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Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Apple: The Hand that Rocks the Cradle...

Last night's Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) had all the drama, surprise and astonishing new announcements that Apple fans all over the world eagerly await for every time Steve Jobs takes the stage.

There is no doubt the announcement of features that MacBook users can expect to see in the latest version Lion operating system, the whole new host of features that we'll see in Apple's iOS5 operating system for Apple's mobility devices and the iCloud service were game changers for Apple (as well as the industry as in general).  However, despite all of this, there was a sense of something not feeling right amongst many Apple enthusiasts, including myself.

Apple has listened and seen what was driving people to other platforms, whether it be BlackBerry (BBM was a big driver for them) or Android (with better widgets, mail and notification systems).  While a lot of what Apple spoke of were things that Apple fans all over the world were always wishing for (whether we were willing to say it or not), the way it all transpired did leave you feeling slightly uncomfortable if you were managing some of the these activities on your device currently by using a third-party App.

At the end of it, you saw Apple simply replicate what dozens of niche App developers like Instapaper, DropBox have done EverNote by simply doing what these Apps do and making them standard features within iOS.
A tweet from Instapaper's founder last night when he
found out Apple was now a competitor, not a partner.

It is one thing when you see Apple try and do what Google, Microsoft, RIM or Amazon did on their devices, as these are big corporations with a lot of muscle power behind them that can battle it out with Apple.  However, when you see a start up like Instapaper get totally bulldozed by the platform that brought them fame, you have to feel bad for them.

As much as Apple always seems to have a halo about it's head, it is starting to appear more like a bully in a playground at times.  It must be insulting for many of the developers who showed up to what was Apple's "developer" conference only to find Apple is developing themselves as competitors to them.

You have to wonder if WhatsApp had a
sense of Apple's iMessage and thus made
their App free on iTunes App Store
last week.
If Apple wanted to replicate these features, they could've just as easily bought over a company like DropBox or Instapaper, where at least the entrepreneur's behind these ventures would've received some reward or recognition.  Apple made it a point to talk about the importance of Apps and App developers and even went as far as to say that US$ 2.5 billion has been paid to App developers by Apple to date.

Apple's actions remind me of the poem by William Rose Wallace, who's poem "The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, is the Hand that Rules the World" sort of symbolizes what we saw yesterday.  Would you want to develop Apps for iOS?  Instead, it may make any budding entrepreneur think twice.  If they do too good a job, they're going to be out of business before they know it because there is always the risk that Apple's going to copy what they did and make it a native feature on their product.

As much as I love Apple products and I'm sure I'll love the new features that'll come in iOS, iCloud and Lion OS, I can't help feeling a little guilty.  We are in a capitalist society after all and big business does often dominate business, but once in a while, you do enjoy rooting for the underdog, especially when you think they're on the verge of making it big.  However, as in life, there are reality checks and many of these dreams are instantly shattered in one keynote address by Steve Jobs and the Apple team.

I do wish these entrerpeneurs are able to pick themselves up, inspire others as well and out of this, hopefully we see the next Facebook, Twitter or Google emerge one day.

Posted By: Ashish Panjabi, Chief Operating Officer, Jacky's Electronics