Regular readers will know that in the past I’ve been critical of Apple’s attitude towards its partners in the mobile ecosystem. I have argued that their insistence on controlling and approving everything and on adherence to the Apple way of doing things makes life harder for startups and stifles innovation. Jobs’ Thoughts on Flash published in April were to me symptomatic of Apple’s belief in the superiority of all things Apple and their lack of respect/understanding for their ecosystem partners.
In the last couple of weeks it seems that Apple might be changing.
They have done a bunch of things that many thought they never would:
- Lifted the ban on developers using cross platform tools to develop apps that will run on Apple devices and elsewhere – opening up the possibility that developers could write in Flash
- Started approving apps for Google Voice that they had previously removed from the App Store
- Approved the iSwifter app which brings Flash games to the iPad
- Approved the VLC Media Player app which allows you to play AVI and Quicktime movies without converting them to iTunes
- Brought transparency to the app store approval process by publishing App Store Review Guidelines
Taken together these developments are pretty significant and if Apple continues in this vein then pretty soon the mobile ecosystem will look pretty different. Up until now Apple has dominated the mobile internet/mobile app world and sought to lock everyone else out – a domination based on the twin strengths of devastatingly good hardware and an app store that was far stronger than the competition’s. Their position was sufficiently strong that they felt comfortable forcing developers to make choices between their platform and others (largely Android, Symbian, Blackberry, Windows 7), and despite the significant hassles of dealing with Apple most developers swallowed the pain and went for the platform with the greatest numbers and best payment mechanism.
Now it seems that Apple are bringing the barriers down, and we are taking the first steps towards a world where Apple is (the most important) part of a wider mobile ecosystem rather than an ecosystem in and of itself.
These recent changes might reflect a sudden realisation at Apple that helping their partners ultimately helps them too, or it may be a response to the rise and rise of Android, but either way these developments are welcome. Long may they continue.