An interesting take on the notion of a “walled garden”

Thu, Jun 3, 2010


Apple’s App Store is often referred to negatively as a “walled garden.” But is it possible that there’s actually a benefit to exerting some control over what type of apps are allowed into iTunes? Is it possible that the app store is thriving precisely because Apple keeps a watchful eye over it?

In an admittedly incongruous analogy, Neven Morgan describes the scenic and beautiful Portland Japanese Garden and compares it to the iTunes App Store. The Japanese Garden, pictured on the right, is a city landmark with strict rules that forbid eating, professional photography, and the use of cellphones on the premises. Clearly, the Garden is subject to authoritarian rule, so to speak, but its inherent beauty is the direct result of the rules that govern it.

Aren’t the benefits of a closed, carefully managed garden clearly visible? The experience is controlled, so it tells a story – one which may not emerge from a democratic, anything-goes process (or do you think this sort of slow and deliberate story would emerge in a busy American city in the year 2010?) Charging for admission means that the place can be maintained, improved, and marketed. There are downsides to this, of course — maybe the management makes boneheaded decisions now and then. Maybe you think that vine maple would look better a little to the left — maybe you’re even right.

But you see why they run things they way they do. And no one is forced to live in the Japanese Garden, just as no one is forced to commit fully to the App Store and refrain from exploring the rest of the world. Sure, this is Portland’s nicest garden – maybe they have a sort of monopoly on gardens. Maybe it’s because people like it, because it is so walled off.

Again, the analogy may have its flaws, but its certainly healthy food for thought.

via mrgan.tumblr


3 Comments For This Post

  1. Mark Hernandez Says:

    Well put. The analogy is appropriate. It’s a different balance of the many tradeoffs at play. I think most everyone gets it, but there are still too many boneheads that show their lack of critical thinking skills.

  2. Peter Says:

    It’s a good analogy, agreed. The interesting question is whether the garden might be more attractive without the rules. Or would it be a different kind of attractive.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, I have no problem with Apple’s App Store. What I would love to see is Apple provide another way for developers to install Apps–a way “around” the App Store. Then I would love to see Apple go through it’s own App Store with a weed-whacker and remove the unsavory growth therein and endeavor to keep the weeds out of the store.

    And for those who are offended that Apple won’t accept their App? Distribute it yourself.

  3. AdamC Says:

    The users don’t care while the developers being greedy prefer to have the 100% rathe than share 30% of the profit with Apple. If they truly are innovative they will develop according to Apple’s rule which many don’t have problems with except a handful who thinks they can do whatever they like and when their apps get yank they whined loudly in the net. What a bunch of loser, a word of asdvice for them develop for the android phone, no one cares what you do neither is the user.

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