Apple's Trouble Handling Success - InformationWeek

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3/10/2009
01:46 PM
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn
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Apple's Trouble Handling Success

Apple's role as benevolent dictator of the iPhone ecosystem has pluses and minuses. Lately, however, it has become apparent that the company can't manage the control it insists upon. It risks becoming an incompetent dictator, and that's the kind of regime that's prone to collapse.

Apple's role as benevolent dictator of the iPhone ecosystem has pluses and minuses. Lately, however, it has become apparent that the company can't manage the control it insists upon. It risks becoming an incompetent dictator, and that's the kind of regime that's prone to collapse.I won't dwell on what Apple has done right. The iPhone's success speaks for that. As an iPhone owner and newbie iPhone developer, I can say that the iPhone has plenty going for it, even if I'm not thrilled by the high cost of ownership.

The problem is that Apple's insistence on control needs to be accompanied by competent, fair oversight.

A year into Apple's decision to open the iPhone to third-party developers, the licenses it offered to developers have begun to expire. But according to developers who signed on at the beginning, like Erica Sadun, Apple had not yet implemented a process to renew ADC memberships or to update iTunes Connect contracts.

Though Apple has reportedly assured developers that applications in the iTunes Store will not be removed due to this technicality, the company's failure to have working systems in place to handle the control it insists upon suggests Apple needs to do more to deal with iPhone growing pains.

Apple isn't just having trouble scaling its management capabilities to match the growth of its developer community. It's also having trouble representing the wealth of new iPhone apps in the iTunes Store.

As a local music jukebox application, iTunes is pretty good. But it falls short as a browser substitute, and there's no competition. Those who remember the stagnation of the Web browser between the death of Netscape and the birth of Firefox may see similar stasis in the development of iTunes. iTunes is just not a very good interface for everything it's trying to be.

Plenty of others have observed the issues with iTunes as an application. Apple needs to make it better or, better yet, allow some competition.

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