Battelle, O'Reilly Call Out Apple to Join Web 2.0 Summit

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-04-19 Print this article Print

Web 2.0 Summit co-founders John Battelle and Tim O'Reilly invited the incredibly controlling and increasingly private Apple to join Internet watchers at their next show in San Francisco this November.

In an open letter posted to Battelle's Search Blog April 17, the Web pundits/publishers characterized Apple as a company that has become more reclusive, refusing to join industry events other than its own and becoming notoriously more media-shy.

OK, Battelle and O'Reilly actually needled Apple on several issues. Battelle, understand, is not one to pass up on dry snark.

Note this comment on Apple's cagey culture of secrecy, which is James Bond-like: "Possibly to your credit, your CEO does seem to randomly respond to emails, but so far no one at Apple will actually verify his responses. Very clever, that!"

Or this dart at Apple's Draconian App Store policies and platforms (Section 3.1 of the new iPhone developers' license agreement, anyone?): "The theme-'Points of Control'-is quite topical, we believe. Yes, this invitation is certainly self-serving, but let's just say we're in good company when it comes to that particular instinct. ..."

Jibes aside, Battelle and O'Reilly offer this fair assessment of Apple's influential position in the high-tech industry, which has moved more and more into the Web with the iPhone and now the iPad:

Despite the gorgeous products and services you've created, we worry that you're headed down a road that may lead to your own demise. Apple is no longer the underdog living in the shadow of a Microsoft monopoly. Increasingly, Apple is a dominant player in any number of critical network services and points of control - from mobile devices to media access, payment systems to Internet browsing and advertising platforms.

That last bit is where Apple intersects with Google, which is also a dominant Web player, albeit on the desktop Web with search, advertising and other Web apps such as Gmail. Apple's dominance is on the mobile Web.

Google's Android platform challenges the iPhone, even if its market share is 9 percent to Apple's 25 percent share. And Google is expected to release an Android-based tablet to take on the iPad.

I'm not sure I buy that Apple is endangering itself. Sure, its controlling nature will push some developers toward Android and other platforms, but not everyone will make that leap once they taste success writing apps for the iPhone, which has shipped more than 50 million units.

Apple has set itself up as the best mobile platform on which developers can make a living. Programmers will gladly sell out for the cash. Who wouldn't want to get paid good money for writing apps they love and people buy?

So let's get Google executives and Apple executives at the same event, if not on the stage at the same time.

These companies are becoming the new Apple versus Microsoft, and it's compelling to see them beat each other up, outbidding each other for startups and outmaneuvering each other in various angles of the nascent mobile Web market.

Let's get Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Apple CEO Steve Jobs, which is becoming more and more like Microsoft's Bill Gates and Jobs were in the '90s.

If someone from Apple did show up, it wouldn't be Jobs. He hasn't missed a beat needling rivals like Google at the iPad and iPhone launch events, but that's about it. His event calendar is strictly Apple-oriented. My money would be on Phil Schiller, the company's marketing guru.

If anyone from Apple agreed to join, it would make an already hot ticket that much hotter. People are always fascinated in hearing a bellwether's perspective on the industry it leads.

I don't think Apple will be at Web 2.0 this year. Jobs doesn't cave or kowtow to the mass punditry that covers the company in a cloying blanket of angst. That hard-nosed approach extends to the rest of the company.

Jobs, more than any other CEO, is the company he leads, and his leadership is a dictatorship.

What do you think? Will Apple show up at Web 2.0 Summit this fall? Why or why not? |

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