10 thoughts

  1. I would love to read the article, but there is a paywall around WSJ these days. Can you summarize the article for us who do not have access?

  2. Here’s a copy paste:
    Wall Street Journal
    OPINION: The Microsofting of Apple?
    February 9, 2010
    By Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.
    Apple is in danger of becoming preoccupied with zero-sum maneuvering versus hated rivals.
    Don’t look now but this may be the year when Apple’s market cap does the unthinkable and surpasses Microsoft’s. Congratulations will be in order but so will condolences. For a company preoccupied with products is in danger of becoming a company preoccupied with strategy. And by "strategy," we mean zero-sum maneuvering versus hated rivals.
    Oh well, it’s a fallen world we live in.
    Take the iPad, which instantly shed the moniker "Jesus tablet" once it saw the light of day. It’s a blown-up iPod Touch, rolled out not to be insanely great but to give Apple an entry in the netbook derby. The iPad may not be the best Web-browsing machine simply because Apple refuses to support Flash, which delivers 75% of the video on the Web. But the iPad (an anagram for paid) looks like a good device for consuming the e-books, music and video sold through Apple’s online service. In fact, let’s not mince words: The iPad looks like a device optimized to patronize the iTunes store.
    And what about Apple’s decision to exclude Flash? Apple and its supporters stake out aesthetic and philosophical grounds: Flash is buggy. Flash is a power hog. Flash is "proprietary" (horrors). Flash is used to create those annoying Web ads (never mind that advertising is what pays for most of the Web).
    Uh huh. Flash would also allow iPhone and iPad users to consume video and other entertainment without going through iTunes. Flash would let users freely obtain the kinds of features they can only get now at the Apple App Store.
    We hasten to add, before the net-neut crazies and antitrusters seek to perp-walk Steve Jobs, that Apple is perfectly within its rights to do so. But the thing to notice is that Apple is making a strategic choice to cut off its users from a huge amount of Web content. We’ll leave Flash’s acolytes to defend it against charges of bugginess, etc. Flash has been amazingly successful in crowding out other video players and amazingly successful in getting perhaps a billion PC users to download regular updates. If you want to watch TV shows at Hulu.com or baseball at MLB.com or play games at Facebook, you need Flash.
    For now, Adobe, owner of Flash, says it’s issuing tools to allow Flash programmers at least to offer their creations through the App Store (provided Apple gives its blessing). Apple insists a forthcoming Web standard will replace the proprietary Flash anyway. We’ll see. Flash is installed on 95% of PCs, so its displacement won’t happen overnight. And not all browser makers (e.g., Firefox) are on-board with the new standard.
    Here’s the bigger worry. Apple may be succumbing to the seductive temptations of "network effects," in which the all-consuming goal becomes getting its mobile devices into more and more hands simply for the purpose of locking more and more users into iTunes. Enter nemesis in the form of Google, a company with which Apple was recently allied.
    Widely circulated have been remarks by Mr. Jobs at a meeting with Apple employees late last month in which he unceremoniously dumped on Google’s "don’t be evil" mantra. Apple had played nice, he reportedly said, steering clear of competing with Google in search, while Google traitorously plotted to launch its own mobile devices in order to "kill the iPhone."
    Google won’t kill the iPhone. The market is plenty big enough to support lots of mobile devices. What’s really threatened is Apple’s ability to keep convincing tens of millions of consumers to lock themselves into iTunes., the App Store, etc. Not for nothing Google flaunted a mockup of its own slate-like device a few days before the iPad unveiling. And Google’s mobile devices support Flash—i.e., they allow users to patronize the video and other Web goodies that Apple users can’t.
    Rumors abound that Apple is considering a deal with Microsoft’s search engine Bing to displace Google on the iPhone. Rumors abound that Apple will get into the advertising business, that it will expand its cloud services to compete with Google’s. Who is this beginning to sound like?
    Network effects can be a path to power and riches, but (as Microsoft has shown) much of the proceeds can also end up being squandered on defensive and paranoid attempts to secure the privileged position. Pundits have wondered what might become of Apple once its chief aesthete and perfectionist is no longer calling the shots. An Apple that rolls out increasingly junky devices merely to lock more and more customers into the iTunes-App Store mall is one gloomy possibility.

  3. Thanks for sharing this Ben. I think author nearly missed making a bold point: Apple’s locking of customer is "unfair trade practice". Apple’s customers cannot buy music from competitor’s stores run by Amazon, Real, or other book publishers using the iPhone. Apple collects royalty for each music file purchased and therefore customers must have the freedom to decide. If they were Microsoft, competitors would have sued them by now. If they are to become Microsoft, they had better start hiring more lawyers.
    Also if Apple fails to create a "web standard" (going by the history of W3C, this is high probability), apart from humiliation I think (and just my opinion) that Adobe can sue Apple for unfair trade practice. Remember, when Google took legal course both Apple and AT&T allowed Google Voice on the iPhone.
    Apple is also at fault because on other company is allowed to compete with iTunes by creating an "App Store" like app for the iPhone. They have no rights (moral or ethical) to decide what their customers can install.
    There market capitalization is increasing and their market share in mobile phone world is about to surpass RIM’s 20%. They are selling more music than other stores. More app than any other store. Now, this is just inviting legal action. Apple certainly dominated millennium’s first decade, but using questionable trade practices. They are certainly following the footsteps of Microsoft.
    [I had too much to drink ;)]

  4. Nice to see a mainstream source clarifying the issue for what it really is. Apple shoving web plugins aside for spurious reasons is why my next smartphone purchase is going to be an Android device, as soon as the Nexus is compatible with ATT’s 3G network.

  5. Before meetings begin, I can generally look around and observe colleagues swooshing light-sabers, playing flutes, flying planes via accelerometer, and sharing the love of a good geek toy from an app store.
    I generally comment on how cool it is, and go back to watching hulu, youtube, or tv.adobe.com on my very uncool windows mobile phone running the skyfire browser. Yeah, I suppose cool is nice, but content is nicer!
    (Flash has been on PocketPC/Windows Mobile since early last decade!)

  6. The market is plenty big enough to support lots of mobile devices. What’s really threatened is Apple’s ability to keep convincing tens of millions of consumers to lock themselves into iTunes.

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