Why Apple prefers to control its own destiny

Mon, May 3, 2010

Analysis, Apple History, Featured, News

Apple’s been on the receiving end of a lot of criticism in light of its updated developer agreement which prohibits the use of cross platform compilers such as the Flash-to-iPhone compiler found in the recently released CS 5. Apple’s actions have been labeled anti-competitive, with some calling Apple downright evil, and their latest moves have reportedly attracted the attention of regulators seeking to investigate the anti-trust implications of Apple’s position.

But Apple’s stance has less to do with destroying the competition and more to do with self reliance. As Steve Jobs pointed out in his “Thoughts on Flash” paper,

We know from painful experience that letting a third party layer of software come between the platform and the developer ultimately results in sub-standard apps and hinders the enhancement and progress of the platform. If developers grow dependent on third party development libraries and tools, they can only take advantage of platform enhancements if and when the third party chooses to adopt the new features. We cannot be at the mercy of a third party deciding if and when they will make our enhancements available to our developers.

Apple, under the control of Steve Jobs, is insistent on controlling its own destiny. It’s betting the farm that it has the best hardware, the best software, the best development tools, and the best mobile platforms. This obsession with 100% control over their own products is naturally rooted in Steve Jobs’ worldview on how a tech company should be run, but also influenced by Apple’s experience in the mid to late 90’s when the company was bleeding money and pundits were predicting its sad demise.

But in stepped Steve Jobs and NeXT. And more importantly, in came Microsoft and their big bags of money, along with a promise that they would continue to develop versions of Microsoft Office for the Mac for the next few years. Apple, unable to control their own destiny, found itself at the mercy of its arch nemesis – Microsoft.

And it was that ordeal that helped shape Apple’s worldview since. Mark Bernstein explains:

And somewhere in the recovery was a moment when Apple stood on a hill, before the setting sun, and shook its fist at the heavens and vowed that it would never be hungry (and powerless) again Never again would another company decide whether the Macintosh lived or died. So, Apple supplanted Metrowerks and wrote its own IDE. It wrote Keynote to inform Microsoft and the world that, should Microsoft discontinue Office for Mac, Apple would be prepared to replace it without delay. It wrote Safari to ensure that it would have a Web browser option, come what may.

… But always, at the back of its collective mind, is fear — the fear of depending on the kindness and competence of others, and the fearful memory of the days when it was cowering in a dark closet, waiting for the blow to fall, while the trade press laughed and jeered.

And if you think about it, the only reason Apple can exert the control it does is because its products are, in fact, better. Critics, for example, love to point out all the shortcomings of the iPhone – it has no flash, it can’t multitask – but it doesn’t because the device, on the whole, is so vastly superior to anything else out on the market. The masses have spoken. The iPhone reigns supreme, at least for now, and until someone or something else comes along and knocks it off its perch, Apple has no reason to change its business model.


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5 Comments For This Post

  1. Mark Hernandez Says:

    Thanks for driving home the simple explanation, which is usually the best explanation.

  2. CapnVan Says:

    “Critics, for example, love to point out all the shortcomings of the iPhone – it has no flash, it can’t multitask…”

    An important point in light of the next post about an anti-trust investigation.

    If it’s a shortcoming, it’s hard to see it as anticompetitive.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Absolutely.. you’ve nailed it on the head.. thanks for the excellent article.

  4. RobbieP Says:

    Steve is the “Tech Whisperer”. Calm assertive. The pack leader knows where he/she is going. Has a plan. Has a map. Has the juice.
    Jobs is a leader. Apple is a forward looking co.
    That is why Steve is taking the bone out of others mouths. He want to only share it with his pack.
    Simple “dog psych”

  5. Benuker Says:

    Well written.

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