The Null Device
Paul "Hackers and Painters" Graham on why Apple's heavy-handed grip on the iPhone threatens Apple:
The way Apple runs the App Store has harmed their reputation with programmers more than anything else they've ever done. Their reputation with programmers used to be great. It used to be the most common complaint you heard about Apple was that their fans admired them too uncritically. The App Store has changed that. Now a lot of programmers have started to see Apple as evil.
I just bought a new 27" iMac a couple days ago. It's fabulous. The screen's too shiny, and the disk is surprisingly loud, but it's so beautiful that you can't make yourself care. So I bought it, but I bought it, for the first time, with misgivings. I felt the way I'd feel buying something made in a country with a bad human rights record. That was new. In the past when I bought things from Apple it was an unalloyed pleasure. Oh boy! They make such great stuff. This time it felt like a Faustian bargain. They make such great stuff, but they're such assholes. Do I really want to support this company?Apple's mistakes are to treat software (a complex commodity which involves an ongoing relationship between the provider and the customer) the same way as they do recorded music (a simple commodity, purchased once, and amenable to being sold by a middleman), and generally screwing up the developer-user relationship with its onerous approval policies, whilst also alienating potential talent who might otherwise have worked for them:
If your company seems evil, the best programmers won't work for you. That hurt Microsoft a lot starting in the 90s. Programmers started to feel sheepish about working there. It seemed like selling out. When people from Microsoft were talking to other programmers and they mentioned where they worked, there were a lot of self-deprecating jokes about having gone over to the dark side. But the real problem for Microsoft wasn't the embarrassment of the people they hired. It was the people they never got. And you know who got them? Google and Apple. If Microsoft was the Empire, they were the Rebel Alliance. And it's largely because they got more of the best people that Google and Apple are doing so much better than Microsoft today.
But the other reason programmers are fussy, I think, is that evil begets stupidity. An organization that wins by exercising power starts to lose the ability to win by doing better work. And it's not fun for a smart person to work in a place where the best ideas aren't the ones that win.Graham also includes this memorable observation:
When you look at the famous 1984 ad now, it's easier to imagine Apple as the dictator on the screen than the woman with the hammer. In fact, if you read the dictator's speech it sounds uncannily like a prophecy of the App Store.We have triumphed over the unprincipled dissemination of facts.We have created, for the first time in all history, a garden of pure ideology, where each worker may bloom secure from the pests of contradictory and confusing truths.