I understand the positive arguments for keeping so many things about iOS closed. Examples: It provides a more consistant user experience. It lets Apple control more of the over all quality. Etc.. I also understand some of the negative arguments for keeping it closed. Apple makes money on the app store and media sales so why would they let a different bookstore, music store or app store in.
But I think there’s a bigger picture argument. It goes something like this
Imagine it’s say 1982. Imagine all the popular computers at that time were as ridged and closed as iOS is now. Imagine it stayed closed for 30 years. You’re allowed to make apps but nothing that Apple says no to. How many innovations would we be living without?
Would mp3s and music services even exist? If I remember correctly the first mp3 player I ever used was Winamp in 1996-97. It came out long long before iTunes. If the lead computer companies never allowed anything other than the music apps that existed in 1982 would we have downloadable music now?
How about web browsers and the internet? Back in 1982 there were things like Compuserve. If the lead computer companies didn’t allow any generic net browsing would the internet have ever even happened? Would we still be using terminal emulators as the only way to access the internet?
Would we even have internet at all? iOS doesn’t allow external gadgets to connect directly to it that are usable by any apps. In 1982 personal computers didn’t have networking. Networking was added over the course of the next 10-15 years mostly by 3rd party hardware. If computers has been as closed as iOS would networking on computers ever have happened?
How about browsers? Browsers didn’t exist in 1982. Let’s assume Apple decided to implement a single browser. Would it be anywhere near as powerful as today’s browsers? Looking at the history of browsers it was the competition of IE, Netscape and then Firefox, Safari and Chrome that have brought us modern browsers. But arguably that would never have happened if, like iOS, all those computers banned making a browser.
How about all these languages. Perl, Python, C++, Java, Lua, Ruby. None of those languages existed in 1982. Yes, iOS allows you to use any language you want to make an app BUT….iOS does not allow you to make a programming environment. Imagine the computers for the last 30 years didn’t allow you to make a programming environment. How would any of these languages even have come into being if they were outright banned as iOS bans them?
That’s the problem with iOS’s closed eco-system. It stifles innovation and prevents competition. We’ve seen how well that’s worked in the past. Hint, it hasn’t worked well.
Now, I certainly don’t want an OS that’s buggy with a crappy user interface and a poor experience. But I don’t think that’s a trade off Apple needs to make. I believe they can be open AND have the best user experience.
Let’s hope they step up and embrace creativity. Even their co-founder thinks Apple needs to do this.