Did Apple Just Take Away More of our Independence?

by francine Hardaway on June 6, 2011

Apple made a big announcement today, and more than 50,000 people watched it online through various pirate video streams, not to mention how many must have followed it on Twitter, or through live blogs. A very thin, almost pitiable-looking Steve Jobs turned on the charm to announce the next big OSX release, Lion, and the details of IOS5 (no new iPhone this time). After a series of demos by other people, Jobs came back to announce the long-awaited iCloud, an online service similar to Google and Amazon that can hold files, contacts, calendars, mail, photos, music, and everything else you need in your personal or professional life.

But what did Apple REALLY do today? It threw  a bunch of its best app developers under the bus.

Well, this all took place at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference, happening this week in San Francisco. The purpose of the conference is to get developers jazzed about developing for the OSX and IOS platforms, and in the past it has engendered the biggest App Store in history. Almost every app developer starts with an app for IOS, and then goes to Android and on to the also-rans.

Of course Facebook and Twitter have done this before, and people have moaned and groaned and tweaked their business models and tried to move on, never saying a bad word about the big Behemoth that just swallowed their little income stream.

But I wonder if Apple has just looked its best gift horses in the mouth. Or maybe the gift horses themselves must this time learn the lesson they seem not to have learned before: don’t develop on someone else’s platform if you want a sustainable business, for the better you are, the more transient your business will be.

The behemoth will, best case scenario, buy you and shut you down (Google and all the little companies that were aggregated into Google Docs), leaving you with a job in a large corporation, or — worst case — roll out what you have sacrificed your lifeblood for as a small feature in a big announcement.

This happened to a number of great applications today. The New York Times has a list of some of them, including DropBox, Evernote, Instapaper, Readability, and Boxcar.

Many things Apple announced today were solutions that have been around for a while re-worked by the Steve Jobs reality distortion field. Suddenly, we think they are all new. Especially if we are not geeks. For the geeks, these announcements weren’t so earth-shattering:

I have used Dropbox to put all my files in the cloud so I can work from any device. It has worked wonderfully. I have used Google Docs as my productivity application since it arrived on the scene, since it, too, is device-independent. Evernote stores much of my blog drafts, recipes, and less important passwords, in addition to saving things for me to read later.

So did we need much of what was announced today? Not nearly as much as Apple did.

Apple needed all these new things to create lock-in, because certain of its offerings were already leaking customers: last month I uploaded all my music to Amazon and I can stream it back to myself from anywhere. I can also buy music on Amazon. MobileMe was so bad that I fled to Google for my email, calendar, and contacts (although Google’s interface is nothing to write home about). But now that it has put all this stuff in one offering and made it all so easy, we will probably default to Apple.  The way we default to Facebook. Or Twitter.

Apple just did the same things Facebook always does: scan the horizon, see what its users are using most, and launch that within the walled garden. With Facebook, the latest big one was check-ins. Now Apple has also launched integrated tweets in its next OS release. Good-bye all other Twitter apps that Twitter itself hasn’t already killed.

Once in his blog, Jeff Jarvis referred to the Internet and the “Schminternet.” He was talking about the telcos, and how if we didn’t have net neutrality, there would only be parts of the internet available to those who couldn’t pay a premium. I feel like with Apple and Facebook, we might be in danger of the same type of limitation: a curated version of the internet (curated by FB and Apple) according to their terms of service.

Now I’m not saying either Apple of Facebook are malicious. They are just competitive. They want to WIN. And if to win they have to bury their developers every now and then, so be it. And if they also have to bury their customers, um…that’s our decision.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Doug Wolfgram June 6, 2011 at 10:57 pm

Excellent insight. I am getting more and more skeptical about the cloud. I guess we’d better forget privacy. If you want to destroy s document on your computer, there are ways to do it. But once it is on the cloud, who knows. I am not ready to trust my life to some IT center with support people in India who have access to all of my information.  Paranoid? Probably. Why not?

hardaway June 6, 2011 at 11:09 pm

I have lots of files in the cloud, but I want to choose which ones. My
music is not private, but some of my documents are. And I don’t want
to have all my archive in one place anyway. I will see how this

Alex Williams June 7, 2011 at 1:09 am

Francine – the ownership question is relevant, isn’t it? We still need the capability to control what we own to some extent, right?

hardaway June 7, 2011 at 1:32 am

Exactly. That’s why I am only half way into the cloud:-)

Rich June 8, 2011 at 5:11 pm

Recently, I’ve been trying to get funding for a PaaS EMR system. No bites so far. But, if I want funding for a “single menu option feature” then yes, no problem.

Today’s small companies built around a single feature aren’t being thrown under the bus. They have no sizable business, they are just a feature or three. Actually, there is no need to do a seperate business for many of these ideas. They should be part of a list of offerings at a larger organization.

But, if you want to flip companies for some capital gains then you start a bunch of tiny ones. Times are tough. It’s a numbers game. People don’t have the resources to build full-fledge *organizations* right now. So, investors are flipping.

Rich Emailz June 8, 2011 at 5:19 pm

The cloud is not all about spreading data around. That’s just what people are focusing on because of the fear of data ownership and security.
The cloud brings some really great “web sharing” concepts to platforms that are much more valuable then pooling server storage.
If you want to talk more email me rich.emailz at g mail.

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