Mr Cook, Tear Down this Walled Garden (Update)

Original Post:


I came to loathe Steve Jobs’ obsession with creating a "walled garden". I firmly believe it’s an affront to competition and only hurts consumers. Nevertheless, I’ve always been fascinated with how streamlined Apple products are. Steve Jobs credited this to the fact that Apple is a closed platform. I never understood why. Doesn’t that just downplay Apple’s amazing creations?

Designing a platform that’s friendly to third parties might lower sales for emerging brands, sure. But Apple isn’t emerging any longer, it’s a market leader. Apple should keep creating incredible, deeply embedded experiences; however, it’s only hurting itself by keeping mature platforms closed.

Apple is just one company. One company can only develop so many projects before it becomes a jumbled mess. Steve Jobs knew this better than anybody.

Apple will, inherently, have an advantage when it comes to developing its own platforms. No one can ever know the ins and outs of Apple devices and services better than Apple itself. Break down the "walled garden," invite competition and, once your competing service is ready, release it. You’ll naturally win back your customers, without needlessly limiting how your platform develops.

Update: Merged per Suggestion and Community Guidelines


TLDR: Apple's success isn't due to a locked platform. The locked platform is only limiting its success. It's due to, what was, Jobs' incredible vision and ability to exploit new markets (rather than settle in those already saturated).

The other post spawned some great discussion - but has become a bit unmanageable with its many threads. Some good counterpoints were made and my position evolved a bit. Hopefully this will clarify some things.

de_dust, elementary, and Dawoogman all made great points that boiled down to one thing. Apple does its best to invite third-parties to create using its platform.

This is true and, frankly, Apple has become pretty good at playing "gatekeeper," as Boghog described. Still, I'm concerned with this notion. The biggest impact of the proliferation of apps is that it has spawned a seamless venue for self-publishing - the average Joe can now make his or her creation available to the world. Apple playing gatekeeper may be okay for Apple, but it's certainly not for the consumer. By playing gatekeeper, and keeping criteria arbitrary, Apple is has given itself the position to censor. That is not okay.

But that isn't the issue because, frankly, it's okay for Apple (unless suits start rolling in of course). What isn't okay for Apple is losing its dominance in the tech industry. Which is what I was trying to address in the original post. I wrote this up as a response to de_dust, and I think it explains things nicely:

[..] Take the app store – if it was available on every mobile platform there wouldn’t be any competition. Apple can take a check, titled "Worldwide App Monopoly," to the bank every day for the next decade. Would not have to create a single service, or device, again. [..]

[..] The thing with Jobs, when he returned to Apple he recognized companies that exploit new markets have a tendency to be the last to move on from them. He used that knowledge to create the next big market – mobile. This knowledge was what led to Apple’s success, not its locked environment. Notice that, even though Apple is widely successful with mobile, that success barely made an impact on the Mac.

The idea that keeping Apple’s software and services locked to Apple’s hardware is what drove Apple’s success is wrong. What drove Apple back to success is Jobs’ amazing vision and ability to keep moving. As soon as Apple stops moving it is at serious risk of falling, and falling fast.

The iPhone was introduced in 2007, the iPad in 2010. If Apple doesn’t introduce another revolution soon, it will stop moving. If it stops moving, its locked platform will be its pitfall. This is why I wrote this post.


I hope that clarified things.