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I didn't find the article to be confusing.

As it explains, Apple is the arbiter of every application that appears on the App Store, both internally or externally developed, creating a situation in which 3rd party developers are loosely similar to internal teams at Microsoft.

Microsoft never tried to be gatekeeper of what could or couldn't be published on Windows, thus it could only control the fate of its internal apps, whereas Apple can control both internal and external apps equally, thus the loosely parallel situation even though in Apple's case their strategy tax can be used to kneecap external developers just as much as internal ones.

That was one of the connections I was trying to make, though I agree it's not spelled out as well as it could be. The other is that Microsoft's decision to expand into so many different markets parallels Apple's decision to do the same. When you're a platform owner and you also want to build businesses on that platform, the "success" scenario for your businesses can end up looking like a failure scenario for your platform, and vice versa.

For example, it's some person's job at Apple to make the iBooks store the most successful ebook store, but it's another person's job to make the iOS platform the most attractive, popular platform. My point in the final paragraph was that the only way for Apple to reconcile this tension may be to decide that the complete domination of Apple's businesses built on the iOS platform actually would make iOS the most attractive, possible platform. Ergo, the "What's good for Apple is good for America" reference. But when Apple's businesses have so many practical and now financial advantages versus competitors, how sure can Apple really be that its iOS content businesses would be winning based on their merits and not because of their "unfair" advantages? (That is, assuming the platform isn't stunted even sooner by customers abandoning it as their favorite non-Apple businesses decide they can't or won't agree to Apple's latest round of policy changes.)

In my view, Webkit is the canary in the coal mine for the strategy tax. The most viable competition for iOS native apps is HTML5/Javascript applications.

If I ever feel like the webkit team isn't pushing into new technologies as aggressively as possible, I get nervous. For example, it would probably be in Apple's best interest for Mobile Safari not to support offline storage. It would force developers who need offline features into creating native apps instead.

In this way, I think the Google Chrome team is giving us a good yardstick for measuring Apple's willingness to compete.

Actually I'm more worried about things like scrolling.

Dropping offline storage is such a big deal there would be a major outcry (plus it would destroy their marketing claims that Safari is the best browser - regardless of whether that is true or not).

But if the mobile safari user-experience is just a little bit worse than a native UI then that would cause real problems - especially on an Apple platform where there are large numbers of developers who notice and find that kind of thing important.

Yeah the difference in inertia on Safari's scrolling has been bothering me for a while so I feel you on that. There are a ton of places where I think native apps are better than a modern web app right now but I think that's just the state of the web. The browsers are all improving rapidly but the bar set by native apps is rising as well.

Apple was pushing HTML5 as much as anyone else if not more. To claim that it was only ever because of Google is unfair at best.

I think people forget that the original intention of the IPhone was to run web apps. Once the clamoring for native app development became too big the beast known as the app store was born.

I think you're confusing Apple's public stances with their actual intentions. Did Apple plan to release the SDK originally? We don't know. Do you?

Apple was pushing HTML5 as much as anyone else if not more.

Agreed. I would say they still are pushing as hard if not more.

To claim that it was only ever because of Google is unfair at best.

I certainly never made that claim so I don't know where you're getting that from.

My point is that Apple is pushing HTML5 hard right now and if they ever stop, I'll get nervous. How will I know if they stop pushing? If/when the Google team is implementing features developers care about and Apple doesn't. Competition is good.

It really felt like a forced analogy because the two situations are much different in practice. To have them be the same, Apple would have to be crippling their internal applications and services at the benefit of the external ones.

I think it still works fine if they are crippling external applications for the benefit of the internal ones. Which (as the article mentions and as anyone who has paid attention to the situation already knows) they have been doing all along.

Of course they have, but my point is that the situations are dissimilar. In the case of Microsoft, they are crippling their own software at the behest of another internal project, where as Apple is effectively crippling 3rd party software at the benefit of their own. This means that Microsoft is hurting itself, where as it remains to be seen if Apple is hurting itself, but it isn't doing it intentionally if so.

Yes, I agree the strategy tax analogy is misplaced, in accordance with a since-deleted comment:

> Apple isn't facing a "strategy tax," per the Microsoft example; it's making a strategic mistake.

Except that a mistake is when the downsides outweigh the upsides. We don't yet know if Apple has made such a strategic mistake. So if we can say that Apple has incurred a strategy tax, then it seems like a strategy tax is merely the (omnipresent) downside of any strategic decision.

What is striking about the Microsoft example is (indeed) that the company is actively harming (read: hindering) itself. I'm not sure "tax" is the best descriptive term for this phenomenon, but I think the author intended the distinction. It is a tax in that you are redistributing (within the corpus, and hopefully profitably or at least equitably) the value of certain efforts (read: features).

By crippling 3rd party software, Apple is hurting its platform the way Microsoft is hurting itself. Whether or not the hurting is intentional is beside the point.

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