Apple CEO Steve Jobs saw fit over the weekend to drill down into his company’s philosophy behind the iPad and the App Store-although the venue for the discussion couldn’t have been further from the carefully stage-managed events at which he usually appears. Ryan Tate, editor of the tech-gossip blog Valleywag, found himself driven into a rage by an iPad advertisement, and e-mailed Jobs in the early hours of May 15; Jobs apparently responded within hours, touching off a wide-ranging e-discussion.
The iPad ad spot praises the tablet PC as “revolutionary,” while many sets of hands demonstrate its touch-screen capabilities for Web surfing and media viewing.
As posted on Valleywag, Tate e-mailed Jobs: “If Dylan was 20 today, how would he feel about your company? Would he think the iPad had the faintest thing to do with -revolution’? Revolutions are about freedom.”
Tate’s issues, he explained in his May 15 blog posting, included what he called Apple’s “lockdown on iPad apps,” including its exclusion of Adobe Flash support.
Three hours later, Jobs responded from his Apple e-mail address. This in itself is not unusual; the CEO has been known to respond to developers’ queries with pithy one-liners on more than one occasion. Given the early-early morning timestamp on the e-mail exchange, one can presume that Jobs wrote his side of the discussion himself, with minimal oversight or back-checking from Apple corporate; as with anything of this nature, however, there is always the possibility-however unlikely-that Jobs was not the actual writer.
“Yep, freedom from programs that steal your private data,” Jobs allegedly responded to Tate. “Freedom from programs that trash your battery. Freedom from porn. Yep, freedom. The times they are a changin’, and some traditional PC folks feel like their world is slipping away. It is.”
Part of that “freedom,” Jobs implied, was the ability of developers and publishers unhappy with Apple’s system to develop or publish someplace else.
“It’s about Apple trying to do the right thing for its users,” read another Jobs e-mail. “Users, developers and publishers can do whatever they like-they don’t have to buy or develop or publish on iPads if they don’t want to. This seems like it’s your issue, not theirs.”
In response to another Tate e-mail, this one calling Apple to task for its “pet police force literally kicking in my co-workers’ doors”-a reference to the April raid on Gizmodo editor Jason Chen’s California home, after Gizmodo publicly dissected a lost iPhone 4G prototype-Jobs was characteristically frank:
“You are so misinformed. No one kicked in any doors. You’re believing a lot of erroneous blogger reports,” Jobs allegedly wrote. “As for us, we’re just doing what we can to try and make (and preserve) the user experience we envision. You can disagree with us, but our motives are pure.”
Despite Jobs’ insistence on the sanctity of his development platforms-and the right of any developers to forsake it if they don’t agree to his terms-Apple may face a potential federal antitrust investigation over the language of its iPhone developer agreement. Quoting unnamed sources, a May 3 article in the New York Post suggested that both the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice were debating whether to open such an investigation.
Because that reasoning excludes tools such as Adobe Flash CS5, developers could potentially be forced between building an application for Apple or for another smartphone ecosystem. Given the relative paucity of some developers’ resources, combined with the popularity of the Apple platform, that could lead the government to believe that the developer agreement creates unfair competition.