Saturday, October 23, 2010

Move zig. (CATS Ballmer: All your OS are belong to us.)

Dave Winer's post "Amazingly, a killer app of OSes is possible" obviously proceeded to a different conclusion, but as he went through his argument, he made an observation in passing that struck me more than his final point.

And with Apple closing its channel more and more, Microsoft has the possibility to zig to their zag, and make their channel even more open to entrepreneurship.

Zig. Zag. I love it. Makes Microsoft sound like our favorite video game introduction.

For those who haven't followed the story, Apple is moving closer and closer to a model in which Apple not only supplies the operating software AND the hardware, but also the applications. Not that Apple will write all the applications, but Apple is becoming the avenue via which you get your applications. The latest manifestation of this is the Mac App Store, which will allow you to easily install applications on your Macintosh computer.

Applications created by developers whose applications have been approved by Apple. Approval means:

"[T]o ensure that apps are reliable, perform as advertised, and free of offensive material, we will review every app on the Mac App Store based on a set of Mac App Store Review Guidelines that we are ready to share with you. These guidelines are designed to help you create and prepare your apps so they will sail through our approval process.

According to AppleInsider, the guidelines prohibit apps that crash, beta apps, apps that duplicate other apps, apps that encourage excessive consumption of illegal drugs (uh, where did Steve go to school?), apps that implement their own copy protection...and

[a]pps that use deprecated or optionally installed technologies (e.g., Java, [PowerPC code requiring] Rosetta)...

As far as I know, no overt moves have been made yet to lock down the Mac so that the Mac App Store is the ONLY way to get Mac applications. But that is theoretically a possibility in the future.

The next move belongs to the developers. Ballmer, Jobs, and everyone else are dependent upon the developers - no matter how wonderful their platform is, users won't use the platform if they can't find applications for it.

In the 1980s, Apple was in a precarious situation. They were managing to attract some brand new developers to the Macintosh platform, but the number of Mac applications was vastly lower than the number of DOS apps. And to complicate things, one of the main Mac developers happened to be Microsoft (a wonderful example of co-opetition).

Apple is doing a lot better attracting developers today. And it's certainly possible that the new policies may cause a few developers to wonder if it's worth it to develop for the Mac. If it's only a few developers who bolt, no problem for Apple. But if a number of developers bolt - or even if a number of developers remain, but consider the Mac a secondary market for development after the Windows and Linux versions are released = then Apple may have shot itself in its insanely great foot.

And it's not just the developers who could cause trouble. Apple has already picked a fight with Adobe, and the moves against Java may, or may not, result in a fight between Apple and Oracle. Wouldn't it be ironic if Oracle, who was initially perceived to be the killer of Java, ends up becoming a staunch defender of Java against the evil Apple empire? (Or, to put it another way, What Will Larry Do?)

In the meantime, it's possible that there are people whose life-views have been suddenly shattered by the revelation that Steve Jobs is not God. And it's even possible that these people may discovered that there's an operating system out there called Windows. And it's even possible - call this a stretch, but it's possible - that these people may buy Windows, sending Windows well above its paltry 88.92% market share.
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