Take a break from the “Apple is a closed system” meme

For just a second, anyhow.

This post was sparked by a discussion on an online group I belong to. Said discussion was itself sparked by this piece in Gawker, which trots out the predictable anti-Apple arguments (Apple is creating a closed ecosystem for its products, etc.) The discussion turned to journalism and the fear that Steve Jobs somehow has media “under his thumb.”

Warning: post has rant-like qualities.


1. Apple is a device company, not a media company. There’s a large misperception that iTunes and the App Store are the major way Apple makes money. And while the company does make money off the iTunes store ($1.1 billion in the last quarter), they made more than $5.3 billion in revenue in the same quarter from selling iPhones (which are hardware devices).

2. iPhones and iPads are a tiny fraction of their respective markets (if you count the iPad as a computer, that is, not as a new class of tablet device). The iPhone has captured about 25% of the U.S. smartphone market, which is about 20% of the overall cell phone market in the U.S. So about 5% of cell phones in the U.S. are iPhones. It’s very hard to argue monopolistic power when a company is leveraging such a tiny portion of the market.

3. Is Apple actually trying to create its own proprietary network where it’s a curator of content? Sure, to an extent. But this is highly overstated — if you’re smart enough to open a Web browser on your iThing (either Safari or Opera), you get the entire Internet.

The iBooks store will feature books from the Apple store … but you can already get Kindle, Nook, Stanza and Olive e-reader apps for the iPad and iPhone (plus a few others that I’m forgetting now). The iPod app on the iPhone and iPad features music from your iTunes library … which you can either buy through iTunes or by importing .mp3 downloads or even music from CDs. (I hear a few people still have those.) And, on the books front, Apple supports the ePub format … which the Kindle does not.

(If you’re looking for a completely closed format, the Kindle is an excellent villain … but no one seems to be going after Amazon.)

4. Even if Apple were to preapprove every bit of content that appeared on an iThing — down to individual news stories — it would probably still have a market for its devices. Which is the entire point. Demand for the iPod/iPad/iPhone operates in an open market. If people don’t want their stuff, they won’t buy it.

Linux is a completely open and free system for desktops. It has about a 2% adoption rate in the U.S.

In my job, I use or have recently used computers running Mac OS 10.5, Mac OS 10.6, iPhone OS 3.1.1, Windows 7, Windows XP, Debian Lenny, Debian Etch, and Ubuntu Jaunty Jackalope. None of them seem to have a monopoly on the market.

Look, there are plenty of threats to journalism out there. You can read about some here.

But I have a hard time thinking Apple is one of them.

OK, end rant. For a cool look at the future of tablet computing, check out this piece from Wired magazine. I especially like this quote (emphasis mine)

Compared to other kinds of information that computers process today, text has an exceptionally small footprint. With the arrival of the tablet, we have crossed a critical threshold: Where text is concerned, we effectively have infinite computational resources, connectivity, and portability. For decades, futurists have dreamed of the “universal book”: a handheld reading device that would give you instant access to every book in the Library of Congress. In the tablet era, it’s no longer technology holding us back from realizing that vision; it’s the copyright holders.

(This was originally posted over at my personal blog. I’m thinking about doing a primer for journalists covering open/closed source topics. Interested? Let me know.)


THE DROID DIARIES: Apps I’m currently missing from my iPod Touch

I’m surprised I can’t find these in the Droid market, but here is a list of some of my favorite iPod Touch/iPhone apps that I currently can’t find:

  • ESPN ScoreCenter. Seriously, nothing from the Worldwide Leader for the Droid? There are a few third-party downloads, but they’re nothing compared to the iPod app.
  • LinkedIn. The iPod app is so stylish and easy to use, I started actually looking at LinkedIn as more than just a resume site. Nothing so far for Droid, though I found one third-party app that by far pales in comparison.
  • Tweetdeck. Nothing from my former favorite mobile Twitter client. But I’ve found a great substitute in Seesmic.
  • Calendar. I covered this in the last Droid Diaries, but I still don’t have a good solution for my calendar problem.

There are also several “fun” apps that I can’t find:

  • PW Torch. It’s a good source for professional wrestling news.
  • AllRecipes. Good source for dinner ideas.
  • Chipotle order app. Dear Chiptole: Droid users love your delicious burritos too. Make it fun for us to order and you won’t be disappointed.

But other than that, I really am enjoying the Droid much more than the iPod Touch for one simple reason: 3G. Being able to access the Internet anywhere is a huge plus for me.

    THE DROID DIARIES: Already had to hit the reset switch once

    I’ve finally joined the SmartPhone revolution and am now in possession of my very own Android phone. A few observations from the past 24 hours that I’ve had it:

    • When you first set up the phone, make sure the Google account you first sign into is the one you want for life. My wife got an identical phone as me, and we got them mixed up. In order to reset the Google account, you have to reset the entire phone to the factory settings. That wasn’t so bad for my wife, since she’d not had as much time to play with hers. But for me, I felt I was too far down the pike to reset.
    • The Google account problem is making it impossible to sync my Google calendar to the Google calendar app. While there is an option for adding another calendar, it doesn’t actually work within the app. Fortunately, the Google calendar is mobile-browser friendly.
    • If you’re into soundboards, the Droid Market has about a billion of them from all of your favorite movies and TV shows. I’ve already opted for Quaqmire quotes.

    So far, the most impressive feature may be the 5 megapixel phone, my first phone that actually includes a flash. Here’s a picture I snapped of my daughter after her pre-Easter binge on candy.