Making use of a closed-system and trying to be the best in a category assumes that you have access to the most brilliant minds in that field, and the most brilliant marketing campaign. What makes Apple great? Well, they can control every aspect of their production because they own all their own tools and can keep out the crap. Also, they have slick industrial design. For now they also have some of the most brilliant minds in the industry, but not all of them. This is why they will never achieve world domination with their products. I suppose I could make use of their own advertising to make an example : "I'm a mac, I'm a PC". You are either an apple person or you're not. Their closed-system allows little flexibility. They would be doomed to what they used to be were it not for them opening their file formats to standards.
Why is this not the best approach? Because of human innovation. People hate being held down, forced into one category, etc. This is what apple is doing, but because their products are so innovative, consumers will go for it.
Google is much smarter; they know what to hold onto and what to open up for the masses. Even though they employ many geniuses, they are always on the search for new innovative ideas. That's why they purchase so many startups, or so I've been told.
That's why I believe in a race between Google and Apple, Apple WILL lose eventually.
Closed-systems should actually drive innovation because they must be circumvented. That's why Apple products are cracked all the time. So I guess the challenge then is, that if you aren't happy with Apple, build a better product and market it as well as they do. All things being equal, the open-system product will win every time. You can't employ all of the brightest people yourself, all of the time. I think Apple will learn this in due time, and then things will change.
A sidenote is that a large part of Apple's appeal is simplicity because of their closed-system. If anyone could create an opem-system as turnkey as theirs, they'd come ahead by far. I think one of the closest systems to being fully open and turnkey I've seen so far is Facebook Connect, but I'm starting to become too long-winded, so I'll leave it at that.
Here's an alternative take on this (with a story). I recently saw Thomas Keller (chef and owner of Per Se here in NYC and French Laundry in CA, among others) talking about a new-ish restaurant of his in CA, Ad Hoc.
Ad Hoc has no menus. They make meals and serve them family style. You take what you want from the dishes provided. You have choice only within that range.
He argued that true luxury was the freedom from choice. Now in a political context, this is Orwellian and terrifying. But in the context of a meal, it made a lot of sense to me. Let a great chef do his or her magic, and I will try any damn thing they put in front of me and thank them for the privilege.
For us as hackers, computer use is more like politics. We want the openness to do what we want, to dig around, to break things and fix them again, to change things. For most people, however, computer use is more like a meal. Give them some great toys to play with and they won't mind the limitations at all.
This is explicitly about locking developers down, and not allowing them to do things that Apple does not approve of. Want to write a competing web browser? Sorry, you can't. Want to write an awesome JIT that optimizes itself for their shiny new chip? No can do.
Imagine if this policy had been in place on their desktop or laptop computers. Half of the technologies that they themselves use and tout as great would not exist. LLVM/clang? WebKit? Heck, the Mach and BSD kernels that this is all built on. None of this would have been created in a closed ecosystem with restrictive policies, and yet Apple is perfectly happy to take advantage of it while not letting anyone else play in their sandbox.
The hypocrisy of their policies makes me sick.
When html5 matures and is more widely adopted, developers will sidestep the ridiculous shackles of the app store approval process... effortlessly. At that point, it'll be a competition between the best developed browsers and the most inexpensive mobile devices that will still deliver a very good experience. Google, I think, will come out on top then w/ Google Chrome OS.
Want to write a competing web browser that will confuse people (why do I need another web browser?), no can do. It's a quality control issue.
The iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad do specific things and do them well. They are not personal computers. They are web browsers, music players, calendars, etc. The customer is paying for a device that does these things. They don't want (or arguably need) a personal computer.
Why would you want to develop LLVM on an iPad? Do you honestly think that Apple would junk their desktop OS in favour of an App Store-driven laptop/desktop experience? Developers write code on personal computers. Apple is not a closed ecosystem because of this fact alone. There is room in Apple's world for 3rd party innovation - it's just not on their consumer products.
And Apple is not immune to this sort of problem; there are alternative products that they forbid that really can improve the experience (for instance, better podcast clients, email clients that are optimized for Gmail, and the like). And given the quantity of software they have on the app store, and how crappy some of it is, it's not about quality control at all; it's about the fact that Apple simply wants control, and doesn't want any third-party developers getting too big or too powerful.
The point about LLVM is not about developing LLVM on an iPad. It's about the fact that you can't use such technology on the iPad. If I want to develop a product to run on the iPad, and that product would be greatly improved by containing a JIT or an interpreter, I cannot distribute that on the iPad; it is forbidden. And this means that there is less of a market for developing such things in general. If the hardware that the consumers have and use forbids me from selling them a product with an interpreter in it, then there's a lot less of a reason for me to produce that interpreter in the first place.
But you don't hear as much about people like me, who simply turn away from the iPhone or iPad and don't develop software for it. You hear about the success stories; the people who made a quick buck selling a fart app for the iPhone. The only cases in which you do hear about people being turned away are cases in which people did make the initial investment, developed the software, and then were turned down; but because most people don't want to risk that, they never bother developing the software in the first place if they think there's a high chance that Apple will reject it.
Fair enough, but isn't the point that some applications (ones central to the device like the browser, email, maybe calendar now?, book app?) can't be duplicated? You can't write Firefox for the iPad or submit Opera mobile. Or, I suppose you can, but Apple won't accept such items, will they?
So in that sense, the mere number of apps is irrelevant. My point was that the experience is very, very heavily controlled and that many people turn out not to mind that when it comes to such devices.
Except the ones you listed do exist and are open for anybody else to go use and build their own great products, even using the work that Apple put into them.
I love turnkey, and so do a lot of people. Who wants to fuss with installing new software, etc.? That's my perspective.
Closed-systems are much easier to make turnkey, but they aren't the only alternative.
Just because something is open, doesn't mean that it can't be simple. It CAN be tinkered with, but it doesn't have to be to make it work.
That response is shorter than I'd like, but I have to run unfortunately.
Very well put.
Sometimes even Apple doesn't get that. There was a great example of this principle in one of the slides the Engadget blogger took during Jobs's presentation (http://www.engadget.com/2010/01/27/live-from-the-apple-table...), where the 10:57AM slide shows the iBooks application allowing the user to "change the font (to) whatever you want."
Um, thanks but no thanks, Steve. Book publishers hire type designers to come up with appropriate fonts, and they hire other skilled designers to select and use them. Leaving this choice up to the reader is not a feature, but an aesthetic regression at best and a dereliction of duty at worst. It's like bundling fine art with a paint-by-numbers set.
This is exactly how MS Office ends up with 30 different selectable toolbars that nobody knows how to use. It was a splash of cold water to the face to see Apple making the same sort of mistake.
I disagree. Both Apple and Nintendo have shown proof that their closed 'circle of one' system works. Yes both of them have had a lot of big missed opportunities in the past because of this, but what matters more for these companies is profitability and not marketshare. Both Apple's and Nintendo's closed systems have led to large margins, and a healthy supply of cash flow and reserves.
Yes it doesn't really fully cater to us, but we're not their main market.
If apple think their iPhone success shows that people like closed systems, they are kidding themselves. Phones have never really been open (thanks to the carriers), so the iPhone was actually one of the more open phones out there. But once they start competing with actual computers, it is going to be very different.
The Newton, just like any other tablet computer had a niche, vertical applications.
And it failed in that niche because of choices set in stone by the Apple team that developed it.
It wasn't open enough.
So, forward 21 years and we're in 2010, where we see a sequel to the Newton, running a proprietary OS on hardware that has been closed to the point where you can't even attach a USB stick.
I'm sure that lots more of these will be sold than there ever were sold of the Newton, but I doubt it will tap the potential of this form factor. For that it needs to be much more open and hackable.
This is just another remote terminal attached to the web, and more importantly for Apple, to itunes.
There is nothing wrong with remote web terminals, but as long as they are computers you should allow access to all that power, locking it and making it hard to put software on it is limiting, not enabling.
Apple and Nintendo aren't young start ups; they've been around for decades with closed systems. A closed system like iTunes is a big reason Apple has even gotten so successful in recent times; it works I.e they have made tons of money with a closed sys and they probably will continue to do so. Marketshare is another story.
Whether it makes geeks happy is also another story
The elephant in the room is the iPhone, where "circle of one" seems to be working extremely well. Maybe the model just needed some fine tuning.
All of those issues are precisely because the Macs were proprietary. If they hadn't been proprietary, none of the issues that made them lose to PCs would have been issues and they may have won the war. In the 80's, every school bought Apple IIe's, so they had the foot in the door.
Then, under the leadership of Mr. Jobs, apple slammed the door shut on their foot and here they are doing it again -- also under Steve Jobs.
Steve is the problem. Eventually, they'll realize this and fire him again when people get tired of his antics.
Going back to the subject, before Steve came back Apple tried the MS game where they licensed everything about the Mac (from hardware to software). This strategy failed miserably; most likely because they were already too late.
Fast forwarding to today, Steve is not the problem. He is the main reason Apple is wildly successful today. If he didn't return and revive Apple with the products under his watch, Apple would most likely be gone. Saying Apple is not successful is like saying BMW isn't successful just because it doesn't sell as many cars as either Ford or GM.