Mr. Jobs, Tear Down This wall

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If Apple wanted to stand the world on its ear next Wednesday at the It’s Only Rock and Roll But We Like It event in San Francisco, the company would announce it is opening iPhone software development to all comers and is dropping the facade of exclusive distribution through the iTunes App Store.

Heresy, you say? Perhaps in the eyes of some, but read on to learn why those two moves would be best for the company, the platform, for developers and – most of all – consumers.

The original justification for tightly controlling the development environment for third-party iPhone software was that the iPhone and Apple’s mobile operating system were new things in the world, markers of a journey mankind was just beginning – Apple owed it to the brand and to its customers to make sure development was done right.

Fair enough. But that was two years ago. The platform is on its third major firmware iteration. How the iPhone works and how software needs to be built to integrate with its operating system is well-known by anyone who might take an interest in the matter. It’s being taught in schools.

Apple loses nothing by making freely, publicly available the current version of the iPhone SDK and saying, “developers of the world, take your best shot.”

The company could still maintain an “official” iPhone SDK community, collect developer registration fees and even prioritize release of new features to those willing to work in the “certified” environment.

But letting anyone else have a crack at it would only lead to more innovation and would also gain Apple invaluable goodwill in a world that has lately come to view the company’s former good guy/underdog reputation with healthy measures of skepticism and even scorn.

Developers would benefit by getting access to what is clearly the most well thought-out mobile OS, access that would only increase developer interest in the platform, ensure its continued refinement, growing exponentially the lead Apple’s head start already gave it over Palm, Android and Windows mobile OSs. Now is not the time to let competitors catch up while Apple is busy trying to keep its genie in the bottle.

Among the many great innovations Apple has produced over the years, perhaps none has been more successful while at the same time generating more negative publicity than the App Store.

With the App Store, Apple revolutionized the market for software distribution and by prevailing accounts it has been a winner for the company and for developers alike. But at what cost to the brand, and at what cost to the company’s formerly god-like reputation among developers?

Gatekeepers, censors, tyrannical, inscrutable, secrecy obsessed, maddeningly inconsistent, uncommunicative, capricious, unfathomable bastards the Apple iPhone Software Review Team has been called.

Phil Schiller has been forced to hand-hold and publicly make up with prominent bloggers and developers who have had it up to here with the company’s App Store policies, all of which has tarnished what ought to be seen as an unqualified revolution in the way ideas come to market.

It doesn’t have to be that way. It’s not that way for developers and consumers who trade in 3rd party software for the Mac. There’s a ton of great software out there and developers make good money working to meet the needs and desires of Mac users worldwide. Why shouldn’t it be the same for iPhone users?

Again, the original justification was that nothing like it had ever been done, so everything had to be tightly controlled. But as we’ve seen, the beta period is over. The horses have left the barn and it’s time to let them run free.

Keep the App Store, by all means. It’s a great product, convenient and easy to use for consumers, and an invaluable marketing platform for developers who calculate their best route to success through its portal.

But it doesn’t have to be the exclusive means for putting useful software on a device consumers spend hundreds of dollars on. The world is not going to come to an end – everyone’s iPhone will not stop working – if a bonehead developer releases a piece of crapware and it gets on to someone’s device.

The market itself will root out the diamonds and pearls – that’s what a free market economy does, isn’t it?

Consider this scenario: next Wednesday, Phil Schiller takes the stage at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center and announces iTunes 9 with shiny new things like cool album cover art options and drag and drop application organizing features, even pre-made ringtones.

We get new iPods for the Holidays, maybe some awesome added features to the iPod Touch, and it looks like the show is gonna be over. People are starting to think, “ho hum,” when Schiller says, “…and there’s just one more thing…”

Steve Jobs comes out to a tumultuous ovation and says to the assembled press, “During my absence I’ve been doing a lot of looking and listening and I’ve heard the call – Mr. Jobs, tear down this wall. Starting today, we’re announcing an unbounded horizon for the greatest mobile device and mobile operating system the world has ever seen…”

Apple stock could hit $200 by Wednesday’s market close.

The original justification for tightly controlling the development environment for third-party iPhone software was that the iPhone and Apple’s mobile operating system were new things in the world, markers of a journey mankind was just beginning – Apple owed it to the brand and to its customers to make sure development was done right.

Fair enough. But that was two years ago. The platform is on its third major firmware iteration. How the iPhone works and how software needs to be built to integrate with its operating system is well-known by anyone who might take an interest in the matter. It’s being taught in schools.

Apple loses nothing by making freely, publicly available the current version of the iPhone SDK and saying, “developers of the world, take your best shot.”

The company could still maintain an “official” iPhone SDK community, collect developer registration fees and even prioritize release of new features to those willing to work in the “certified” environment.

But letting anyone else have a crack at it would only lead to more innovation and would also gain Apple invaluable goodwill in a world that has lately come to view the company’s former good guy/underdog reputation with healthy measures of skepticism and even scorn.

Developers would benefit by getting access to what is clearly the most well thought-out mobile OS, access that would only increase developer interest in the platform, ensure its continued refinement, growing exponentially the lead Apple’s head start already gave it over Palm, Android and Windows mobile OSs. Now is not the time to let competitors catch up while Apple is busy trying to keep its genie in the bottle.

Among the many great innovations Apple has produced over the years, perhaps none has been more successful while at the same time generating more negative publicity than the App Store.

With the App Store, Apple revolutionized the market for software distribution and by prevailing accounts it has been a winner for the company and for developers alike. But at what cost to the brand, and at what cost to the company’s formerly god-like reputation among developers?

Gatekeepers, censors, tyrannical, inscrutable, secrecy obsessed, maddeningly inconsistent, uncommunicative, capricious, unfathomable bastards the Apple iPhone Software Review Team has been called.

Phil Schiller has been forced to hand-hold and publicly make up with prominent bloggers and developers who have had it up to here with the company’s App Store policies, all of which has tarnished what ought to be seen as an unqualified revolution in the way ideas come to market.

It doesn’t have to be that way. It’s not that way for developers and consumers who trade in 3rd party software for the Mac. There’s a ton of great software out there and developers make good money working to meet the needs and desires of Mac users worldwide. Why shouldn’t it be the same for iPhone users?

Again, the original justification was that nothing like it had ever been done, so everything had to be tightly controlled. But as we’ve seen, the beta period is over. The horses have left the barn and it’s time to let them run free.

Keep the App Store, by all means. It’s a great product, convenient and easy to use for consumers, and an invaluable marketing platform for developers who calculate their best route to success through its portal.

But it doesn’t have to be the exclusive means for putting useful software on a device consumers spend hundreds of dollars on. The world is not going to come to an end – everyone’s iPhone will not stop working – if a bonehead developer releases a piece of crapware and it gets on to someone’s device.

The market itself will root out the diamonds and pearls – that’s what a free market economy does, isn’t it?

Consider this scenario: next Wednesday, Phil Schiller takes the stage at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center and announces iTunes 9 with shiny new things like cool album cover art options and drag and drop application organizing features, even pre-made ringtones.

We get new iPods for the Holidays, maybe some awesome added features to the iPod Touch, and it looks like the show is gonna be over. People are starting to think, “ho hum,” when Schiller says, “…and there’s just one more thing…”

Steve Jobs comes out to a tumultuous ovation and says to the assembled press, “During my absence I’ve been doing a lot of looking and listening and I’ve heard the call – Mr. Jobs, tear down this wall. Starting today, we’re announcing an unbounded horizon for the greatest mobile device and mobile operating system the world has ever seen…”

Apple stock could hit $200 by Wednesday’s market close.

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