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Putting the App in Apple
Posted By David Evans On April 30, 2007 @ 4:44 pm In Internet-Based, Software, Technology, Digital Music | No Comments
Apple’s iPhone is scheduled to hit the Cingular shelves late June. Until then Apple is following the tight integration/walled garden strategy that made its iPod-iTunes combo the gorilla to beat in the digital music world.
A recent posting on  seekingalpha.com noted that Apple is also keep third-party apps off of iPhone. The author speculated this was because Apple was concerned that the apps would soak up too much of the iPhone’s limited battery life. I’m not so sure.
One possibility is that Apple is taking the same approach Palm took back in the early 1990s. It wanted to ensure the success of its product. So it developed the killer apps itself and got a tightly integrated piece of hardware and software into the market. Once it proved itself Palm encouraged develops to write for the Palm OS API set.
There’s another possibility. Apple has often been criticized for missing the critical catalyst strategy in establishing its pioneering GUI-based OS as the standard. Microsoft became the standard in part by making its operating systems (DOS and then Windows) available to equipment makers who drove down prices while Apple stubbornly insisted in controlling the box as well as the operating system. And many back-seat drivers insisted that Apple was repeating the mistake by largely closing the iPod-iTunes business to third parties—like competing stores and application developers.
Maybe Apple has decided that total control is its strong suit and it will keep the iPhone, which uses a variant of the MacOS, all to itself. But I think in this case Apple will do best if it goes catalyst and courts third-party app developers. (Seekingalpha.com speculates that Apple will have an iPhone developer track going in 2008.) If it does, it could revolutionize the mobile phone business and have a worldwide hit.
Here’s why. There hasn’t been explosive growth yet in apps for mobile phones. There are too many operating systems to write for, too many hardware standards, and, most critically, too many mobile operators with their own agenda to deal with around the world. Apple could cut through this using its new found prowess to beat the mobile phone companies into submission (they did a good job with Cingular) and creating a hardware device around which a true ecosystem of third party apps writers could populate.
Of course, all this depends on the iPhone being successful. It’s sure to look cool and it will have the MacOS as its core. But they first have to satisfy basic phone needs and, as the delays in releasing the new phone suggest, it isn’t all that easy to do what Nokia, Motorola, and others have been doing for a long, long time.
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 seekingalpha.com: http://ce.seekingalpha.com/article/32930
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