The controversy over Apple’s App Store banning Google Voice and Ninjawords, a dictionary app, has brought the problem of Apple’s totalitarian control over its products into harsh light. And as Apple is moving to blur the lines between its increasingly sophisticated array of mobile products and its core computer business, the anti-trust are sure to start coming. The explosion is likely to be the theoretical Tablet that is likely to be Apple’s next big offering. If Apple sticks to the App store model for the tablet, that will be almost certainly the match that torches the whole Apple monopoly powder keg.
Apple has been given a mess over its App Store monopoly when it comes to the iTouch and the iPhone, but that can’t last forever. Apple’s excuses are not good enough, and its rejection of Google Voice highlights the reality that buying Apple products means buying into a gated community that exists purely for the profit of Apple and its partners such as AT&T and is meant to keep any outside innovation at bay. That is a dangerous precedent particularly in the light of a situation in which on the Windows side, there is finally a ray light as the Microsoft monopoly is being made irrelevant, only to have a much harsher monopoly emerge on the mobile side that holds the key to the future of mobile computing.
Apple has already discovered that its attempts at absolute control have pitted it in a war with its own users. The constant back and forth tennis match of jailbreaking and bricking have already demonstrated that such control is illusory. The price of moving your product beyond the Mac cult is dealing with a user base that will not simply do what it’s told just because Uncle Steve said so. This hasn’t troubled Apple too much, because of its longstanding contempt for its own customers. But Microsoft’s fate could easily teach Apple some lessons about where that kind of attitude gets you in the long. After a series of disastrous setbacks, Microsoft has begun actually listening to its users. Apple could do worse than copy that change in attitude.