Steve Jobs Defends Apple’s App Control in Weekend E-mail Exchange

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Apple CEO Steve Jobs defended his company’s approach to controlling its iPhone OS platform in an e-mail exchange with Gawker Media blogger Ryan Tate. The exchange further reveals the importance Mr. Jobs places on the idea of protecting the user experience, and also emphasizes his belief that families need to be protected from porn.

The exchange took place Friday night and early Saturday morning, with all of Mr. Jobs’s replies coming after midnight. It began with Mr. Tate firing off a note asking Mr. Jobs, “If [Bob] Dylan was 20 today, how would he feel about your company? Would he think the iPad had the faintest thing to do with ‘revolution?’ Revolutions are about freedom.”

Those are pointed questions suggesting that Apple is misappropriating the term “revolution” in its marketing for the iPad. In addition, Mr. Jobs is known to highly respect Bob Dylan, and Mr. Tate is not-so-subtly suggesting that a young Dylan would chafe at the kind of controls Apple has placed on iPhone OS development.

Mr. Jobs’s reply was blunt, and to the point on the comment about freedom, though he only obliquely addressed the Dylan question by quoting one of his early songs: “Yep, freedom from programs that steal your private data. Freedom from programs that trash your battery. Freedom from porn. Yep, freedom. The times they are a changin’, and some traditional PC folks feel like their world is slipping away. It is.”

Mr. Tate fires back questioning some of Mr. Jobs’ assertions - for instance, he wrote that his MacBook’s battery handles Flash just fine, but noted in his own commentary about the exchange that this comment was silly in that he himself had publicly written that Flash is a resource hog.

He also made the argument that magazine developers shouldn’t be forced to write apps in Objective-C when they could make interactive apps in Flash and cross-compile them. Mr. Jobs response was that magazine didn’t have to develop for iPhone OS at all, but that many chose to do so, adding, “There are almost 200,000 apps in the App Store, so something be going alright.”

In another interesting point, he compared Apple’s requirements for developers to use only those languages and developer tools approved by Apple to Microsoft trying to make developers write for Windows in a Microsoft-controlled API, calling both moves a power play disguised as a fake tech issue.

Mr. Jobs’s reply was, “Microsoft had (has) every right to enforce whatever rules for their platform they they want. If people don’t like it, they can write for another platform, which some did. Or they can buy another platform, which some did.”

“As for us,” he added, “we’re just doing what we can to try and make (and preserve) the user experience we envision. You can disagree with us, but our motives are pure.”

Mr. Jobs’s last comment was somewhat of a personal jab at Mr. Tate, as he asked, “By the way, what have you done that’s so great? Do you create anything, or just criticize others [sic] works and belittle their motivations?”

In the commentary that he added in his Gawker post, Mr. Tate noted some silly and unfair comments he made, and noted his respect for Mr. Jobs being willing to publicly stand up for his company’s policies, actions, and business model.

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Comments

daemon

Steve Jobs is so counter-culture that he is incapable of grasping the reality that he is the culture now.

Wake up Steve! You’ve grown up to be the man you despised!

Lee Dronick

Do we know for sure that the emails were from Steve Jobs?

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

I was flattered that Jobs loosely quoted in his final statement what some here have said to me a few times.

Jobs also asserted that police didn’t kick in Jason Chen’s door, that Ryan Tate had been reading the mischaracterization of that on blogs. Classy.

BurmaYank
Mouring

“If [Bob] Dylan was 20 today, how would he feel about your company? Would he think the iPad had the faintest thing to do with ‘revolution?’ Revolutions are about freedom.”

Hate to break this to Mr Tate.  Revolution is really about change not freedom.  In most cases it’s brought about by very bloody and horrific events.  A lot of times freedom is outright lost in the change, and sometimes it’s temporary gains a reprieve.  Very rarely is freedom every a long standing result of a revolution.

FlipFriddle

Right, I don’t recall a lot of freedom after the 1917 Communist Revolution. A lot of people were freed from their lives if that counts.

JKP

I don’t get the big deal. If you object to the product, don’t buy it. If you object to how the rules are for developers, don’t develop for it. If you don’t like being locked into the Apple ecosystem, buy something else.

There’s lots of freedom out there. Exercise it. If enough people choose to and, Apple will respond or perish. That’s how the system works. That’s how freedom works.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

@JKP… Let me sincerely and honestly try to explain it to you. Apple moves the goalposts. I bought 2 iPhones on a 2 year contract with AT&T last August. At the time, Apple had loosened up quite a bit on app approval. Fart apps, an excellent barometer, started drifting in last June. As a user, I expected that Apple had figured out that PG content should not be a problem.

As a developer, at the time, I was also aware of various tools vendors’ efforts and stated or unstated plans for iPhone deployment. At the time, I fully expected Adobe AIR to go there as well, as it was consistent with their “deploy everywhere” goal.

I guess I have a long memory and I guess I expect that if I have to commit to a product for two years, the vendor won’t screw it up for me irrevocably during that time. If that makes me sound entitled, then whatever.

Ref Librarian

The answer is Bosco - why in the world did you buy not one but two iPhone with complete contracts with AT & T? You had expectation that Apple was not meeting before you bought them! Why did you think that your expectation would be met afterwards?

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

As I’ve noted before, one iPhone 3GS for me, one for my Mom. I have a family plan with 5 phones in 2 states. We lost Nevada phone numbers when moving from Sprint because AT&T has the quaint notion of “market regions”.

Apple’s behavior with the App Store was trending positively when I bought. Nobody last summer thought they wold be so brazen as to ban swim suit apps. Nobody last summer thought they would feel a need to cock block Flash/AIR.

This whole notion that you have an option not to buy, so therefore no right to criticize is horse pucky. Everyone has a right to criticize, regardless. And most of us who bought have to honor a commitment, while Apple can change the game whenever it likes.

Ref Librarian

“Trending positively” doesn’t mean that it meets your needs at that time you purchased it. Neither does it mean that it will ever meet your needs. It certainly doesn’t meet your needs or your mom’s needs if both of you have to look at girls in swimming suits on your phone to be happy.

It didn’t have Flash on it when you bought it. No smart phone does. I take it that means you should not buy one until one does have flash on it.

Apple did not promise you naked women or flash. Sell your phones and for goodness sakes take a hard look at your next ones. If they don’t meet your needs when you purchase it, they may continue not to meet your needs. That is just common sense.

Ref Librarian

PS. if you and your mom need porn to be happy, you can download it yourself and put it on both of your phones. Did you think of that?

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

@Ref Librarian… Do you know the difference between Flash and AIR? Didn’t think so.

Ref Librarian

Do you know how many times you have complained about Flash? Didn’t think so.

xmattingly

I thought this whole exchange was pretty fascinating. Here you have a multi-billionare, easily one of the most influential people of the past century, and he’s personally responding to an irate journalist (or should I say blogger?) in the wee hours over the weekend.

As far as revolution goes, I would say a 10 hour battery life on a device that you don’t have to boot routinely is pretty freakin’ revolutionary.

Nemo

Bosco:  If you have a commitment, a promise from Apple in writing, to do a thing, then you may have a breach of contract or breach promise action.  Of course, your prospective lawyer will need to see that promise in writing on Apple’s letterhead and signed by a person with authority to bind Apple, Inc.  However, if all you have is that Apple changed its approach or was still developing its approach as it relates to development tools and/or screening apps for the App Store in ways that you don’t like or that you think are immoral, you’re probably out of luck.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

No legal opinion needed. JKP asked why people who don’t like what Apple is doing just don’t go elsewhere. Not that I thought it was a sincere question, but you can see above what happens when I treated it as such.

Ref Librarian

Bosco, you don’t think we are that gullible, do you? You attack Steve Jobs and Apple very nearly every day for not tailoring their products to you. If you “went elsewhere” you would lose that outlet. After a certain point, a person needs to move on, let the anger go and buy products from another company.

Terrin

I actually agree with Bosco to an extent here. Since Apple is the only recognized outlet to sell applications for the iPhone, it is unfair to constantly move the goal post for developers. Once a developer has spent time and money developing an application, the developer should be allowed to try and profit from the effort.

Further, Apple should be more transparent about the approval process so developers are secure knowing an application will be approved before developing it. Some of Apple’s language is ambiguous. Further, once an application is approved, Apple shouldn’t be allowed to remove it because it’s policy changed.

With that said, I do not see Apple’s stance against cross compilers to fall into that category because the new licensing terms are provided to developers way ahead of time and do not effect current applications. Apple should also provide a grandfather clause for cross compiled applications developed before the new terms took effect. Finally, like any business Apple has to adjust it’s policies if a current policy is thought to harm it’s business model.

@JKP? Let me sincerely and honestly try to explain it to you. Apple moves the goalposts. I bought 2 iPhones on a 2 year contract with AT&T last August. At the time, Apple had loosened up quite a bit on app approval. Fart apps, an excellent barometer, started drifting in last June. As a user, I expected that Apple had figured out that PG content should not be a problem.

As a developer, at the time, I was also aware of various tools vendors? efforts and stated or unstated plans for iPhone deployment. At the time, I fully expected Adobe AIR to go there as well, as it was consistent with their ?deploy everywhere? goal.

I guess I have a long memory and I guess I expect that if I have to commit to a product for two years, the vendor won?t screw it up for me irrevocably during that time. If that makes me sound entitled, then whatever.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Terrin, The ban against cross compilers does affect current applications in the App Store. At the end of March, there were about 100 of them. Two examples of very nice little apps which are affected are: Fruit Smash Organic and South Park Avatar Maker.

Ref Librarian… Those two examples are clues for which you can apply your librarian skills to discover the distinction between Flash and AIR. And I’m sorry for everything I said about your Mom (Steve Jobs).

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