A Reply on iPhone “Choice”

| Ted Landau's User Friendly View

Thomas Fitzgerald has written a post responding to my recent column on the email exchange between Steve Jobs and Ryan Tate. Apparently, John Gruber thought there was sufficient merit in Fitzgerald’s column to post a link to it on Daring Fireball. Given this attention, I thought Mr. Fitzgerald merited the courtesy of a reply.

What struck me most about Fitzgerald’s column is how little of what he said had anything to do with what I actually wrote. He clearly had some arguments he wanted to present and intended to do so, even if what I wrote didn’t apply. What follows are some quotes from his column with my response.

• “I’m sorry, but that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.” [written in reference to a quoted paragraph from my article.]

If this is so, Mr. Fitzgerald must lead a very sheltered life. Perhaps I’m too biased to judge my own writing fairly, but it’s hard to imagine that anyone would have trouble coming up with at least a few things that are more ridiculous. But why quibble? This is a minor point. 

• “If the car had the problems he’s saying it had (poor visibility and no trunk space) it would never have become so very popular as he describes.”

A car gets 100 MPG and has excellent reliability, and Mr. Fitzgerald wants to assert that the car could never become popular because of too little trunk space? This is a serious assertion?

Both my wife and I have Toyota Camrys. We both complain about the rear vision (especially how hard it is to tell where the car ends, a problem most annoying when backing up). I imagine many others have similarly found this to be the case. Yet, my wife and I remain very happy with our cars overall and (at least until Toyota’s recent troubles) the Camry has been one of the most popular cars in the world. It seems almost too easy to think of numerous other examples like this.

But enough with measuring levels of ridiculousness and car analogies…let’s get to the main topic at hand.

• “On the one hand he’s arguing that the App store should be free and open…”

This is not what I was arguing. If you read my cited article (or any other of my recent writings on this general topic), you will see that what I actually suggested was that there be some option for users to install apps separate from the App Store. This is an significant distinction. The App Store has much to recommend it (I especially appreciate how easy the App Store makes it to find, acquire and update apps). Although I don’t always agree with Apple’s App Store rejections, I’m fine with the App Store remaining largely as is. I just don’t believe it should be the only way to acquire apps — anymore than the iTunes Store is the only way to get music and video into your iTunes Library. 

I understand that there are arguments that can be made against having an App Store alternative. I acknowledged this in my prior article, where I wrote: “I readily admit that this is not a black-or-white matter. There are numerous shades of gray, situations where one could make a reasonable case for either side of a debate.” The problem is that Mr. Fitzgerald never made any case here, because he never brought up the topic at all.

More importantly, the primary point of my column was not to argue about the App Store at all. Rather, it was to take issue with two specific statements that Steve Jobs made in his emails. These were statements that could be (and have been) used to respond to virtually any criticism of anything that Apple does. I believed these statements were inappropriate and tried to explain why.

• “You can’t argue that you want the customer to be able to choose and then not agree with the results.”

I never made any such argument. Quite the opposite. The results are that the iPhone is a great success and the iPad is well on its way to becoming one. And I said so: “Clearly, you don’t achieve such numbers if you aren’t making a lot of people happy.”

Further, I am glad this is the case. In my house right now are two iPhones, two iPod touches and an iPad. I am enthusiastically pleased with all of them. More generally, I have been using Apple products for over 25 years. You don’t do that if you are not fundamentally a satisfied customer.

• [Ted is] “confusing fundamental flaws with not liking something” and is “arguing about what the company is doing wrong as if it was a failing company desperately in need of direction.”

Absolutely not. I have no idea where Mr. Fitzgerald found even a hint of this in what I wrote. I defy anyone to find even a phrase in my article that suggests that I believe Apple is “fundamentally flawed” or is a “failing company.” I don’t believe this is the case. So I would never say it.

Sadly, John Gruber, in his post on this matter, echoed the same misconception when he wrote about critics that see App Store restrictions as “a fatal flaw that will ultimately doom it.” I can’t speak for other critics, but this has never been my position. I have never predicted “doom” for Apple or anything close to it.

• “What I find fascinating about all these anti-apple rants…”

I find it fascinating how some people can describe anything that they disagree with as a “rant.” The definition of “rant” includes words such as “wild,” “tirade,” “shout,” and “complain angrily.” I fail to see how this describes what I wrote. I attempted to express my opinion in as calm and polite and reasoned fashion as I could. I believe I succeeded. If Mr. Fitzgerald is searching for a rant, perhaps he should re-read his own column.

Bottom Line. The point I was trying to make in my prior column is a simple one: Just because something is popular and successful doesn’t mean it’s perfect and cannot be improved. Given this, I believe it is inappropriate to respond to reasoned criticism simply by saying things such as “If you don’t like it, buy something else.” In this particular instance, I believe the iPhone OS platform would be improved by having an alternative to the App Store. You may not agree. That’s fine. I’ll respectfully make my case (as I have tried to do in numerous prior articles which I encourage you to read) and you can make yours.

On the other hand, I am a realist. I understand that Apple has no interest in changing its current policies and is unlikely to do so. I also fully support the notion that Apple is and should be free to pursue whatever legal policies it wants — especially when they are being so successful at it.

Still, I’d like to believe that the iPhone (and even more so the iPad) are still in early enough stages of evolution, that there is at least some chance that advocating for a minor change of direction might produce results. At some point (and perhaps that point is fast approaching), this will no longer be so. Continued argument will be the equivalent of beating a dead horse. At that point, it’s time to move on and let the hand play out. I will gladly do so.

One last observation: The current iPhone debate appears to have become increasingly polarized. It now seems to me much like many political debates, from abortion to gun control. There are strong opinions on both sides, tempers flare too easily, and opinions are rarely shifted. In that regard, I am confident that this column will not produce any more of consensus of agreement than my previous one did. So be it.

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Comments

geoduck

I find it fascinating how some people can describe anything that they disagree with as a ?rant.?

I found it fascinating that he saw it as anti-Apple. There’s a difference between pointing out issues of concern and being ‘anti’ something.
There are a few things that bug me about my MacBook. That doesn’t make me Anti Apple. It means that I see room for improvement.

Jason

I completely agree with what you’ve written pretty much in both columns.  I also agree that any discussion about Apple in general, not even just about the iPhone and App store, is very polarizing now.  I think what is happening is that alot of readers jump to about 10 different websites that all have bloggers that are “ragging” on Apple for click hits that by the time anyone gets to a rational article they’ve already become inflamed with rage.  I see this with myself even when talking about things Apple or otherwise.  I think it’s information overload of sorts and alot of irrational articles are washing out the more rational ones.  I myself having read over some of the articles and opinions on Mac Observer see it refreshing and nice to see rational opinions and that you can both like and appreciate a product and see ways that it can be improved.  It’s a shame there isn’t more of that on the internet…but, then they wouldn’t get as many clicks if they had read more than one paragraph either.

Thanks for the good articles.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

You obviously didn’t get the memo Ted. It’s “Leave Brittney Alone” week in the Mac blogosphere.

If you identify something about an Apple product that you don’t like, they tell you that you didn’t have to buy it.

If you note that things were different and not as objectionable about an Apple product when you bought it, the resident attorney comes out and tells you that you didn’t have a contract, and so have no reasonable expectation that things wouldn’t change, and thus no right to bitch.

I sense that the staunch Apple defenders are tiring of the mental gymnastics it is taking lately to justify every stupid thing the company and its leader says and does. They’re tired of the criticism because they are tired of the wars they didn’t start and the criticism they didn’t invite. But their commitment to Saint Steven requires them to soldier on. It’s kinda entertaining.

Bob

Ted - Good response. Everything is a bit too polarized these days including Bosco Brad so let me add a little fuel…

Lord Bosco - Your Royal As*holiness, I don’t really feel a need to defend Apple or Steve Jobs but I do find you kind of entertaining too…in a moronic, trolling sort of way so please carry on.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

You’re welcome Bob. Today is a great day because I can pour gas on the fire from Google’s tank.

Google showed a lot of cool stuff today around Android. But the coolest thing in my book is that I’ll be able to plan a route to drive on my desktop (still a Mac primarily) and it’ll show up effortlessly on my Nexus One when I open the navigation app. No syncing, no pushing. It just works. That’s Froyo for you.

Bob

Gee whiz YRA, that is soooooo cool. Glad to see you can read.

Blad_Rnr

Brad is back, generalizing the so-called Apple community. Thanks! What would we do without you?

Ted, my quip was that you never gave us a remedy. You acted like Jobs was throwing a childish rant at Tate. I would have done the same. Jobs/Apple is very successful right now. Not without criticism, but at what point does Jobs have to just sit there and take it? Would you? How many apps, Macs, iPods, iPads and iPhones does Apple have to sell to convince people it’s what a lot of people want? Tate acts like Apple is Microsoft, having a monopoly, and not giving people what they really want. That is not the case. Apple has 15% market share in smart phones. Who knows what share in tablets. A large market in MP3 players, but probably not a majority when comparing iPod Touches to iPods. Macs? 10% here in the U.S. It’s like Tate was saying Jobs is controlling a market that he doesn’t. Tate wants to believe Apple has a monopoly, but they don’t. Yet Tate really wants more from Jobs/Apple yet it’s clear he must despise them. He sure acted like it.

I don’t fault you one bit for being critical of Apple. They aren’t perfect. But on the one hand Apple must be making a lot of consumers happy with the devices they sell. Not perfect, but people vote with their dollars. On the other hand a few tech bloggers act like Apple owns the store and they don’t like it, but in reality Apple doesn’t own the store. That is where Tate was coming from. So how do you respond to someone who is being untruthful, even if he doesn’t understand that he is? I would have said the same thing to Tate: create something great or shut up.

The world is filled with people who think they know best. Rarely do they ever produce anything. I think Jobs deserves some credit. Look where Apple was 12 years ago; bleeding cash and floundering in the market. Now look at Apple. And a large part of that success goes to Jobs. He has vision and he brings it to the market. It’s probably the greatest success story in all of business. But the people who only want to criticize Apple for the sake of being critical (not you, I think you were fair) should be asking Apple’s customers why they continue to buy their products if they don’t understand Apple’s success.

myramoki

I read both articles, and in the current war of words about iPhone and Apple policies, they were probably perhaps some of the most thoughtful pieces I’d read recently.  I had been a on the “Hey if you don’t like it, you can go elsewhere” fence a bit myself, although I also knew fundamentally that that wasn’t really a good answer.  You helped me identify some clear reasons why it isn’t.

I’ve gotten sick and tired of the various “Flash bad!”, “Apple policies bad!” and vice-versa arguments, it is refreshing to read a reasoned argument that does more than just cry ‘Foul!’ about some perceived insult to whatever.

gruntersdad

Back in the late sixties, early seventies there was a saying going round by the folk that are the age I am now, that went, “America, love it or leave it.”  And those same people would fume if you said, how about, “America. Love it or leave it, or change it for the better.”  Oh my how they would fume.  this seems to be Apples stance.  “Apple. Love it or use something else.”  But how dare you suggest we make it better.?  We will do what we want and the customer be damned.

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