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An OS Vendor

Something Apple will never accept, even begrudgingly.

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NEW YORK (Rixstep) — The editorial board of the New York Times haven't been too happy with Tim Cook's Apple of late.

In their piece 'Why Does Apple Control Its Competitors?' from 2 May, they really tear the company apart.

'Regulators should take a close look at the iPhone App Store', they say in their subheader.

Of course the Mac Media™ - along with Apple people themselves - immediately scrambled.

Who are these people and what is this editorial board?

Here are photos of fourteen of them.

You can read more about them by clicking on this link.

The editorial board is composed of 16 journalists with wide-ranging areas of expertise. Their primary responsibility is to write The Times's editorials, which represent the voice of the board, its editor and the publisher. The board is part of The Times's editorial department, which is operated separately from The Times's newsroom, and includes the Letters to the Editor and Op-Ed sections.

So what do they say about Apple, in particular Apple's notorious App Store?

Apple's App Store

'Of the 17 most popular screen-time and parental-control apps in the App Store, 11 have been removed or restricted by Apple', they begin.

'The actions by Apple highlight the inherent tension in the company's fierce control over its mobile operating system'

'Fierce' is an operative word. And, so far, it applies mostly to what they today call 'iOS'. From their wobbly start with everything frolicking wildly like babes in the wood, they morphed it all into a walled prison garden with codesigning, root certificates, kernel enforcement, and who knows how many other atrocities. 'Jailbreaking' became a 'thing'.

'On the one hand, the closed environment is a boon to consumer privacy because the company has the leverage to insist upon it; on the other hand, that environment fosters a kind of monopoly.'

It's doubtful that a closed environment is a boon to privacy: one becomes dependent on a single overseer that one must trust. But it's definitely a monopoly, as Apple control the root certificates.

'This isn't the first time that the company has cracked down on products sold in its App Store.'

Nor is 'cracking down' new. Ask Dan Wood. Ask the people behind Konfabulator. Apple never liked independent software vendors. Dan Wood was considered the first such success; look what happened to him.

'Apple's management of the App Store is also dangerously reminiscent of the anti-competitive behavior that triggered United States v. Microsoft'

Oh if ever. Our sister site covered it extensively. What may not be apparent to outsiders is how much Bill Gates and Jim Allchin 'cheated' to win points with the judge. Developers with the proper tools saw what was going on.

As the trial progressed, Microsoft kept migrating more and more standard system APIs to MSIE DLLs to thwart TP's attempts to remove Internet Explorer from Windows.

Those are the types of dirty tricks that OS vendors play. Sometimes they're caught, sometimes they're not.

'In the mid-1990s, Microsoft began to bundle its Internet Explorer browser with Windows, moving to elbow competing browsers - primarily, Netscape - out of the picture.'

Billg got caught with his trousers down (perhaps his pants too). Windows 94, code name 'Chicago', was delayed a year. Bill feared an anti-trust suit over Compuserve, and temporarily shut down MSN. Microsoft's OLE objects were proving to be a kludge on that Internet thing, leading to the crisis technology known as 'ActiveX'. And in that book The Road Ahead one saw that he really didn't 'get it' as regards Tim Berners-Lee's invention.

Netscape Navigator for Windows, based on code from a university in Illinois, sold for $20 back in those days, and it was a de facto standard. Billg approached people from the same institution of higher learning, and reached an agreement to licence their own browser code, similar to Netscape's. But clever Bill agreed only to pay royalties for the code - he never intended to actually sell his own browser.

The other party, Spyglass, were so embarrassed at having been duped by WHG3 that they removed all mention of the deal from their website. And now Bill started dumping 'Internet Explorer' on the market: computer stores had huge bins with free diskettes with the new and free Microsoft web browser.

But it didn't stop there. Through their dangerous 'licence agreements', Microsoft held OEMs in a vice-like grip, and one of the things you had to do in order to qualify for the needed rebates on Windows was make sure your customers had a difficult time getting the Netscape browser. Even IBM got chastised by Billg!

And yes, Microsoft lost that DOJ lawsuit, but nothing changed. Billg brought in his army of lawyers and even judge TP got in trouble!

Those are the types of dirty tricks that OS vendors play. Sometimes they're caught, sometimes they're not.

'In some ways, Microsoft's conduct was more egregious than Apple's appears to be today - internal documents outlined a clear strategy to 'leverage' Windows to increase Internet Explorer's market share and ultimately dominate the browser market.'

Yes. TP's researchers covered it excellently. The danger, as perceived by Billg, was that independent software vendors would find a way to circumvent control by the OS vendor. Windows was essentially irrelevant; Billg needed to turn back the hands of time.

'The company also entered into agreements with various service providers to optimise sites for Internet Explorer but not other browsers.'

Yes. A dirty trick that they called 'embrace and extend'. First, lily-white Microsoft would appear to embrace and support an 'open standard'; then, they'd send their Ringwraith out into the world to sell Microsoft's 'extensions' to these 'open standards' to a bevy of select customers - the idea being to break open standards and make the entire 3rd rock dependent on Redmond.

'Apple's operating system for mobile devices makes it almost impossible to get an app outside of the App Store that will work on an Apple phone.'

Not just 'almost': unless you can 'jailbreak' your device, you're completely dependent on Apple.

All software must be codesigned with a root certificate owned by Apple.

'Ultimately, the company controls what a user can or cannot do on their own iPhone.'

Quite. Operative word: 'own'. You bought it, you own it. No need to come cap in hand. Get it?

'Apple also takes up to a 30 percent cut of in-app revenue'

Yes, but they studiously avoid expressing it that way - they always say the independent software vendors get to (generously) keep 70% of their own revenue!!one!

'Because all apps go through the App Store, this 30 percent cut is nearly unavoidable.'

'Nearly'? Yet who knows what deals have been struck with the big league players.

'You currently can't buy a Kindle ebook through the Kindle mobile app... Spotify, a much smaller company, now pays Apple between 15 and 30 percent of its in-app revenue in order to serve streaming music to its premium subscribers.'

Now the conclusions of the board:

'Even if we take Apple at its word that it was only protecting the privacy and security of its users by removing screen-time and parental-control apps, the state of the app marketplace is troubling.'

'Why is a company - with no mechanism for democratic oversight - the primary and most zealous guardian of user privacy and security? Why is one company in charge of vetting what users can or cannot do on their phones, especially when that company also makes apps that compete in a marketplace that it controls?'


'The status quo is untenable. It's time for regulators to take a good hard look at app stores and mobile operating systems. It might be time for another United States v Microsoft.'

An OS vendor should concentrate on providing the best possible OS. No more.

Some basic utilities must be available. ed or edlin help get the clients off to a good start.

This page shows how NeXT treated independent software vendors: they embraced them.

As did IBM before them. And for IBM, it meant a sea change in corporate policy: they'd enjoyed monopolies, both horizontal and vertical, in the mainframe market. But they understood that, in new markets, a free independent market was essential.

That's something Apple will never accept, even begrudgingly.

We will never do music. We will never do video iPod. We will never do phone. We will never go Intel.
 - '9toX'
For you Apple apologists claiming Apple will never lock down the Mac, step one is in place and you all let it happen.
 - Ron Gilbert

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