sense.

I’m sorry to see such a well regarded blogger exhibiting such strong cognitive dissonance. If the environment is bad for developers now then it is bad for users later. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

Your article talks about the “Apple’s Three Laws of Developers”. I looked into the link but found to be another composition by another blog. Is the “Apple’s Three Laws of Developers” really official given by Apple? If it is, please give me a link that points to Apple’s website/article indicating those facts.

My fundamental question, is the developer’s or companies job is to develop useful application, deploy it get money. Android is a more open world. Where people make their apps as a carrier of google revenue ads. Google doesn’t know how to make money out of their services other than pushing ads.
On the other hand, Apple reduced the cost of software in their platform and scaled it up to billions. In Windows platform, how many hundred bucks you’re paying for prominent software? nobody cares anything other than their own products. For Windows, it’s their own software, it’s come on developers responsibility to ensure the quality of software they’re delivering.
Connecting the devices, the users, the developers, the money these made apple profitable. What happened to android store? Amazon opened a different Android store where you can purchase and install apps other than from Google’s market place. Who’s making benefit out of it. If Amazon is employing better services, integration and adopt the same strategy those Apple follows now, then you would see a disruption.
People are obsessed with quality. Few pennies are not really matter for them. They want things to work.
developers also think in the same developers think about products and uses cases. I don’t find big problems in the gatekeeper policy. I appreciate the freedom of web on the other hand, I respect the effort Apple put to make sure the apps works and ultimately they don’t want to serve something which strike them back in their platform or devices? Would they? It’s like coming my home, using my resources to setup a public announcement and making me piss off at it. Though Apple eying on the profit, we can’t complain. At least they’re providing good quality apps for us…

It’s been a couple of years that I’m working as an iOS developer, and I have to add another side to your portrayal of iPhone world from dev perspective.
It is true that you have a master who owns the land where you live, and that you have to be careful of keeping a master happy, but one should remember that this feudalistic environment came after slavery and is improvement compared to earlier mobile systems.

Other good sides for developer are no memory leaks rule which Apple reinforce, and without which I just know from experience everything is not as good, because tight schedules always top quality in real world so putting line that can’t be crossed is blessing. Than you have centralized shop, where your software will stand alongside of everyone else’s and you know that every customer have to come to that particular shop. Hardware that doesn’t change is huge thing, and every Android developer can confirm you that. Even when Apple made retina screen, they made sure that you can keep your pixels same (so you still refer to screen as 480x320, and if that screen happens to be double in size, you can and don’t have to just use same images with postfix). And, ofcourse, when you develop for iPhone, you get app for iPad also with little effort.
Other things aside, it still pays off to be iOS developer, especially because market is crying for more senior developers and is prepared to pay more.

God, I hope Apple doesn’t see that I’m talking about them to foreigners and whip me…

I understand the issues presented here but I don’t understand how a company with apples model can avoid this issue.

You give millions of people access to an sdk for years and hope that no one comes up with some good ideas that you would want to bake into the OS.

I can’t help but feel that if it wasn’t instapaper that was the victim this would be a non starter.

What about all the mapping companies that have taken a huge hit from google. This is the way everything in the world works. If you have a good idea then the chances of it being improved upon or at least adopted by your competitors increases.

It is impossible to decide either way with issues like this. What if instapaper was poorly written and slow? Would it be ok to replace it then? What if apple had thought of this years ago before instapaper and only just implemented it.

I build apps myself but don’t really have an issue with their policy. You agree to apples terms and conditions when you develop for the platform and you have a choice.

I would wager that if we looked at most major features of the OS in both android and iOS we would find large parts of them have been stolen / adapted from other peoples ideas and work.

“If Microsoft added a feature to Windows that duplicated a popular application’s functionality, developers would be screaming bloody murder”

This is a ridiculous statement. What about when Microsoft added Windows Messenger when there were other popular alternatives? What about when Microsoft created Security Essentials when there were other popular alternatives? What about when Microsoft bundled Internet Explorer when there was another popular alternative? (You could argue that people were up in arms about it at the time, but IE is still bundled with Windows.) What about when Microsoft added the ability to burn CDs directly into Windows? What about when Microsoft added the ability to take screenshots? What about when Microsoft added Windows Movie Maker? The list goes on and on…

I’m not disagreeing that it sucks for the developer who has created a product only to have it crushed when the OS has a similar feature by default. I’m disagreeing with the idea that Microsoft would never do what Apple has done. Did I miss something? When did Microsoft become the good guy?

psepheroth, the “three laws” bit is a parody, as clearly stated in the article.

It is becoming clear… Apple does not sell hardware. They license it.