Apple’s decision to restrict the iPhone to Apple generated software is a controversial one. Whilst going against the grain of everything open standards and user-generated, it’s not a bad decision if viewed through the lens of innovation.
As a company Apple is innovation to many of it’s most committed customers, me included. Innovation has to be viewed as a mindset, a strategic commitment and equally valid in its radical and incremental/evolutionary forms.
I’ view Apple as an innovation exemplar because it combines both approaches.
There’s lots of examples such as moving from OS9 to OSX – both radical for using FreeBSD as the foundation, and incremental in the maintenance of the Classic environment. The move to Intel has been even more evolutionary with the creation of Universal applications. The launch of the iPod was radical for Apple as a business but evolutionary in the market. The iPhone also is radical for Apple as a company and thus parenting their patents makes a lot of sense.
As a user, my view is that Apple has parented it’s developers in an appropriate way. It’s given them great frameworks to create wonderful tools. Perhaps not with the same degree of freedom as Linux users enjoy, but then again, I’m sold on the experience which is not the simple utility of the software, but the joy of using the software. I haven’t experienced anything like it on any other platform. Because Apple insists on a set of values, which translate into quality standards, when put together, they keep the Mac platform way ahead of Windows and Linux in user experience terms and over the last fifteen years I’ve used every version of windows, given Gnome and K on linux a fair crack, but at the end of the day, the values inherent in Apple’s mission to provide tools to the benefit of society are in my opinion reflected in their user interfaces.
As a parent I’m well aware of the challenge of instilling values, ideas and rules that create stable and creative environments for children to grow up in. It’s hard and I’ve realised that we (Mrs and I) really have got to believe in what we think’s right and be consistent until we’re convinced that we’re ready for our children to define and create their own rules and experiences.
So I’m happy to be led by the Cupertino crew on the iPhone and choose to believe that they will allow their partners (developers and users) to help them shape the future incarnations of the product. At the end of the day, it’s only a phone and patent law does still exist to allow the creator to exercise their competitive advantage, so I’m happy to let them get on with it.