Steve Jobs Hates Freedom

Look, I know that Steve Jobs wants nothing but the very best for his customers, and he thinks the only way to provide the “very best” is to create unnecessary restrictions on what’s allowed to run on his platform (the iPhone and iPad.) Steve wants you to have a great user experience… but to me, the removal of freedom is a bug, not a feature, and less choices negatively affect my user experience.

Maybe Steve underestimates his customers… See, I’m fine with cross-platform development. Really, I don’t mind it. In fact, I think it’s a good idea and I’m very much in favor of it. Let the best application win… Not by being the only application, but by being the best among many.

I’m happy to hear that there will not be an app store for the Mac OS X platform, but really, I think the reason for that is that the genie has been out of the bottle for so long (30 years?) that it would be impossible to put back in.

And as for the iPad, I have this to say about that… if it helps bring the death of Flash, and the rise of HTML5, bring it on! Apple has been responsible for the death of technologies in the past that were meant to die, and this is one more. I mean, you all miss that built-in floppy drive on your MacBook, right?

6 replies on “Steve Jobs Hates Freedom”

Steve Jobs doesn’t hate freedom or competition. Just do a search on any category in the App store or witness the rush to build a better smartphone taking place. What Steve loves is the Apple brand and all it has come to mean to Apple’s customer base and to those who watch with envy. Every decision Jobs makes has a branding component to it. His fierce protection of the Apple brand is why Apple and third party products are successful. Many of his critics believe that Jobs thinks he knows what’s best for users. What Jobs knows is what is best for Apple.

I’d argue that you’re not the target market for iPhone OS products (nor am I), as indicated by your interest in having more choices. That’s a specific form of freedom most people don’t seem to want, and I think suggesting this is “underestimating” them wrongly assumes there’s something inherently good about wanting more options. Are automatic transmission car manufacturers underestimating drivers in assuming many of us don’t care to have that more control over when we switch gears? Is my microwave manufacturer underestimating me by adding a “popcorn” button, or correctly assuming I don’t care to set the exact time and power?

I really prefer having fewer options in these contexts, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I’d rather save my focus for things I really care about, like computers. A professional driver, on the other hand, might prefer fewer options to worry about on a computer so she can think about all the options on her car. I think the tech industry as a whole has completely neglected this audience for way too long.

That said, if Apple is intending to control the user experience through the app approval process, they’re doing an awful job. There’s a whole lot of crap that somehow made it through the approval process. I’m okay with either freedom to do more or freedom to worry less. My problem with the current app store is that I have neither.

I’m really torn on this issue. I mean, I love a good user experience, and Apple often provides that, but I’m also a fan of many choices, and I love things like open source, open culture, and open sharing. Apple is often so closed, it’s a struggle to still love them, but somehow I do. Sometimes. I was surprised to see Opera mini on the iPhone, and I’m glad it’s there. I’ve even tried it, and ultimately, I should choose Mobile Safari not because it’s the only choice I have, but because I prefer it to the other browsers on the iPhone. That’s what I’m after. We’ve spent how many years trying to build the web as an open-platform for *anyone* to compete in, and to see Apple create a closed-system, another walled garden, well, it’s not much fun. I want to be able to create an iPhone app, and put it on my phone, and even give it to others, without restriction or approval from Apple, just like I can create a web site for the world to see and use. Am I wrong in thinking this?

I totally agree, Pete. I just think it’s wasted energy pushing for Apple to change, especially when there’s a much better path to solving that problem.

It’s easy to overlook that you totally can create an iPhone app, put it on your phone, and give it to others, without restriction or approval from Apple, just like you can create a web site. Actually, it’s not *like* you create a website, it’s actually creating a website. Web apps can install on iPhones right beside app store apps. The main down side to this is that web apps don’t have the same capabilities as native apps. We can solve that problem by working on the open source WebKit code base. And everything about this approach would help Android at the same time.

This is exactly what Apple encouraged everyone to do before the app store existed, and we collectively complained that our open web system wasn’t good enough. So they gave us a closed alternative, but they didn’t take away the open web-based option, though we all talk about it like the open web alternative doesn’t even exist. It’s hard for me to blame Apple for this.

Looks like Apple just made an informal proposal to Adobe….You want Apple to include you in our products, give me a piece of the pie. This really defines the meaning of nothing’s free in the world. Apple’s got a great strategy and hats off to Steve Jobs.

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