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iPhone-style App Store Limitation Makes iPad A Tough Sell

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The iPad has been a red-hot topic since Apple unveiled it last week; the tablet's price structure, included hardware, and iPhone-derived UI are all topics that have been debated extensively by tech pundits and enthusiasts across all forms of media. These are salient points of conversation, to be sure, but the question of whether or not potential iPad customers will accept the App Store as the sole source of iPad software, has gone largely unaddressed. The iPhone App Store has been an undeniable success, but consumers may not tolerate the same level of control over their computers as they have over their cell phones.

To date, Apple has been able to win massive market share and appoint itself official gatekeeper of the iPhone for several reasons. Not only is the phone-as-application-platform meme exceedingly new, consumers are used to thinking about cell phones as closed devices. For most of the past 12-13 years, when you bought a phone, you bought whatever applications your carrier included with it. Even after the advent of smartphones, carriers emphasized the features and software a device shipped with, as opposed to the ease and flexibility with which users could select their own apps, from a variety of options. Apple has done quite a bit to drive home this new idea, and the company deserves credit for it, but the level of control the company imposes over the iPhone is absolutely unprecedented in the computing world.  And let's face it, the iPad is competing in the same space as netbooks and other tablet PCs that exist today and will be coming to market in the future.


Your sole source for iPad software...

Imagine that when Microsoft launched Windows 7, it had instituted a new software quality assurance program that required developers who wanted to sell or even give away a Win 7-compatible program to first submit it to Microsoft for approval and verification. Said process would occur opaquely and over an indefinite period of time, according to inconsistently applied rules and standards. Microsoft, meanwhile, reserved the right to kill any app for any reason at any point during or after the initial review, including for such a dubious reason as "duplicating functionality." Any application Microsoft developed (or chose to include with Windows 7) would naturally be exempt from this rule, even if an approved third-party app had established a dominant presence in the market. 

It's preposterous to imagine Microsoft or any other company successfully launching such a scheme around a 'traditional' computer and it's by no means certain that Apple's potential customers are jumping up and down for the privilege, either. True, Macs have always been more of a closed system and software environment versus their PC counterparts, but the level of control Apple plans to leverage over its iPad customers is more stringent than anything a Mac user has ever had to deal with. Apple may ship Safari with Macbooks, for example, but Opera and Firefox are both available. Unless the Cupertino-based manufacturer revises its policies, those are browser options the iPad user base won't have.

There are certain iPod features, including its touch-oriented OS, that will work well on the iPad. It's also going to occupy its own unique niche until/unless Microsoft overhauls Windows 7 to include a true touch-centric GUI. Jobs, meanwhile, has proven extremely successful at predicting what features consumers want and what they're willing to pay for them. The iPad, however, presents a slightly different problem.

The issue here isn't features or pricing, it's freedom. Consumers may not be very interested in paying netbook/notebook-equivalent prices for a comparable device that, in some cases, is locked simply because Jobs declares it so. Why no multitasking on the iPad? Why no Firefox? Modifying your iPhone or iPad to run software other individuals would freely give away shouldn't be a violation of the device's warranty or terms of service—but it is. With the iPad, Apple has an opportunity to introduce a new device in a new space without asking users to give up freedoms they've become accustomed to. How the company treats this question could have a significant and lasting impact on the iPad's overall success.  Is Apple so blinded by their own success that they don't see this? Or is it that Apple is just such a control freak that they don't really care?


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rapid1 replied on Mon, Feb 1 2010 12:23 AM

Rofl Apple is getting mad to. I don't think this entire package was thought through completely to tell you the truth. I think it was rushed together at least partially. Because some of the things such as Flash or at least workaround should have been on at release. Bot that flash is critical to anything, but it is nice to have wide compatibility especially with net application of which Flash and Adobe are big. This I am just using as an example.

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rapid1 replied on Mon, Feb 1 2010 12:27 AM

With a device like this which many will look at as a netbook type device from Apple. Some will look at is as an e-reader in which they have already angered the largest seller of e-readers as well. Some will look at it as a mobile internet device, which I think it is. Leaving out wide used web software compatibility is high value here but they have left some out. You can second guess a software maker, but you don't second guess the web. That is to large to tackle even for apple!

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rapid1 replied on Mon, Feb 1 2010 12:30 AM

Even the final point they could have scored major points with. Leaving the web apps (IE browsers) open to the user they could have put an actual hurt on Microsoft by enabling other browsers. Mozilla has already gained a wide following if they had left this open to it think of the subtraction they could have made from M$. Of course this thing will also in most cases get jail broke soon, like the iPhone.

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...but consumers may not tolerate the same level of control over their computers as they have over their cell phones.

But that's the thing, it's more of a giant iPod Touch than a computer. Now if Apple decided to make the App store mandatory for their Macbook, I'd understand the reasoning, but the iPad is more similar to the iPhone than a fully functional computer.

The App store has been a huge revenue stream for Apple, and I see this "limitation" as another way to strengthen that revenue stream by allowing developers the option of creating apps/games for more than one device.

 

But I do understand the main part of your argument, Joel. Apple is essentially doing what Microsoft would undoubtedly love to do, but would face severe backlash if it tried. It's a good thing that better tablet options (like the recently mention MSI Tegra2 tablet) are available and hopefully this will put pressure on Apple to ease the App store restriction.

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I think they just want to control WHAT gets onto the iPad. Android is an open source platform and there was already that malicious software problem with malware disguised as a banking application. The iPhone has been around longer and hasn't experienced the same problems. If they don't want to deal with potential software destroying the iPad then they're going to keep a tight reign on what can get on it. Makes sense to me.

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ttvinko replied on Mon, Feb 1 2010 11:25 AM

Wow, I dont see what all the fuss is about, I already have an IPhone, I can make and receive calls on it AND it fits in my pocket!

Jess

 

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Inspector replied on Mon, Feb 1 2010 11:31 AM

lol, the fuss is that its bigger then a iphone xD lol jk

But ya i got a iphone to and its better then the ipad as of now, not sure about the future...

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Joel H replied on Mon, Feb 1 2010 11:53 AM

Gibbersome, Sinecure, etc:

If the only reason for the App Store's existence was to ensure "best practices" app development and virus-free code, I don't think folks would have half so much of a problem with it. This, however, is not the case.

Opera had a version of Opera Mini that was iPhone compatible over a year ago. Where is it? Cerulean Studios (the company behind Trillian) submitted the iPhone version of their app on Aug 13. Two months later, on Oct 13, the company posted an update indicating that they had no idea what was going on. I quote:

"Despite sending a steady stream of emails to Apple requesting status updates, we continue to receive generic form letters in response – frustrating, to say the least. As developers, we absolutely understand and appreciate Apple’s need to quality control applications – including the need for additional review time when warranted – but being kept in the dark for two months is a strange way to accomplish this."

http://blog.ceruleanstudios.com/?p=757

Apple did eventually approve Trillian for the iPhone, 37 days later. Keep in mind, this is one of the stories that has a happy ending, in that the company was able to eventually sell the software. If Cerulean had been banking on revenue from a relatively quick approval process, the company would've been SOL.

The argument that Apple is protecting us from malware sounds good when the antagonist is a faceless spectre. What about Google, and Google Voice? Yes, there's now an HTML5-enabled workaround to use the app, but why was that necessary? (I don't buy the "carriers made us" argument). Even if you do, the list of companies large and small that have been impacted by Apple's highly questionable "approval" process is long and getting longer.

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So are we pretending that drivers in the new 64 bit versions of Windows 7 will install if they are not digitally signed by Microsoft?

Or is it only OK when Microsoft makes vendors submit their code for review?

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rapid1 replied on Mon, Feb 1 2010 12:08 PM

Yeah I agree more with gibbersome though. The general user may have dealt with Apple control in the iPhone, but the iPad may be a very different story. Plus the juvenile reaction method being used in the Google, Adobe issues is going to get nobody anywhere.

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JessicaW replied on Mon, Feb 1 2010 12:42 PM

Is this the iPad DEMO you are talking about?

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rapid1 replied on Mon, Feb 1 2010 1:53 PM

Not exactly, but in relation yes. Mainly the Juvenal method of the way this remark is expressed. However like the link you provided to the iPad simulator this device has been out for a mere days. However; someone has put out a simulator for it so you can see what it is like directly. The device as well as all the other OEM's putting out this type of device changes the focus from the consumer level on the market.

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Dave_HH replied on Mon, Feb 1 2010 2:05 PM

@BullBear

We're not speaking of drivers here but software applications and actually yes, unauthorized drivers do install in Windows 7 64-bit with merely a warning message to the user confirming they want to complete the operation. If vendors want to be WHQL certified they have to submit but the OS will still install drivers, apps etc.

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Joel H replied on Mon, Feb 1 2010 2:28 PM

BullBear,

A few points, building on what Dave said:

#1. Driver signing can be disabled entirely in Windows 7. See: http://www.killertechtips.com/2009/05/05/disable-driver-signing-windows-7/

That may also work for Windows Vista 64. If it doesn't, Vista 64 can be manually overridden by pressing F8 and choosing to start the system allowing unsigned drivers. There are freeware applications on the market that will perform this task automatically at startup (although I think you might need to boot off a USB key). Inconvenient? Sure. But not impossible. Note that Microsoft has made no effort to stop users from performing this task and makes the F8 option up-front available.

#2. Even if MS's driver signing *was* equivalent to the App Store's software lockdown, Microsoft's driver signing program is meant to ensure that drivers are properly validated and stable. If you want to know why this sort of program is important, look no further than Vista's launch history. One of the tidbits that came out of the "Vista Capable" lawsuit was that NVIDIA's drivers at launch caused no less than 22 percent of ALL Vista crashes. That's not hearsay, it's from official internal Microsoft documentation. Because NVIDIA had awful drivers, Vista's reputation suffered. That's not meant to blame NV for all the reasons people didn't like Vista, but it certainly contributed to the mess.

#3. Yes, the tinfoil hat crowd has made much of the fact that Microsoft could theoretically do something evil with a driver signing program where DRM is concerned. It's never happened—modern equipment all supports HDCP and watching an HD movie on a computer is as painless as watching it anywhere else. Regardless of how much we dislike baked-in media DRM, and I rather loathe it--media content restrictions are not the same as a single company's attempt to ride herd on *EVERY* program on a system.

Apple wants the iPad to appeal to a wide group of people, including those who might purchase one as a notebook alternative. It may not compete against notebooks in an apple-to-apple comparison, but you can bet the company wants consumers who might otherwise buy a netbook or sub-$1K notebook to eye an iPad instead--especially consumers who already own iPhones.

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rapid1 replied on Mon, Feb 1 2010 5:24 PM

Those are very good point Joel. I still don't get the reality of owning an iPhone or Touch, and an iPhone personally. However; I did not get several things I have seen. I understand them as a concept, but rationally they make no sense to me. As does the thinking development wise on the iPad. The idea is very valid end platform is not at least for a current user. Multi-tasking is almost a foregone thing. So to make a device thats supposed to be something like a netbook, and a better one at that makes no sense. A current netbook will do this out of the box with no issues. You can even get dual core atoms on them and SSD extended memory etc. This is a cool looking device and nothing more than an extended touch with a Apple processor.

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people will buy it simply because its an apple product... Never mind its functionality or any thing like that.... I myself will still resist the apple overlord...

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Cleverboy replied on Wed, Feb 3 2010 10:02 AM

This article is flawed in so many ways. It meanders through a number of otherwise valid comparisons and opinions using haphazard complaints to glue it all together. The author needs to understand what he is criticizing or any attempt at a valid point is lost.

The main issue with the iPad is that it is NOT a netbook, but aspires to fulfill many of the same uses. Like the original name "iPod" implied... the entire line always aspired to be a panacea for thwarting complexity in our lives. An appropriate competing solution would need to use an OS like Android, built for touch screens from the start (not Windows 7 or some other desktop variant, more mature, but hopelessly bloated for the platform).

Even ChromeOS is inappropriate. ChromeOS, still in development, is targeted at netbooks, even though its fast boot-time makes it attractive to appliance applications. The true competitor to the iPad (if the iPad's vision is even a valid one) will NEED to employ its own "App Store" and have a library of applications and developers already deployed.

The beauty of Google's Android Marketplace however, is not that it doesn't mimic the App Store's simplicity, but that it tries to expand on the concept by using auto-filtering on carrier violations and community ratings to moderate its library. Moreover, Android is designed to be able to source applications from anywhere... however, allowing consumers to do these immediately creates huge liabilities if a device is to remain true to the promise of being "hassle-free". Further, Android Market needs to become a true profitable enterprise for developers and add parental controls that can be enacted through the device (like in the App Store). This remains unproven and under development.

The beauty of what Apple has done, has to do with the simple equation they have set up that allows a consumer to pick up a device, make easy app purchases, view email and browse the web, and consumer media types of all kinds (just review the amount of filetypes the mail program can display). Apple makes all of this seems so effortless, people tend to overlook the "use case" question that lies at the heart of any successful product.

@Der Meister

You will always have people that will agree with you. However, the majority of people who've made the iPod and iPhone successful did so, not because of some massive group hysteria, but because of "value" that was expertly communicated from vendor to consumer. You and many of the people commenting in this thread need to recognize that, or the entire discussion is a waste of time that will vanish into history.

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Joel H replied on Wed, Feb 3 2010 8:53 PM

Clever,

"The beauty of what Apple has done, has to do with the simple equation they have set up that allows a consumer to pick up a device, make easy app purchases, view email and browse the web, and consumer media types of all kinds (just review the amount of filetypes the mail program can display). Apple makes all of this seems so effortless, people tend to overlook the "use case" question that lies at the heart of any successful product."

Sure. And while we're at it, you can have your car in any color you want, as long as you want black.

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Inspector replied on Wed, Feb 3 2010 10:33 PM

lmfao joel, its true but if u want simple and easy you can deal with it Smile

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Joel H replied on Thu, Feb 4 2010 9:55 AM

Inspector,

With respect, I think you might've missed my point (and I know Clever did.) This isn't about whether or not Apple provides the best software solution. It's certainly not about whether or not the iPad is a better netbook/tablet/sack of hammers than what anyone else sells.

The point is that Apple's App Store policy literally doesn't allow for competition, even FREE competition, unless Apple decides it does.

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So, how many commenters are ready to eat crow, right about now, considering that the iPad has proven an unmitigated success for Apple, and iPad 2 continues along that route - Apple's biggest problem is keeping them in stock.

One year + later, most of the luddite comments truly look ridiculous to read, including Joel's "predictions" (then again, he's batting the same kinda score with his iPhone prediction, claiming that Apple will have a very difficult time selling any of them... quite funny.)

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In summary - just because all of you *want* Apple to fail, doesn't make it happen. How about you guys all first succeed at something - so far, even the hardware you all tout and endorse isn't managing any sort of success.

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