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.