An Open Letter to Steve Jobs

| Ted Landau's User Friendly View

Dear Mr. Jobs:

I’ve read the email exchange that purportedly took place between yourself and Gawker’s Ryan Tate. Although it seems atypical for you to engage in this sort of dialog, I am assuming the messages are the real thing. 

That said, I was quite disappointed with what you wrote.

I have been a critic of Apple’s position regarding the restricted access to the iPhone OS — and I have been especially vocal in arguing against Apple’s policies regarding App Store rejections. However, 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.

However, there are some arguments that are too frequently made that I find to have little merit. When I see them, as I often do in reader comments, I occasionally reply. More often, rather than keep repeating myself, I ignore the comments. Most days, I’m okay with this. However, when I saw these same arguments appear in one of your emails, giving them the implied approval of Apple itself, I felt compelled to respond yet again.

You wrote: “There are almost 200,000 apps in the App Store, so something must be going alright.”

There is certainly truth to this assertion. The same could be said about the phenomenal sales of the iPhone and iPad. Clearly, you don’t achieve such numbers if you aren’t making a lot of people happy. 

My problem is when the argument is used as a club to fend off criticism. The general popularity or lack of popularity of a device is not, by itself, an argument for or against a specific criticism of one aspect of the device. It may not even be a sure indicator of the overall merits of a device (unless you want to argue that the Mac sales in the 1990’s were proof of the Mac’s inferiority to Windows PCs).

More to the point, suppose there was a car that offered excellent reliability and 100 MPG. With these admirable characteristics, the car becomes very popular, deservedly so. But suppose people complained that the car had practically no trunk space or that visibility from the rear view mirror was very poor. What if the company’s only response to such complaints was: “Our car is the number seller in its class. We must be doing something right.” Would you consider this an appropriate and sufficient response? I hope not.

No matter how many cars are sold, it doesn’t change the fact that the rear view mirror visibility is poor and that the car would be better if this was fixed. Doing so might even improve sales. If the company wanted to argue that the rear view mirror visibility wasn’t not as bad as critics claimed, or that the mirror actually enhances driver safety in some way not readily apparent, that’s fine. But to dismiss criticism simply based on the car’s overall popularity is fallacious.

Yet, that is exactly what you do when you assert that 200,000 apps in the App Store prove that there are no problems with the App Store and that users are better off having a system where a few Apple employees, using rules entirely determined by Apple, are the sole arbiters of what we can or cannot install on our iPhones. Some argue that having the current App Store system is a positive: Among other things, it protects against unreliable or outright dangerous apps and makes the iPhone overall easier to use. That’s an argument that has merit and can be debated. I have a different view, and would prefer at least the option to install apps without going through the App Store. I don’t see how such an option would harm anyone who decides to stay within the protective embrace of the App Store. But this sort of discussion never gets started if you simply say: “We’re popular and therefore you criticism is irrelevant. End of story.”

This inevitably leads to your second, more pernicious argument: “Users, developers, and publishers can do whatever they like - they don’t have to buy or develop or publish on iPads if they don’t want to.

Again, there is an initial appeal to this argument. If you don’t like the taste of Pepsi, you can always buy Coke. That’s the nature of our free market system. The iPhone is not the only smartphone out there. If you don’t like it, get an Android or a Blackberry.

As attractive as it may sound on the surface, there is an ominous aspect to this appeal. First, it is once again a blunt instrument that is used more to deflect criticism than to reply to it.

Imagine if you worked for a company for 10 years (perhaps Apple). Further, imagine that you overall liked working for this company. But you do have a few criticisms or at least things you would like to see changed. Perhaps, you would like to see onsite daycare or more personal leave days or different criteria for determining promotions. Whatever. Perhaps, at an appropriate time, you make your position on these matters known. Now suppose the only reply you receive is: “If you don’t like the way we do things here, you can quit. There are other companies you could work for.” Would you consider that a reasonable reply? I hope not.

Similarly, if I don’t like the rear view mirror on that very popular car, I could always buy a different car. True. But so what? Does that mean I don’t have a valid criticism that is worth addressing?

And if I don’t like the way the government is using my taxes, I could always move to Europe — or as the right wing used to say “America, love it or leave it.” Is this how you want us to view Apple? Either we must approve of everything you do or we can get lost? I hope not.

The truth is that, in most of these situations, it is not a matter as simple as buying Coke vs. Pepsi. Rather we are talking about situations where the person has a large prior investment (such as 10 years on the job or 20 years of buying only Apple products), and where the pluses of remaining with the current choice generally outweigh the minuses of change. In particular, many users (myself included) prefer to stay with an iPhone, despite its flaws, rather than switch to a competitor. Does this mean that it’s good customer relations to tell such users: “No one is forcing you to buy an iPhone”? Again, I hope that’s not truly your view.

I am more than happy to engage in a debate on these issues. I am even amenable to having my views changed as a result. For example, as a result of reading your impressive “Thoughts on Flash,” I shifted my positions on this issue. That’s how it should be. And it’s very different from what you did in your email.

I hope you will at least consider all of this before you next decide to comment on these matters.

Respectfully,

Ted Landau

Comments

Dean Lewis

I suspect if the email exchange had been between you and Steve Jobs, Ted, it would have gone much differently. Gawker’s writer admitted to being, perhaps, a little tipsy and he escalated the heat of the exchange very quickly. At that point defenses go up, walls come down, and there is going to be more deflection than engagement.

Tiger

Ted,

While I find merit in some of your criticisms and echoes of other criticisms, the one major flaw that flows through is that the invariably, the complaint automatically assumes that Apple, or any major company, hasn’t already addressed, or attempted to address the particular and discovered that the alternate would do more harm than good and therefore has chosen the course they take.

Take for example apps that aren’t approved for the App Store and add to it the wish that there was no requirement for an App Store. Then what happens? You end up with the crappy situation that Windows users experienced all through the 90s and the exact reasoning behind Apple’s resurgence and rise to the top. It was the crappy user experience that led just to that outcome. Apple focused on a set of ideals and principles and, nearly unwavering, has stuck to its guns.

If I do not like what my employer does, it certainly is my prerogative to try and change it, and if unsatisfied, then leave. And I’ve invested nearly 20 years. I too have to think that maybe my suggestions have already been considered, run through focus groups or testing, and dismissed as untenable.

Apple did make so many bad decisions for so many years. But then that changed. And change for the better. Do I trust them to make decisions for my life? No, but if they want to set policies for security and trust that keep my phone and computer working smoothly so that I am not spammed, hijacked, (pardon the slang) pwned, I will gladly give that over to them. Because I do know I can always walk away. It’s just not that big of a deal.

As for using it as a club…well, a blunt response is just that. It’s not like the criticisms have been that nice either now have they? Nobody should ever assume they are going to get a sweet and flowery response from SJ or any Apple employee for that matter.

It would so totally be out of character and pretty much lead the world to believe it was fake anyway.

Ted Landau

I too have to think that maybe my suggestions have already been considered, run through focus groups or testing, and dismissed as untenable.

If the suggestions have been considered and dismissed as untenable, then the reply should explain that ? not simply say you can “buy another phone.” The two sides may still not reach agreement, and the debate may go on. That’s okay. That’s the nature of business, politics, religion, and life in general.

ctopher

I believe that ALL of the hypothetical answers to your hypothetical questions ARE reasonable.

They may not be politic, or even polite, but they are reasonable stances. It’s the golden rule, those who have the gold make the rules.

That said, I don’t think people should stop complaining. I don’t think people should blindly purchase Apple products. Be an informed consumer. Also, be an informed developer.

Developers complain that Apple is always changing the rules. This has been true for a good long time. And in the past, people have praised them for it. Apple won’t be mired in staid technology for the sake of it’s developers, it will innovate for the sake of it’s users.

When Mr. Jobs wields the popularity club, he’s saying that his users and developers are benefiting from Apple’s restrictions.

And I believe he’s perfectly correct it telling people to buy something else if they don’t like it. Go work somewhere else if you don’t like the environment here. Go buy a different car if you don’t like this one.

What’s wrong with that? Why do I have to engage you in a debate? I didn’t say the trunk was big when it wasn’t. I just don’t feel the need to rationalize to you, why it was built that way. Especially if it’s obvious that the size of the trunk aids the impressive mileage. Sure, a slightly bigger trunk might be better, but I don’t want to compromise on mileage, not by a single MPG.

So Apple feels that giving in on any of YOUR issues would be a compromise and they don’t want to. Why is that so hard for people to understand?

Apple has NEVER been open to discussion. What makes you think they will now?

cb50dc

Take for example apps that aren?t approved for the App Store and add to it the wish that there was no requirement for an App Store. Then what happens? You end up with the crappy situation that Windows users experienced all through the 90s and the exact reasoning behind Apple?s resurgence and rise to the top.

Correct me if I misunderstand this: Apple’s API establish the criteria for how developers create their apps ? certain GUI conventions and operations ? correct?

Beyond meeting those tech specs, doesn’t everyone create and market an app independently? Did Rogue Amoeba, Objective Design, Adobe, Agile Solutions, and every other developer have to get Apple’s approval to sell their products? Do freeware/shareware apps like Carbon Copy Cloner and Onyx have to go through some mysterious clearance process (again, beyond certain tech specs) before they can make their work available for download on their own sites?

Clearly some products falter or fail solely due to the broad response of “un-Maclike interface.” Evidently Apple doesn’t exercise total control over whether a developer assigns key commands to unexpected functions. Developers go against or fail to meet the “user experience” at their own risk.

So as far as I can tell, consumers in the open market determine whether a given product will live or die, thrive or just survive. That unconstrained de facto “App Store” works for my Macs, without Apple’s constraints. Seems to me that it should work just as well for iPhones and iPods.

And within that context, it does mesh with ctopher’s point: if the buyers don’t like it, they won’t buy it. If that number grows too big, eventually the diminishing profit margins will get Apple’s attention. (So far, given some $40B+ under the mattress, that hasn’t had much impact.)

Nathan

Ted,

When sj mentions 200k apps, he’s responding to the assertion that the app store rules are stifling development.  I think that’s fair, in that context.

The second quote is in response to the assertion that apple is forcing devs to do something, as if at gunpoint or even just coercion. I think sj’s response is fair there, too.

Your thought-experiment with trunk space is missing one element, I believe. If the car had been carefully designed to balance everything in order to achieve it’s performance, then the trunk has to be the way it is or the balance is upset and the performance is lost too.  You could argue that sj should just say that explicitly, though I think he in effect has, but their may be competitive reasons not to give away all the design rationale.

Just my 2 cents, adjusted downward for inflation;-)

Paul Johnson

Ted, your complaint would be more persuasive if you laid your self-interest in this matter on the table.  My self-interest is solely as an end-user of computer products.  I want devices that “just work,” that don’t crash in ways that require hours of maintenance work, that have long battery life, that are fast, responsive, and easy to use.  I am willing to put up with limitations of choice in applications and higher prices to make this happen.  I have dealt with Flash and Acrobat limitations for years, and I’m tired of the problems that cross-platform applications produce on my Macs.

Your self-interest is obvious from the name of your previous enterprise—MacFixit.  What were you fixing?  In most cases, you were fixing problems that arise from software incompatibilities that arose from every update of the operating system or particular applications.  Apple is trying to minimize these problems as much as possible by the conditions it places on coding practices.  If they are successful, people like you will have to spend more time on other aspects of computer sales and services.  I don’t know whether you are also a cross-platform developer, but that’s something else you should mention.

You might argue in return that people should have the choice to decide whether or not to use cross-platform applications.  But this choice is not an informed one.  Vendors of cross-platform software do not advertise that they are porting applications from another operating system, and offer no enforceable guarantees that their applications will not run into problems when used on a particular operating system.  Instead, we get “assurances” that bugs will be fixed and capabilities upgraded; the kind of promises that have kept Adobe and Microsoft profitable for years.  Again, Apple is taking the initiative to make software live up to its promises.

Debates are good, but not if some of the debaters are holding back relevant information about themselves.

Montresor

Ted, while I agree that if the suggestions have been dismissed as untenable that should be explained, I think you have to take this into context. This wasn’t Jobs publishing a white paper. This is Steve Jobs responding to an email from a drunk reporter for a web media conglomerate with whom his company is currently in a legal entanglement. At 1am on a Friday night. I know you’re about to say “Well, he should realize that this email exchange, like every other he’s recently had, would be published”, and I’m sure he did. But I don’t think he should (nor do I want him to) speak in corporate-speak in every single exchange.

Frankly, I am not sure that - were I in Jobs’ shoes - that I would have been as polite as he was. I doubt many of us would have been.

geoduck

I like the AppStore model.
I compare it to the big mall down the street. I can go there and shop and be fairly confident that the retailers will be reputable, and the products of decent quality. Similarly, Porn or handcuffs won’t be in the windows so there won’t be any embarrassing questions from the little kids. All that is fine. However, I have the option to go over to another part of town should I wish to get shady products, or adult materials. Right now there isn’t that option with the iPhone/iPT/iPad.

I would really like Apple to let people get software from other sources without having to jailbreak. That would defuse much of the criticism. You want quality products that have been tested and meet Apple set standards go to the AppStore. You can be assured that everything will run and that it won’t contain malware. On the other hand if you want porn, or obscure programs that may cause problems then go somewhere else. If it breaks your iPhone/iPT/iPad then it’s your problem. Don’t come crying to Apple. Then the people who complain about the lack of freedom will be happy and those that don’t mind a secure ‘mall’ environment will be happy. (Or is ‘happy’ too much to ask.)

DCJ001

Steve said:

Nope.

Send from Steve’s iPad.

Agee

Ted,

I would have to find fault with your (and other TMO staff on previous occasions) lack of proofreading prior to publishing. There are numerous grammatical errors and omits. It is always best to have someone else proofread prior to publishing.

Riscx

All the critics complaining and whining how the how closed the appstore and i devices are, are completely missing the big picture and will never really grasp their magnitude.

Please… someone else create media/digital commerce distribution channels including a multitude of selections and industry changing linked devices which protects the rights of its creators as well as its users with open access and godsend user experience.

Go ahead i’ll wait… anybody? Oh let me see, Napster, Piratebay, Limewire, other virus infested digital junk. Lol yeah those worked out really well, loved their devices too… y’all whining like clueless morons, really.

So continue to cry and whine, like little newborn babies needing a diaper change for your own created mess. Meanwhile… the doctor is at work wink

Ronin

I have emailed Steve on similar matters and must say that it seems very much out-of-character for him to have engaged in a tit-for-tat exchange such as this one is supposed to be. That is not to say it is impossible, but I doubt its authenticity.

Let’s face it, Steve has personal issues that have been increasingly getting in the way of business. This is but one. Flash is real no matter how many times Steve turns on the reality distortion field.. To deny it is to provide proof of an inability to observe and accurately perceive the world, or, in this case, the internet.

You are correct in your analysis, but it matters not to Steve. It is the same argument which is frequently heard: “Apple stock has gone up (which is true) and therefor everything Steve is doing must be right (not true)”.

At some point in time Steve is going to leave and we will probably see a resurgence of creativity when that does happen. His well known “mercurial temperament” has always been a problem (and I do not mean simply demanding excellence from his subordinates). On the other hand, it is fair to say that Apple has prospered under his leadership and so it is a mixed blessing. The question is about now though, not ten years ago.

In the end, Steve is simply a poor listener in many ways. He wants things his way, period and that is unlikely to change.

It will be interesting to see how the Android products competing with the iPhone and iPad are received by the market. Apple have an established following whereas the competitors are beginning from nowhere.

Personally, I think Steve’s main problem with Flash is that he does not control it.

adamC

The 200,000 apps Jobs is referring to imho referred to the acceptance of developers developing for the iPhones and not the popularity of the device.

Your second disagreement with Jobs - you don’t like it don’t develop, I believe it has nothing to do with your argument. He has every right to say what he wants and it is about choice. All to often we want to change the world to what we want it to be and how often are we successful. Do your children conform to your views of the world at all times and if they don’t what would you do? change your own view and accept whatever views they have.

Yes you have your opinion so has Jobs and Apple - the the movie Spider-man ‘powers come with great responsibility’ and please don’t think for one second Apple will change their views because you said so.

It is time to move on and let tet do what they want if their views are wrong developers and consumers will desert them like rats leaving a sinking ship and will Jobs let that happen.

phantom4

A lot of people miss the point. It is business… it is controlling the revenue stream in order to tap that revenue continuously. By keeping the App Store and iTunes store a closed proprietary system they keep anyone from not paying their toll ie their percentage to Apple. The problem with that is that it gives the customer/user no freedom. I am sure there would be printing, storage etc for the iPad, iphone if it didn’t have to go through App Store. Apple controls not only the revenue stream but how it affects their other product lines so as not to let say the iPad infringe on what a 13” MacBook can do.  iTunes started as a way to market and make money on songs but evolved into a way to keep a closed system.

Mark Hernandez

One big thing that’s missing from this discussion is the acknowledgement that Apple has many things planned and many things in the pipeline, but we won’t be able to know what those are, and they cannot be used to illuminate an email exchange even though it might take care of matters right then and there.

Apple could very well be entertaining the idea of specialty malls where people can go get their porn or their Bibles, but do you think Steve would admit that in an email exchange? (See Bruce Tognazzini’s post)

So, discussions with Steve will ALWAYS have this “missing” aspect to them—being restricted to what exists now. 

Being first in the market with innovative products, and catching everyone else off-guard and making them play catchup, or taking advantage of the rare opportunity to prevent crashes and viruses in the first place when a platform is brand new (by restricting it), or never again having to be dependent on someone else, is Apple’s M.O.  That’s why we are all mixed up about our love affair with Apple and it’s 3rd party opportunities.  It’s a tradeoff we have to live with.

And again, for the zillionth time, if you don’t like it, go somewhere else.  Why is that so hard to grasp?

Mark Hernandez
Information Workshop

p.s. I always leave my title in my posts because I stand behind what I say, even if flawed.

brandon

First off, thanks Ted, I always appreciate your commentary.  I wanted to chime in on this one due to the fact I’ve had this conversation with lots of friends and co-workers.
I am a big believer in free market capitalism (as I assume you are.)  I think if Apple wants to limit access to their creations for any reason, whatsoever, they should be allowed to do so.  If they become too restrictive, the free market will tend away from their services and products, and towards someone else’s. (take Apple in the 1990’s as an example!!)
The original e-mail to Steve was not as a consumer offering an opinion to Apple, but rather an obnoxious attempt to belittle Apple on their choice of a closed system; with a subtext of, “your ipad is not really that revolutionary.”
The truth is, we don’t really know why Apple excludes certain things and allows others.  Not allowing Flash on the iphone is a huge issue for Apple.  Others are doing it.  Why can’t Apple???  Whatever the reason, I know it’s not to tick off their customer base.  I assume that either Steve was being up front when he said it was buggy and a battery hog OR Apple knows something we don’t that they’re not prepared to reveal at this time OR some mix of the two.
Steve’s reply was not to a concerned patron making a polite suggestion.  It was a reply to an aggressive comment about an issue that Apple has already addressed publicly many times.  When it comes to the iphone/ipad operating system APPLE HAS A CLOSED SYSTEM TO MAINTAIN THE INTEGRITY AND PERFORMANCE OF IT’S PRODUCTS. These are not desktops.  They are portable devices that are designed to be straight-forward and easy to use for the consumer.  Apple is the gate-keeper to ensure that standard is met.  If you want things that, for whatever reason, Apple will not offer, jailbreak or go elsewhere.
I believe if this guy had asked an honest question with genuine concern, you would have seen a different response.  Anyhow, that’s my 2 cents.

blad_Rnr

Ted,
I read the whole article, and for the life of me I don’t even know what you are asking Jobs to do. Defend his arguments more persuasively? Stop acting like a capitalist? Cater to every whim of every critic?

Stop and think about what incredible responsibility Steve Jobs has outside of bringing the perfect gadget to market that satisfies every consumer and developer and doesn’t inflict the wrath of the DOJ on him. He has 20,000 employees and a board of directors, stockholders and vendors who all want to see Apple be a profitable company. It’s easy to point out his flaws when none of us have any idea how difficult it must be to run a huge corporation and make money at the same time while driving the stock price up.

I like my iPhone and my Mac, and I will buy an iPad at some point. I don’t focus on what the iPhone doesn’t have. I focus on how it makes me productive and what an astonishing device it is. That’s enough for me.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

And again, for the zillionth time, if you don?t like it, go somewhere else.? Why is that so hard to grasp?

I always like to read articles on TMO before I post a comment. Way to hit your thumb with a hammer Mark!

Bosco
Product Spokesdog

Dean Lewis

I am sure there would be printing, storage etc for the iPad, iphone if it didn?t have to go through App Store.

Just want to point out that there are printing and storage apps for the iPhone and iPad. I can’t speak for their ease of use as I haven’t used any yet (although many tech pundits do and you can find reviews all over the internet), but they do exist. If we’re going to argue, we should at least make sure our facts are straight. (Here is just one article that goes over several ways to print from an iPad: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2362451,00.asp )

Now back to our regularly scheduled discussion.

georgewilkinson

Ted, I enjoy much of your writings, but sometimes you go off on a needless tangent.

Look, guys, all Steve was really saying is that the marketplace will decide on the success of a product or who buys what and how much. People have varying degrees of what they like and do not like on a personal basis that is not necessary contingent on something being right are wrong. Some people hate spinach - l love spinach. Some people love squash - I hate squash. No right or wrong, just differences in an individual’s taste for certain foods. And most consumers could care less how it gets that way. The end result is what they experience and like or dislike.

So it is good to have variety. Apple’s “system” approach to integrated software, hardware and content delivery has some very good advantages and a few disadvantages. In the end it is the user experience that counts and that is what Apple is best at producing no matter how they do it. If Apple’s “walled garden” does not yield a product that fits your needs and personal preferences, there are plenty of alternatives out there in the market place.

I believe Steve Jobs replies to these arguments have been calm, sincere, respective and rational, even if someone’s personal preferences are not those of Apple.

Your criticism of Steve’s sparing with the journalist is too cynical, too granular, too semantic driven and basically immaterial and I not agree with some of your characterizations. Many others, especially from the typical hate everything Apple zealots, that even you often rightly criticize, spew their irrational and fact-less venom that produces nothing with value. “What have your produced?” was a perfect response by Steve at the end of it all.

As a an engineer, my grandmother once ask me what an engineer does other than drive a train. I replied, in jesting with her, that an engineer takes a million variables and adjusts hundreds mathematical equations to optimism something for a specific result. She had no clue what I meant by that, but it is true. There is no right or wrong, it is simply optimizing something for a specific result and different results please different people.

All these people sparing about “closed gardens,” flash, open standards or open source (and on and on and on) should just cool it and let a company like Apple continue to innovate and bring all this great new technology to users and users should just enjoy the ride on whatever product!

This afternoon after work, I will likely go pool with my new iPad, bring up Instapaper on it and read a few articles I have stowed away and enjoy this technology, as I know Steve would encourage me to do and expect most iPad owners to be doing with it, and skip all the senseless debates.

Fifty years ago when I was in college and went to work at NASA in Houston to help train astronauts to fly the moon missions, with large magical main-frame computers with magnetic core memory, filling a room as big as a typical house, that drove a magical spacecraft simulation complex, there was no way I could have foreseen the day when I would have something as powerful as that (and just as magical) weighing about a pound, setting in my lap at the pool and have the ability to watch live video on it directly from an orbiting space station or with one quick touch of a screen, switch to reading the New York Times from Dallas, Texas.

All you young argumentative technologists and arrogant journalist out their—think about that one for a moment.

BenG

This whole discussion is about APPLIANCES, not COMPUTERS.  Appliances are dedicated, fixed purpose(s) devices.  They aren’t meant to do everything and are not flexible.  They are tuned for best performance with inflexible innards.  Every mfgr of applicances chooses how they run and what they do.

Computers, on the other hand are by definition not fixed in function.  Sure there is a limit, but within those limit they can be varied to do anything.

Apple computers have Flash, run any porn you want to see, and have no App Store hanging over you.  Apple appliances, OTOH, have a fixed operating system, and a fixed set of things that will run on them.  The selection of things is moderated by the mfgr.

Tell me one other appliance that has 200,000 functions created by someone other than the mfgr.  Tick, Tick.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

All these people sparing about ?closed gardens,? flash, open standards or open source (and on and on and on) should just cool it and let a company like Apple continue to innovate and bring all this great new technology to users and users should just enjoy the ride on whatever product!

With all due respect… It is beginning to sound like Apple and its fans just want an immunity necklace to protect them from criticism and discussion. Why so sensitive? It’s not like Apple and its fans are incapable of dishing it back.

The problem with such a posture is that a great many people smell blood when they see it. So that posture isn’t even effective. It just reinforces the criticism and gives critics more reason to dig. And dig we will grin.

geoduck

This whole discussion is about APPLIANCES, not COMPUTERS.?

That’s a very good point. The rules are different for appliances. In that respect this is more like an iPod, which does a limited number of things very well rather than a computer, which can be adapted to do many different things with a varying degree of success.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Yes, a very good point about appliances. The most impressive thing about these Apple appliances is that they are fully capable of being more than appliances.

robofly

This is as short as I know how to make it.

Two issues stand out for me:

1) LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT
The essence of proprietorship, held to be OK in the marketplace because market behavior will correct abuse. All business decisions are supportable, as long as a business accepts the consequences. SJ relies on this principle when hard-balling external critics. It won’t work with shareholders, though… not if many buyers actually go elsewhere.

2) WHAT IS RIGHT FOR APPLE IS RIGHT FOR APPLE CUSTOMERS
Like (1), but standing on its head. (2) looks almost self-evident if you think there is a special breed of customer that’s made for Apple and vice-versa. But (2) is not self-evident—it’s just another assertion of autonomy. Apple will do things the Apple way, because this is its market differentiator, its special value proposition. And Apple will win if its vision prevails. Problem with that? See (1) above.

My reservation with (1) is, a very powerful or attractive entity is hard to walk away from. So the claim that you’re free to go looks less and less like a corrective, as the thing you might want to leave gets harder to do without. When it was oh-so-weak, Apple acted adorable and appealing, as well as acceptably proud. Now there is a whiff of arrogance. Don’t like us? Take a walk, loser, we can do without your kind. (Hubris magnified to show detail.)

My reservation with (2) is, in the far-distant past only *detractors* called Apple an appliance company. Supporters thought Apple made insanely great tools for almost any purpose. The purpose was whatever you could imagine, which was empowering to the point of giddiness.

But in the New World, the purpose of an Apple product is something Apple decides, and you live with that. The new “bicycle for the mind” is being designed for a bikes-only travel lane. What’s next, rails? When the purported SJ says old-time computer guys are feeling their world slipping away, I can only hope that Apple on Rails is not what he means.

Now I’m kind of rooting for Android, because the same Apple with the build-your-own kit origins is most interested in systems of incomparably greater potential, but which are all but glued shut.

So sorry that freedom on Apple’s part looks so much like constraint on my part. Don’t really care for it.

BenG

It is interesting - all these comments about how Apple has changed.  It used to be “nice”, now it is “mean”.  These comments are ridiculous.  Ignoring the period when Jobs was gone, Apple always followed a different path.  It always had a vision of what ought to be that turned out right.  There were always detractors.

Apple always stuck to its guns.  None of its products were like the rest of computerdom.

Now that it has the spotlight, the detractors are scared and have to make up stuff to soothe their own insecurities.

The denigration of Apple products as “appliances” was referring to their computers as toys, not the true applances that came later.  Another failed attempt to paint Apple products as toys.

Toys are cheap, flimsy things that break easily.  PCs are toys.  Macs are the real thing.

jsk

“All cross-platform software is junk.” Hmmm…

So, just what is Jobs trying to say about: Safari, iTunes, Bonjour, MobileMe, and QuickTime?

lavatop

While a nice piece, the central argument (and flaw) of Ted’s letter is that somehow Apple has an obligation to respond to the criticisms; to explain themselves…..which would only produce more questions. (Reminds me of when a kid keeps asking pestering-ly why he/she’s not allowed candy when he/she wants it.)

While people may or my not like it, it’s Apple’s product. We just buy them. Apple is well within their right to say “Because I’m the mommy, that’s why.” 

(afterthought: just think how bad Steve McQueen would’ve looked in a ‘68 mustang fastback with a rear window that you could actually see out of!) wink

Ted Landau

somehow Apple has an obligation to respond to the criticisms

For the record:

I never said Apple has an obligation to respond to criticism (although I implied that it could make good business sense to do so). Rather, I was saying that, if you are going to respond (which Steve chose to do), make it a good one.

Also, if you read the beginning of the article, you will see that my criticism of the quoted email statements was not meant to be primarily directed at Apple. The quotes represent arguments that are often made by others (including a couple of commenters on this page, ironically). Although Steve’s email was the proximate event that triggered my article, it was intended to apply more generally.

Hamranhansenhansen

Native apps on iPhone have to be managed, there is no choice.

Other phones have baby Java apps that run in a virtual machine, and yet they have malware. iPhone has native C apps which are more dangerous, and yet no malware. Even though there are many more apps, and the user base is less technically-minded.

We live in a world with Conficker and other botnets using up 25% of Internet bandwidth and anti-virus scanners using up 20% of a PC’s resources. In all the world, only Apple has solved this, and you’re whining about it.

Implicit in your complaint is the assumption that iPhone would be malware-free with anywhere-hosted native apps. I don’t think it would. There would be whole “app stores” with only malware preying on users.

Implicit in your complaint is the assumption that there would be more app choices than now if there were fewer developer restrictions. I don’t think that is true. The main draw to the platform has been the cash register Apple set up in their one managed store. There is hardly any piracy. Apps have very low prices yet developers make money. Users download more apps since they trust them.

If you want to say Apple should do more like Android and others, then point to the successes on those other platforms. Yet the other platforms have way fewer apps, way less choice in apps, and they have piracy and malware. They have fragmentation. Users use fewer apps.

So the answer is the same as for the Adobe Flash issue: shut up and ship it. If you, or anyone can build a more successful app store in a more “open” way, then do it and prove Apple wrong, same as Adobe should ship a mobile FlashPlayer instead of hot air.

Finally, please recognize that iPhone has the most open, unmanaged app platform in the world: HTML5. Native apps being managed provides an alternative, it gives users a *choice*. Nobody has to use App Store, it’s the optional second API on iPhone, it’s 1 year younger. So iPhone has a yin yang of app platforms. It’s actually totalitarian to say both should be open.


The politics of nerds just doesn’t matter. Results matter.

Nonoche

Your arguments do have some merits. Yes, it’s ok to criticize something, and it is hopefully for the best of everyone, the object of criticism included. No, criticism shouldn’t be dismissed by a “love it or leave it” argument. But I don’t think that’s what Jobs did.

From the way I see it, the point Jobs made was to say : “in spite of these flaws you see, people still embrace the iPhone and the App Store. So to them at least, it doesn’t seem to be so much of a problem.” And he’s right. If the positions of Apple drew people away from its platform, it would have an incentive to review them and change them. But so far, it’s working out for Apple, both in terms of their quality standards, and in terms of success. They have absolutely no reason to change them, because doing so would be at the cost of something more important to them. So in their eyes, it’s not an improvement, it’d be a tradeoff, and they’re not ready to do that if they don’t get anything out of it.

rael

@Ted
I am a bit surprised that more people did not agree with you.  I see where you are coming from; the way i see it is that Apple’s stance although with the right idea just makes many of us feel soooo Constraint!
I am a declared fanboy, have been w/ apple for a like 15 yrs. love it, have stocks, have switched many…etc etc.  But I feel and am very concerned that Apple is after “regular” everyday people and alienating its core users. 
This is the most frustrating part for me, its ok to take many of he hassles away from the iphone, but must they take all the fun that we mac users had become accustomed to?
I mean, I can’t even customize my iphone without JB and putting myself at risk by letting all these apps run as ROOT and do as they wish.  I am still very very jaded at having to wait 2 fricking yrs to get cut/coy/paste, I really like it, but 2 fcking yrs????
and the same goes for search (which is only going to work properly now in 4.0) and what about SMS?
and a bunch of other things that seems like we were being Given as “new to us”, yet even Winmo had it for many yrs.
why isn’t there a way to make better use of the home lock screen, its so baren, where are the widgets, didn’t apple pioneer widgets…they make sense, but where are they?  and where is the section to get all my missed items (calls. txt, notifications etc) without having to get them from 5 diff. places?

I and may Apple afns were used to having these things and then make fun of windowzz when MZFT came around copied us.  Now, WebOS and Android are the ones that get those great ideas and I in all honesty feel jealous.  and Android, as much as google’s be everywhere and be all ambitions is really looking like it’s giving its users the ability to do things in many different ways.  i am not upset b/c other platforms have these nice things, but because Apple doesn’t seem to be willing to do the same.

which brings me back to Ted’s point; Apple seems to give us what it wants ONLY instead of what we want ALSO.  I feel like Apple is NOT listening to us.  every 2 months I get up with a huge urge to JB and am frustrated that Apple (aside from a few things here and there) isn’t giving me enough reasons to drop the idea once and for all.  I don’t want to wait 3 more yrs before I can officially do what I want to get from a JB.

THE FACT THAT I WANT TO JB TELLS ME I AS A MAC/APPLE FAN FEEL TOO CONSTRAINT.
IN 15 YRS OF USING A MAC I NEVER WISH I HAD A WINDOWZZ MACHINE, YET ANDROID REMINDS ME OF THE OLD APPLE IN A WEIRD WAY!

@geoduck
I agree with you on your main point, I think apple needs to find a “happier” medium bet. the restrictions it has and letting users feel like Apple isn’t parenting us around (we are adults).

Intruder

...letting users feel like Apple isn?t parenting us around (we are adults).

Millions of iPhones and iPods have been sold to those who are, most decidedly, NOT adults.

BenG

@ rael

Let’s se if I understand your position.  You want Apple to include all the junk that windows has.  You want it to be identical to all the other PCs.

Well, people buy apple products because they are not like PCs.  Their market research is head and shoulders above the me too guys, or else nobody would buy Apple products.

When was the last time MS paid any attention to consumers - at any stage of their existence (developers, developers, developers…..) Or HP or Dell? (remember junkware - has it gone away?

rael

@Ben

Never said that, in fact I was focused on mobile and only briefly brought up Windows to make the point.
my main point was that i would like Apple to remember their power users, us long time Mac users that are used to installing things like keyboard Maestro, quicksilver, flip4mac, Safari-Saft etc.

the Mac is Great but Apple can not make everything and devs stepped in and made really cool hacks and system extensions.
Now we Apple fans were/are the ones to want to get their products, yet on the iphone many many of us felt like we needed cut/copy/paste and it should not have taken 2 yrs for it.  one yr would have been acceptable because they had lots on their plate, but 2 yrs?
also, people especially Mac users love to customize out products, and we could not even change the background image on the iphone, now we can but its 3 yrs later.
also, the widgets, we have been clamoring for widgets since iphone 1.0 because they make sense.  we like them on the Mac why not give it to us and make use of the lock screen?
I don’t care for flash, background apps was always just nice to have, and I don’t care for GOOGLE’s “openness”, but I would like Apple to give us the not hold back some of the potentials of the iphone.

I mean, video OFF on the first 2 iphones?
c’Mon! that was really an example of holding back
we knew it could do it and Apple later allowed it. 

the organization of the apps was NEVER good, those folders should have come in 3.0 not 4.0

edit from search (i.e. delete) should have come as a .xx update not wait for a Major one like 4.0

a new push message cancels the last notification, it makes keeping up w/ missed communications really tough, why haven’t they fixed it?
in fact we DO need a space where we can see ALL our missed notifications, everyone else has it.  and to counter your point, I DON"T care that eryone else has it, Apple has never been afraid to copy what works.  besides, this is not about copying, but solving a problem.  in fact, APple can come up with their own way that’s different, I don’t care either but it’s an issue.

lastly, Apple would do well if they communicated a bit more with their users, yeah SJ has been confirming stuff via email (which I am very surprised at) but Apple needs to leave the zipped lips for Major announcements, the community has gone beyond old school Apple fans that will put up with the lack of communication.

hope my points were better explained here grin
~~AAPL before GOOG~~

@ rael

Let?s se if I understand your position.? You want Apple to include all the junk that windows has.? You want it to be identical to all the other PCs.

Well, people buy apple products because they are not like PCs.? Their market research is head and shoulders above the me too guys, or else nobody would buy Apple products.

When was the last time MS paid any attention to consumers - at any stage of their existence (developers, developers, developers?..) Or HP or Dell? (remember junkware - has it gone away?

rael

@intruder

Millions of iPhones and iPods have been sold to those who are, most decidedly, NOT adults.

true, however I wasn’t arguing so much about the app store approval process.  Although, I do wish and many many people too that they got more consistent, and they have so that’s a good thing.

see my response to Ben above for further explanation

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