Death Knell #56: Apple’s Closed System Doomed to Die

| The Back Page

Friends, we are gathered here today not to mourn the life that was Apple, but to celebrate it. OK, technically, Apple is still alive, but tech journalist Paul Hochman let us know on Monday that it’s only a matter of time, that Apple simply must fail.

Indeed, Apple simply has no choice in the matter because Apple’s system is closed. Moreover, he argued, all closed systems must fail, ipso facto, Apple will also fail.

The end. Proven without a shadow of a doubt, Apple is among the walking, talking, massively profitable, swiftly growing corporate dead.

I guess that means we should start wrapping up operations at The Mac Observer, and certainly lock down this silly Apple Death Knell Counter thingy.

[Note to self: Shape up resume for finding work covering some open system, probably Microsoft. Oh, and be thinking of ways to kiss and make up with Paul Thurrot and Rob Enderle, since they’ve been right all along.]

Apple Death KnellWait, what? You want some more information about this latest prognostication of Apple’s impending doom? Fine. It’s not like I’ll have anything better to do once Apple joins the Coelophysis in the ignominy of exstinction, right? I suppose I might as well eke out a proper column on the subject while I can still ride Apple’s coattails.

OK, for old time’s sake, here we go:

Mr. Hochman is a tech journalist who often appears on NBC’s The Today Show. On Monday, he spoke at the Forward with Ford Futuring and Trends Conference, which is a sort of showcase event that pitches some of Ford’s technology, concepts, and technologies to the car industry, the press, etc.

According to Ford itself, the conference is “An interactive immersion into how Ford’s innovations, technologies and philosophies, in alignment with top consumer influences and needs, are shaping our world of tomorrow. Several major thought leaders and experts – Malcolm Gladwell, Ed Begley Jr. and Joel Garreau, to name a few – will help shed light on how Ford’s vehicles and technologies are linked to these significant global trends. The following materials support the content and Ford experts profiled in each trend session.”

In other words, like the “Conference” part of “Macworld Conference & Expo,” much of Ford’s event consists of various industry experts and pundits talking to attendees about various aspects of Ford and its future technologies.

Mr. Hochman was one of those experts, and his talk today he focused on how Ford’s open approach to MyTouch and SYNC AppLink is far superior to the closed system that GM has implemented for its own in-car gadget connectivity.

“General Motors has a closed system. Essentially, it bolts a phone into the car,” he said during his speech, according to PocketLint. That’s bad (an opinion I personally agree with), while Ford making their system open is good (ditto, that’s cool).

MyTouch and its companion SYNC AppLink allow users to tie their phones and digitial media devices into their car. SYNC AppLink allows users to run apps from their devices (limited to Pandora, Stitcher, and OpenBeak for now) on a display inside the car, which is super cool, and it currently supports Android, iOS, and BlackBerry OS. Surprisingly, there is no Windows Phone 7 support yet, but that’s neither here nor there.

MyTouch further allows drivers to play media through their iPods and iPhones, Zunes, Windows Phone and Windows Vista devices, and a variety of MP3 players. There’s a lot more to MyTouch, and most of it is pretty slick.

But, Mr. Hochman apparently needed a broader comparison for his audience to understand because he offered another exampe of a closed system like GM’s that is also doomed to fail, and that is, of course, Apple.

“Apple’s in big trouble,” he said. “They’re sitting on piles of cash, but they are sitting on a closed system. In biology, in history, a closed system never survives.”

Never. Survives. That’s pretty open and shut, right?

Oh sure, nitpickers might point out that Ford itself supports Apple’s closed system, making it not quite entirely “closed.” Yeah, and other pedants are likely to point out that Apple allowing third party developers to make software for iOS devices is another example of it not being “closed.”

And of course, the real rules lawyers out there will say that the phenomenal growth of Apple’s iOS empire shows many consumers have embraced Apple’s Whole Widget closed system, and that on their mobile devices, “awesome” trumps “cheap piece of crap.”

But they’re all wrong. Mr. Hochman explained it ever so simply for us. Closed. System. Never. Survives.

So, sell your stock, dump your Apple products. It’s in the bag, folks. Apple is doomed to fail.

Surely the 56th time’s the charm, right?

Popular TMO Stories



Geez…what a tool…


I find this topic very funny because I just had my car into Ford for some routine maintenance and asked a question about getting the SYNC to work the way the salesman said it was supposed to and the service person said I had to come back when the person who handles the SYNC system is in the shop to answer questions. The voice recognition part works really well. The other parts don’t. To figure some things out I need another person in the car to look at the SYNC(we call it the STYNC system) manual in order to try to figure some things out. But because the system is open, it is ok if it doesn’t work as advertised.



The guy obviously has been drinking the marketing Koolaid. There’s virtually no way he can define “Closed” without describing practices taken by Ford. Has Ford suddenly eschewed patents, begun using only generic parts, shared their IP with competitors, and started selling Hondas at the dealerships? No? Well, I guess Ford is doomed too.


Amusing piece, Bryan; a welcome comic interlude.

Evidence free prognostication at its finest; pearls and paste comingled for the swine (that’s us), as only an expert can cast.

This is rather like a cardiologist giving a presentation on hypertension, and then veering off course to take a dig at pressure build up in NASA’s cooling system for the ISS - without bothering to provide evidence of an ISS pressure problem.  And besides, which of these models is our cardiology expert professionally qualified to talk about?

Mark Hernandez

Like I’m fond of saying…

“People often confuse the words Closed, Controlled and Curated because they all begin with the letter ‘C’.”

Any article or comment that uses superlatives like “always, never, closed, open, killer, death” should be immediately suspect.


Successful seers know not to be too specific with their predictions. Notice he doesn’t put a date to Apple’s death. But the sun will die forty-lebben gazillion years from now and then he’ll be correct. Except of course he’ll have to be living in a closed system in order to survive to claim his prize. As Bugs used to say, “Nnyahhhhh, what a maroon!”


All systems fail and all entities die. Closed or not doesn’t seem to make a difference really.

Alas the Universe and Entropy.

Lee Dronick

To curate - From Latin me thinks - To take care of, to nurture. If you don’t take care of something it dies or breaks down.


Fine. It?s not like I?ll have anything better to do once Apple joins the Coelophysis in the ignominy of instinction, right?
Did you really mean “instinction?”  I mean, it’s a word and all, but didn’t you really want “extinction?”  If it was meant as more humor in a humorous piece, it went over my head.


He does realize that the earth is a closed system right?

Bryan Chaffin

Just a typo, iJack. Thanks for catching it. It’s been corrected. smile


This is the same Ford whose J.D. Power Initial Quality Ranking dropped significantly due to it’s Microsoft developed SYNC?


Paul Goodwin

Mark said it. Controlled is not the same as Closed. This guy doesn’t really understand what he’s talking about. His team back at Ford probably cringed when he started going down this path. It’s the Peter Principle. Too many bozos have made it to high positions in companies because of the modern day focus on aspects of a job that don’t involve understanding their product. Politicking and image are rewarded over knowledge and forward thinking and the result is ridiculous statements like this. We should trace this guy’s career after this bone headed blunder. If he’s promoted it’s evidence that Ford is past his peak and is “doomed” lol. If he’s put out to pasture it’s evident that Ford is still rising. Some leaders just consume valuable oxygen

Eat Apples, good for you.

Obviously, this guy didn’t see that the back door had been open all along while the front was closed.


One wonders what can possibly motivate writing an article such as this. Bereft of definitions for the core terms it uses it nonetheless swings along making predictions based on processes it does not dignify with explanation.

I asked an old lady at the AppleStore why she was buying an iPad. She told me she thought it the most beautiful of objects, something she desired. She was going to use to get to grips with the Internet at last. When I warned her that some say it was the result of a closed system, she looked at me with tolerant amusement as she finished her purchase.

Something apparently repeated millions of time a month.

The only thing likely to stop this process for the foreseeable future is if Apple starts turning out crap that doesn’t deliver. It’s possible of course. Unlikely, but certainly possible.


He does realize that the earth is a closed system right?

Sure, and the earth will die in about 5.5 billion years, give or take. Our expert rests his case.


The real source of the problem are the terms ‘open’ and ‘closed’ which have come to mean just about anything the speaker wants it to.

Open/Closed might mean if the source code of the OS is Open Source
Open/Closed might mean if the OS is only available from one MFG.
Open/Closed might mean if you have to go to one vendor for your software
Open/Closed might mean if you can see the file system
Open/Closed might mean the speaker just doesn’t like it and ‘it’s closed to me’.

Any more, calling something Closed is a meaningless epithet, a slur without any grounding.

Paul Goodwin

LOL wab95



What gets to me about the whole Open/Closed argument is this: Both have merit, especially if one is talking about Open Source software vs. Closed, proprietary software.

I build websites. All my websites are built using Drupal, a 100% Open Source content management system (CMS). I love Drupal, and I love the bazillion Open Source modules available for it, and I love that all of this powerful software is 100% free of charge.

But there are some things that aren’t available for Drupal that I also love for my websites. And that’s where Closed, proprietary, commercial (oh the evil!) software comes into play. Such as Front Page Slide Show, a great commercial piece of software that I gladly paid for, and use on just about every site I build as well. It plays nice with Drupal, and its not like it cost the equivalent of Creative Suite or anything.

My point is that virtue is NOT defined by whether something is Open or Closed. Virtue is defined by what the software/device/ecosystem can do for me. Period. Too many people treat Open Source like a religion or something.


“In biology, in history, a closed system never survives.? of course neither does a closed one. Everything eventually comes to an end including Apple, Ford, GM and every other company.


I don’t understand the difference between “open” and “closed” when it comes to this Ford and Chevy much less the Apple reference.

Does Chevy not allow third parties to make stuff that works with their systems? Does Chevy require a licensing fee when Ford doesn’t? Does Ford allow other car manufacturers to use their systems in their own cars?

Does Ford’s “open” system leave my car vulnerable to hackers and enthusiasts who can easily get access to tech specs and the source code for my car’s brain, where Chevy’s system is guarded by a high price tag and licensing restrictions? Does Ford allow hackers and enthusiasts to add new and innovative home brewed programs and features to my car that would never be possible with Chevy’s system due to it’s high price tag & licensing restrictions?

Does the emending death of Apple mean I have to get an “open” Android phone that makes me view ads when playing Angry Birds? Now that, would really suck.

Log in to comment (TMO, Twitter or Facebook) or Register for a TMO account