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The House that Apple Built

Somebody feeling comfortably numb? Anyone check the foundation?

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PORTOROŽ (Rixstep) — The House that Apple built might be in a bit of danger. On several fronts.

1. Market Cap

The company that first broke the 'glass ceiling' of the trillion-dollar market cap dropped down to $746 billion. And Microsoft (yes, Microsoft, at $753 billion) are the new #1.

2. Monopoly

It's been looking like the US Supreme Court will hear a class action suit against Apple. The claim is that Apple artificially jacked up prices in the App Store. Which is at least indirectly true. A few of the links found at MacSurfer.


3. The House that Apple Built

Things were different back in the day. All Mac owners got a free 'Mac' webmail account, and online services were free. Steve promised.

There was a great interest at Apple in curating a greater interest in Apple. There were any number of newsletters sent out by Apple at frequent intervals. Virginia Tech made Apples into one of the ten most powerful supercomputers in the world.

All developer tools were available without registration. Apple's was an open and free platform.


And so forth.


Then things started to change. Today, everything is closed down, shuttered and tight.

Here's a typical page of Apple documentation for today. Count how many times you see the word 'deprecated'.


The M of others MV, but other platforms don't do like this - they don't go deprecating the F out of stuff. Doug McIlroy would have a fit. So do a lot of people. It's just wrong. Watching Ali Ozer at the WWDC talk about how they're now deprecating MACROS... There's a limit. And Apple passed it long ago.

Of course, the above presumes that Apple wouldn't be out to kill all third-party competition, save for the rinky-dinkiest titles (and the big league players - they get Apple to hold their hands).

It's like with the App Store: individually, from the point of view from a vendor with only an editor or a FTP client to maintain, these unsettling moments can be dealt with in a day or less. But from Apple's point of view... That's not something anyone wants to think about. And from the POV of a major software house, it's tantamount to outright sabotage.

Most OS vendors understand that it's the third-party market that makes or breaks their platform. But not Apple. Apple should have been happy for Dan Wood. But they weren't - they destroyed him. They should have been happy with Konfabulator. But they weren't - they scraped it off their Dashboard.

The App Store isn't much different. Perhaps an ISV can put together a nifty app in a few hours of moonlighting. And keeping 70% of your own money might still be a wad of cash, if presence in the App Store boosts exposure.

But look at if from Apple's POV. The ISVs don't get vacation pay. Or healthcare. Or a dental plan. Or a company car. Or a red cent. Imagine having a work force where you didn't have to pay anyone. Not a cent. And when someone actually did something you like, you marketed it for them - and kept 30% for yourself. How can you lose?

As if all those ISV products are actually your products. They have to conform to your tastes and styles. They can't be too powerful. They can't show you up. They can't, for example, engage in privilege escalation (only yours can do that). They have to be sandboxed (and given specific limitations which are seductively called 'entitlements').

They have to conform to the whims of a HI group. In short: they have to look like they were made by Apple. The fact, that everyone knows how stringent things are, puts a seal of approval on it all. Some bad stuff does sneak on, as Apple are undoubtedly more keen on checking form than function. But still and all...

So - would you want to work for an employer like that? Oh yeah - one more thing: you have to pay them cash up front just for the privilege of thereafter being ignored by them from then on. It's an 'Apple-tax'...

Oh and here's another kicker: if your customers discover a bug or a security vulnerability, you can't automatically roll out a fix for them - you have to wait for your employer to approve. You know, the employer who isn't quite employing you.

Your employer can have a change of heart - that's this employer's right. At first, your product seemed to be the bee's knees, but suddenly they don't like you anymore. Hopefully your customers will find their way to your own website (if you have one) and figure out what's up, but if it's an iOS app, you're SOL, because you need Apple's certificate to run. You might still be able to run the version that needed the fix, but...

And the most important thing is: you don't have control. You can't exercise your responsibility towards your customers.

Your reputation? You don't have one - your employer does. And that employer is very protective of that reputation.

You're just a name in an about box - if anyone ever sees it...

Apple aren't directly responsible for high prices. Not directly. But if their 'employees' want to recuperate their costs, want to compensate for the 30% Apple take off the top, then yes, prices definitely go up.

Does anyone remember the chitchat between Bill Gates and Steve Bass? How badly AOL wanted an icon on the Windows desktop?

Upstream flow is very big. We built applications for websites who wanted on the desktop to get people to their websites, applications that got glowing reviews in the media. The Apple App Store can be a big deal.

Or maybe not, in the greater 'food chain' scheme of things? The small fry getting overlooked (or eaten alive) by the big fry?

Creativity dies. Users don't notice. They just feel a bit numb.

Comfortably numb.

An operating system is supposed to be a system that makes computers operate. Linus said (correctly) that an operating system should be invisible. But that doesn't work in the commercial world. We get features this way, features that way, new tints, interface doodads, light mode, dark mode...

And we keep changing the underbody so our 'contract employees' have to keep on changing code that on any other platform would run forever. They get to keep on rewriting the same code, over and over again, we get to create new products, and drive those naïve trespassers out.

IBM had to suffer in pain to get their PC to the market. They had to go against their most treasured principles. A company that got hit by Sherman Antitrust. They had crippling purchase agreements, a vertical monopoly, and, in the mainframe market, an effective horizontal monopoly. Introducing the PC had to change all that. They knew they had to let the competition in. For it was the level of competition that determined how successful their platform would be.

At Microsoft it's been the same thing. That strategy - that insight - made Bill Gates the richest crook in the world.

But it's not Apple's way.

At the same time, there's a move on to dumb software engineering down. It's been happening in academia for some time, but it seems Apple found a way to monetise it. Swift is more than a reversion to NW and 'procedural' - it's an overall dumbing-down.

'Part of Swift's edge is that it's built for the average programmer...'
'Like C, Swift uses variables to store and refer to values by an identifying name...'
'I made major contributions to design and implementation of the 'blocks' language feature...'
'The Xcode Playgrounds feature and REPL were a personal passion of mine, to make programming more interactive and approachable...'
'I hope that by making programming more approachable and fun...'
'A lot of people were really put off by Objective-C and its unusual syntax...'

'Traditionally, there was a gap between compiled programming languages, such as Objective-C and C++, and interpreted languages, such as Python and Ruby and PHP. With compiled languages, after you wrote your code, you had to wait for your compiler to turn it into executable software, but once it was built, this executable software ran extremely fast. Interpreted languages let you test your program nearly instantly, but in the end, it didn't run as quickly.'

'Swift bridges this gap, giving you the best of both worlds...'
'It still remains to be seen how this will work out...'

That old 200-300 gap between the 'rest' and the 'best' that Steve Jobs talked about? Doesn't apply anymore. Not even the traditional 2-3. Tim's goal today is to make it all straight-out flat.

Programming for Dummies doesn't work. It's been tried. Many times. In many countries. But don't tell him. Give Mike Dell a bell.

4. Thurrott

Now for a change of pace, for something completely different, to lighten things up a bit. A link.


Rob Enderle's still around somewhere?

About Rixstep

Stockholm/London-based Rixstep are a constellation of programmers and support staff from Radsoft Laboratories who tired of Windows vulnerabilities, Linux driver issues, and cursing x86 hardware all day long. Rixstep have many years of experience behind their efforts, with teaching and consulting credentials from the likes of British Aerospace, General Electric, Lockheed Martin, Lloyds TSB, SAAB Defence Systems, British Broadcasting Corporation, Barclays Bank, IBM, Microsoft, and Sony/Ericsson.

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