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Apple’s Arrogance Comes Home To Roost

tom_jowitt1
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Apple is now as arrogant as Microsoft used to be, says Tom Jowitt. With its attitude to Flash, it looks like it’s become equally stupid

Now Apple is apparently under investigation by the US Federal Trade Commission. That’s surely got to finally demolish any claim the company has to being cool, hip or trendy.

When did Apple get cocky?

Lots of people have begun to feel that Apple has an arrogant attitude, which is a shame, as it is at odds with its stellar history. Apple’s behaviour of late is starting to resemble Microsoft, with Steve Jobs looking like Bill Gates.

Microsoft, at its height, was capable of some astonishing displays of arrogance. Bill Gates, for example, famously dismissed the Internet back in 1993, saying Microsoft was not interested in it. It took Gates and Microsoft a few years to realise their mistake, and then they made themselves pretty unpopular as they rode roughshod over companies such as Netscape in order to secure a dominant position for Internet Explorer.

Apple doesn’t often get caught out in that sort of corporate stupidity, and is riding high at the moment. The iPad launch is a runaway success so far, with the company shifting its one millionth iPad, less than a month after the device’s debut – making it a faster seller than the original iPhone.

Apple’s products are often so much better than its rivals’ but the goodwill this generates only goes so far.

Take for example the infamous revealing of the Apple iPhone 4G prototype, caused by simple human error. This resulted in Apple demanding the return of the device. Fair enough, as the prototype is still Apple’s propriety and no doubt contained commercially sensitive data.

But then in what must be regarded as a classic case of overkill, the prototype was reported as stolen (it wasn’t, it was lost, but hey), and the police then raided the home of the journalist concerned in the search for the person who found the device. This move raises some serious legal question marks over the protection of journalist sources.

Apple Open, Everyone Else Closed?

Another sign was provided last week when Steve Jobs, who is notoriously hostile towards Flash, launched a fresh attack on Adobe’s Flash technology. It is rare for a squabble to become so public, and some of the language used suggests a strange amount of personal hostility from the Apple camp.

Jobs’ position is that Flash is not fit for the iPhone, iPad and iPod platforms. Some would argue he may have a point, as Flash does have known security issues. But then again it is used by most of the world, and by not supporting it, Jobs is effectively deciding that Apple users will have to instead opt to browse on websites that don’t use it.

Jobs also, somewhat incredibly, claimed that he believed Adobe Systems is closed and Apple is open.

The words, ‘pot calling kettle black’ spring to mind here. Apple is about one of the most proprietary companies around at the moment. Jobs complained that Flash is proprietary, but then what about Quicktime? And lets take a quick look at how open the iPad is.

Well, it has a proprietary processor that Apple made and designed. It has no USB ports or card slots, so getting personal data onto the device is difficult at best, forcing most users to go down the iTunes route. It also means that peripheral devices, such a webcam, can also not be used. Apple also opted for an obscure micro-SIM for the iPad, which is different from any other device, effectively creating another lock-in for users.

So Is Apple The New Microsoft?

I had the opportunity to play with an iPad for about 20 minutes last week. It is truly a beautiful device, although somewhat heavier than I was expecting. It has a stunning battery life, is instantly available for work at the press of a button, and has a remarkable screen. But it can’t do multitasking (for now), and the lack of a webcam, and decent inputting options (the touchscreen keyboard does not cut it), means that I will wait (like many), until version 2 is released.

So is Apple the new Microsoft? Well no, actually it is not. Apple makes some great stuff and executes well, and Microsoft’s products all too often have a lot of faults, and the company doesn’t seem to understand what consumers want.

Apple does understand consumers, in ways that other companies seem unable to. It knows how to deliver just enough improvement in any given upgrade to retain people’s interest and loyalty, and segment the market so its products overlap (iPhone, iPod, iPod) but people still buy them all.

This gives Apple a lot of freedom. It would do well to remember not to misuse it.

  1. Your article is horribly inaccurate. Let’s find a few errors:

    1. “The iphone prototype was not stolen”. Actually, under CA law (and laws in almost the entire world), it was. The finder knew it was not his and knew how to reach the owner and failed to do so (sorry, a call to Apple Care isn’t a reasonable attempt). He sold the phone, knowing it wasn’t his. Gizmodo knew they were buying stolen property.

    2. The whole nonsense of blaming Apple for the Flash fiasco is completely off base. Apple introduced the iPhone 3 years ago – and Adobe STILL does not have a full version of Flash that would run on it. Even the much-delayed Flash 10.1 isn’t out yet, and when it comes out, it will require an 800 MHz A8 – so it won’t run on an iPhone- no matter how much Apple wanted it to. Adobe is the one who blew this whole thing up with their blog – to hide their inability to create a full version of Flash that runs on ANY mobile device. There’s no full Flash on Windows Mobile, Symbian, WebOS, or even Android (only a beta for a tiny number of high end devices). How is that Apple’s fault?

    3. You’re missing the entire ‘open’ vs. ‘closed’ debate. Apple never claimed to be open. What they said is that they believe the INTERNET should be open – and Flash is interfering with that. Look at Apple’s internet presence and the work they’ve done on WebKit (which is open sourced). Apple has pushed for an open Internet from the beginning. The fact that their hardware and OS are proprietary doesn’t change that. Even Quicktime doesn’t support your contention. While Quicktime player is proprietary, it plays a wide range of open media. Apple is pushing for OPEN CONTENT, even if you use a proprietary device to view it.

    4. You repeat the lie that the iPad won’t multitask. That is incorrect – it multitasks, but not third party apps. You can listen to music while you read a book. You can play a game while your email is downloading. You can listen to music while you browse the web. You simply can’t use multiple third party apps at the same time – but no one’s ever given me a reason why you’d need to do that on a device like this – although, as you mentioned, that capability will be there soon.

    Your entire article is a poorly researched, inaccurate hit piece. I’m really disappointed in what eWeek has become.

  2. Wow, I’m amazed you get published.
    EJO wrote my rebuttal to your blog so perfectly, I cannot improve on it other than to say, as a “journalist/pundit”, you’re a disappointment as is eWeek for giving you space.

  3. Thanks for your comments EJO. Some useful thoughts, but we don’t agree with all of them.

    Point 1. The phone was initially lost, not stolen. My personal opinion is that Gizmodo should not have paid for it, but that journalist shield rules should apply, and Apple and the police both over-reacted after the fact. It’s a lot greyer than you make out

    Point 2. If it’s just processor performance that is the trouble, why is Adobe so confident that Flash can run on the iPhone? It’s interesting to hear that argument set out, but it sounds like a pretext to us.

    Point 3. We think you – and Apple – are splitting hairs here, but will bear your distinction in mind. Refusing to play one type of content because it is not considered open doesn’t really match what you are saying.

    Point 4. The iPhone’s limits to multitasking are not a “lie” but well established. The kind of limited ability you talk about doesn’t equal multitasking in our eyes.

    Perter Judge
    UK Editor, eWEEK Europe

  4. To ejo and realitybytes..

    God, you apple fanboys make me sick.

    Far as im concerned this article reflects the general view. I concede there are errors but the general motif is correct. Apple is beginning to abuse its power at the top of the food chain. The irony is alot of their products are simply not worth the money or hype.

    I have a iphone and its a crap calling device (although great for other things). My Imac is only useful for video editing and internet surfing and my ipad is pretty, but more of a functional indulgence than anything magical.

    Far as im concerned the only standout apple product that is worth every penny is the ipod. Even that annoys me with the closed file management system and itunes integration, but I can live with it.

    that aside, I like apple. When I get their products at reasonable prices I tend to keep them. I am not a the greatest fan of microsoft but the difference is that its customers do not ignore the obvious flaws in its products and company ethos.

    Apple fans on the other hand travel site to site spewing out whatever drivel or talking points steve jobs has given them. Nobody had a issue with flash before the iphone, even mac users who have for years been gimped with the buggy version. Its all a bunch of bollocks.

  5. Man, who cares. We all know Apple stuff is cool, so we buy it and use it regardless of whatever crusade Steve J or Apple is on, so who really cares? As long as they got the goods I’m happy. Even for those that don’t like Apple stuff, who cares? Don’t lose any sleep fellas.

  6. Maybe in Europe, you are allowed to buy things taht are not legally yours but in CA, it is against the law. The journalist shield law does NOT exempt journalists from buying stolen goods and yes, again, in CA, if it’s not yours, if you try to sell, it’s selling STOLEN property – it’s a very simple concept.

    Asfor Adobe complaining that Apple does not allow their buggy compiler to shortcut their programming rules. Of course, the gov’t has to respond to a complaint but will there be any action. NO. For two reasons. A) adobe ‘forcing’ anyone to buy their $2,499 suite of apps to program is clearly NOT something the gov’t is going to force Apple or ANYONE to use. B) It is PERFECTLY LEGAL for you to decide what tools can be used on your proprietary “thing.” There is even a very close precedent. In the video game industry, you MUST BUY a developer console to program on the three major systems, yes, ONE for each – PS3, XBOX 360 and Wii AND the game must be approved and can only be stamped at a disc plant specifically licensed by Sony, MS or Nintendo. So, not only is your argument illogical – there is legal precedent … if Apple insisted that any apps you created for its marketplace be an exclusive, that is a anti-trust violation to leverage ayour market position but again, not the case – you are free to NEVER program for the iphone/ipad and or if you do, here are the rules – decide if it’s for you. It’s as simple as that. I know the main concepts of business (or laws against property theft) are unclear to you but there is ZERO chance of any action being taken. So, you can relax because you’re worried about the wrong things. But you should ask yourself – why are you worried about defending a company trying to sell a $2,499 suite of programming apps when Apple wants you to use OPEN languages such as C or HTML5? What is your agenda?

  7. @Peter Judge:

    No, I disagree about EJO “splitting hairs” by pointing out the distinction between an open web and an open device. This is a very important distinction, and by lumping these concepts together, you really are creating FUD nonsense about Apple’s intentions.

    First and foremost, I would like to say that I own an Android phone, and love it. I also think that Apple is too proprietary. But I don’t think that Apple is off base by suggesting that Flash is “closing” the web. They have a very good point. Flash is a proprietary technology that is consuming more and more content of an otherwise open web. Why do we want a single company to OWN the mechanism that we view an increasing percentage of web content with? Think about it. As more and more websites use Flash to show more and more content, then more of the web is completely dependant on proprietary technology.

    If you want to criticize Apple for locking down their device, then go for it. But note that many companies do this. I love Android because it doesn’t. Devices should be allowed to be closed to protect the experience. I would never own an Apple device for this reason, but that’s my perogative. The web, however, SHOULD remain open. Flash and other technologies and the plugins they are peddling are closing it, and we need to be aware of the implications of this.

  8. @Perter:

    1. We don’t know that the phone was originally lost. We have only Gizmodo’s account – which is full of holes. I’ve explained all the problems with their story on other sites so I won’t go into it here, BECAUSE IT DOESN”T MATTER. Even if it WAS originally lost, it is still stolen under CA law. Read the law before commenting again. It is stolen property by the definition of every state in the US AFAIK.

    2. If Adobe can make Flash work on an iPhone, why haven’t they done so? Why is it that none of the jailbroken iPhones have Flash? Why is it that NO OTHER MOBILE DEVICE has a full version of Flash? The only plausible explanation is that even if Adobe said that Flash will work on an iPhone (you will note that they’ve never made that claim, at least not publicly), they’re lying. NO OTHER PHONE HAS FLASH. So you can either believe that there’s a conspiracy among every mobile device manufacturer or that Adobe doesn’t have a version that works. Your choice.

    3. There’s no splitting of hairs. Apple is arguing that Internet content should be openly readable on ALL platforms. Windows is proprietary as is OS X, but both of them can read html, h.264, mpeg, jpeg, etc. It’s not the platform that matters in terms of openness. If there’s a site you want to access and you don’t want to buy a Mac, you should be able to access that site with a WIndows or Linux machine. That does not argue for WIndows or Mac OS X to be open, simply that they share open content. A very simple concept.

    4. I never said multitasking wasn’t limited. Your blog stated that the iPhone and iPad don’t have multitasking. Period. That is incorrect. If you had said ‘multitasking is limited on the original iPhone OS” you would have been correct. You make your living with words – you’d be well served if you learn to use them properly rather than writing incorrect statements and then whining when you’re caught.

  9. Well said EJO. These guys are publishing lies, then turn around and change the definition of what multitasking is in their eyes. Multitasking isn’t limited on the iPhone, its only limited by the SDK license, in that third party developers aren’t allowed to use it. As you pointed out, you can play music and read mail or use Safari. Even they can test this on the iPhone themselves. This is what multitasking is. Any third party app could do it as well, but Apple through its SDK prohibits them possibly because of the effect on the battery, a problem that plagues all Android phones that have multitasking.

    Its only an attempt to get page views by generally spreading untruths about Apple and possibly other technologies as well. Or these guys simply don’t understand technology.

  10. I just don’t they have the courage to say they were incorrect on somethings.

    They think if something is lost, picked up by someone and then sold, its perfectly okay to do that. So how can one expect any honesty from people who admit to the fact that its okay to sell someone’s stolen property. On the other hand they are English or European and they might still think they rule the Raj.

  11. Isn’t it. On the one hand they cite some laws such as ‘shield laws’ and then ignore all other laws that create doubt with their argument. Selective blogging or journalism at its best.

    Crazy editor, simply coming to the defense without understanding the real issues. I doubt they really edit at eWeek or many other online blogs. that is part of the problem.

    If these guys made good points or even just said ‘I hate Apple’, I’d salute them. But gibberish is gibberish.

  12. I don’t understand why is there any debate about this… Adobe effectively has a monopoly in interactive content online – and Flash is crap.

    How is Apple causing them any problem? They have an online monopoly (+95% of computers) and yet Flash still doesn’t work on mobile devices.

    Adobe heal thy crap product. Man up and write some code. Enforce some freaking user interface design ethic. End the mystery meat navigation foisted on users as “creativity.” Fail. Abandon Apple at your leisure but just move on quietly without whining, threatening, etc. ok?

  13. Thanks EJO for highlighting the considerable number of errors in this article.

    Here is some info to clarify a few more of the issues:

    Quicktime is more open than Flash. (Shock! horror!)

    The Quicktime architecture was released by Apple to become the basis of the open MPEG-4 standard which anyone can develop players for or incorporate into their products etc.

    Apple also released the powerful Quicktime Streaming Server software as open source for anyone in the world to implement in their own products or use for free. You can definitely not say any of this about Flash.

    Shield Law does not automatically allow journalists to commit any and every crime. This is not a case of revealing Govt corruption etc. In this case, as EJO points out:

    Failing to take reasonable measures to return valuable lost property in a reasonable amount of time is indeed a crime (the thief failed to hand the prototype iPhone in to the bar owner who the Apple engineer was calling repeatedly or to the Apple engineer himself who the thief had already identified). He also failed to give it back to Apple after they visited his home looking for the item. Shopping the item around to the highest bidder who turned out to be Gizmodo only seals his fate. Hi jailbird!

    Gizmodo bought obviously stolen property and failed to give it back for a week while they made money off dismantling and exposing it thus blatantly proving they were guilty of receiving stolen property and profiting from a crime. Case closed. :-)

    Why do you claim USB or SD cards are essential for getting personal data onto and off the iPad or iPhone when they are both equipped with wifi, Bluetooth and optionally 3G and SD card adapter not to mention the dock connector? The thousands of apps (Apple and third party) that use any or all of these interfaces for getting personal data in and out puts the lie to your claim.

    Why do you ignore the ability of the iPad to use Bluetooth or dock-connected keyboards in saying the iPad has no “decent inputting options (the touchscreen keyboard does not cut it)”?

    The micro-sim is the next international GSM standard starting to be used by phones – Apple is renowned for early adoption of new technologies so please stop claiming that advancing the state of the art is a case of lock-in.

    -Mart

  14. Apple is getting arrogant no one can deny that. Steve should have said that we have a duty to our customer to provide flash given that we are satisfied with the way it performs on our products .he shouldn’t close the door completly on using flash. If google comes out which uses flash realiably some ppl will switch.

  15. Apple is making a fantastic move for the rest of us by barring Flash.

    Look at how many websites are converting to HTML5 Websites. This allows everyone, including owners of the iPad and iPhone and Windows Mobile 7 phone to view the content.

    Flash is yesterday’s technology. Already 66% of all new video content is in H.264. Soon, there will be fewer and fewer Flash only sites. Perhaps only porn sites will be left with Flash. When that happens, Flash can be considered dead.

    Apple makes far reaching decisions to move its platforms ahead of the pack. Without Apple, USB wouldn’t be a standard, for example. We would still be using Floppy disks if Apple did not remove it from its computers.

  16. Not to nit pick, but carrying on in the spirit of EJO, please check your facts before publishing, which includes learning not to confuse the various parts of a computer(-like) device with its functions.

    No “processor” has USB ports or card slots. Apple bought Intrinsity, a chip manufacturer that is likely behind the A4 chip/processor. What peripherals Apple chooses to support for a given A4-based platform is a decision based on what they perceive their customers need. They’re usually pretty good at that and seem to make decisions based on usability and the economics of device upgrade frequency. So, not having card slots on your iPad means that you can’t add flash-based storage. However, IMHO even an 8 GB iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch is plenty when backed by a desktop machine functioning as primary storage for movies, music, docs, etc. The point about USB/WiFi/Bluetooth/3G connectivity made above is well taken.

    Re: multitasking, by the time the article above was published, a Google search would tell you that it’ll be in OS 4.0, which is in beta with developers. E.g., I found http://gizmodo.com/5512656/how-multitasking-works-in-the-new-iphone-os-40

    So, if you don’t have the technical chops to understand the technology you’re reporting, get a friend who does and buy him scotch/beer to keep you honest and knowledgeable…

  17. That’s weird. The police don’t ever go raid anyone’s home when someone steals -my- cellphone.

    Oh wait, I forgot, FASCISM. I guess when the lost phone belongs to a corporation (and even after it’s found and returned!!), such jack-boot thug tactics are fine.

    Hurrah Steve Jobs!!!

  18. I wonder why all the Apple Fans become amateur lawyers just to defend a corporation. It seems like the products are so perfect that they make everyone knowledgeable in CA Law

  19. Purely and simply, Flash is dying.
    Get used to it, and move on.

    It is called “progress”, and anyone in the tech business with a Luddite attitude needs to get a new job.

    N :)

  20. Apple’s marketing department sets the standard for world class marketing. They will continue to be successful so long as they market their devices properly, continue to be trendy, and make users feel like geniuses when they can open up an Apple product and know instantly how to use it due to its mostly intuitive design.

    Attention needs to be made to their sub-prime products and hopefully lessons will be learned but even if they aren’t it only takes the right marketing to fix it. At the end of the day, sales are the only thing that matters to a company. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, not necessarily a good thing, just a fact. Users & engineers, including myself, may care about the definition of ‘true multitasking’ but at the end of the day so long as the user is content with the product that’s all that really matters.

  21. “On the other hand they are English or European and they might still think they rule the Raj.”

    Errr. England is actually in Europe. And of course, everybody here thinks we still “rule the raj”. We’re really THAT stupid.

    I have a good many American friends with an excellent grasp of both history and geography, so I won’t retort with any racial sterotypes, but honestly do you really think that a criticism of a large corporation with enough corporate lawyers to more than look after themselves merits a comment like that?

  22. The reason Apple don’t like Flash is because they don’t own it, and don’t like any other company having any influence on the consumer market

    I don’t buy apple products because they are too expensive and commercially CLOSED, ie they offend my sense of fair play, just like IBM, Microsoft, Nokia – all giants of the PAST.

    I await Google’s future demise when it becomes power mad and takes the P***s out of it’s customers, just like Apple do now.

  23. EJO commented on your article by writing: “You make your living with words” and made what appears to me a legitimate criticism of the content. There is nothing I can add to it but let me comment on the form, which I believe should also be important for someone who makes his living with words.

    You wrote:

    “capabile” of some astonishing displays of arrogance
    Apple “doen’t” often get caught
    the company “shifting” its one millionth iPad
    Flash does “has” known security issues.

    Does this place have an editor?

  24. Thanks Fredsky

    In a very real sense, you are participating as co-editors.

    Thanks for picking up those errors (though I’m not sure I get your objection to “shifting”.

    Peter Judge
    Editor, eWEEK Europe UK

  25. Stickman is right about Flash and Apple. Steven just hates Flash because it is almost synomymous with the internet as HTML is (o.k. slight exegeration, but you get my point)

    And then he states that it’s a thing “of the past”.

    huh?

    I really like Flash. It *is* quite resource demanding (true) but in my experience quite stable and it has so many uses. It also came a long way (starting with macromedia) so I simply do not believe that it will be quicly replaced within a very short time.