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

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.