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Independent Makes Case For Turning iPod Into "Platform"

Independent Makes Case For Turning iPod Into "Platform"

by , 1:00 PM EST, November 11th, 2004

Charles Arthur, Technology Editor at UK newspaper The Independent, has made the case for Apple opening up the iPod's APIs to third-party developers, effectively turning the iPod into a platform that could run third-party software. Doing do, according to Mr. Arthur, is the only way for Apple to maintain its long-term dominance of the music player market.

In his column on the subject, he quotes an Apple executive who told him that Apple had considered, but rejected, doing just that. From the article:

All Apple has to do is publicise the application programming interfaces its teams use to write programs, such as Breakout, Solitaire, Contacts and Calendar for the iPod. But will it? Not soon. Danika Cleary, the head of worldwide iPod product marketing, told me in London last week that the debate has surfaced repeatedly within Apple. "But our stance is that right now [the iPod is] very simple and it works the same for everyone," she says. "We have decided to keep it closed. And basic."

Why? "Essentially, it's a music player," she says. "We don't want to spoil the experience." Clearly the worry within Apple is that outside programs might mess up the working of the machine - and that Apple would get the blame. Microsoft is familiar with this: Windows is often blamed for glitches that are down to badly written (or just malicious) outside programs.

In the full article, Mr. Arthur goes into detail on why he thinks this is a good idea, why he is not calling for Apple to license out the iPod itself to third party manufacturers, and much more. We recommend it as an interesting read.

The Mac Observer Spin:

There is a huge difference between licensing the design of the iPod and making the iPod open to third-party developers to write software for (a point that Mr. Arthur belabors somewhat). A few thousand iPod apps would go far in building up even more loyalty to the iPod by many users, but it is a fact that such third-party software would inevitably break some iPods, increase Apple's support costs for an otherwise amazingly easy-to-use product, and could even lead to more hacking of Apple's DRM scheme, something many users want, but which Apple obviously wants to avoid.

The bottom line, however, is even more simple, and more direct: For a company as famously control-freaky when it comes to the user-experience, we simply don't expect Apple to ever open up the iPod to third party developers. No examination of the pros and cons of such a move is really even relevant because for Apple, the #1 issue will always be controlling that user-experience. That's something hard for some folks to truly understand, but, rightly or wrongly, it is one of the fundamental aspects of Apple.

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