Source: Reuters What is it with the technology elite and media and Apple? Sometimes it seems like they just line up to stick foot in mouth when it comes to Steve Jobs and his creations. The latest is Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, who was speaking in a personal capacity in Bristol, England yesterday. You just […]
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Jimmy Wales wins the Idiot of the Day Award


Source: Reuters

What is it with the technology elite and media and Apple? Sometimes it seems like they just line up to stick foot in mouth when it comes to Steve Jobs and his creations. The latest is Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, who was speaking in a personal capacity in Bristol, England yesterday. You just have to wonder if these guys ever get tired of being dead wrong.

During his speech, Mr Wales took aim at the concept of app stores, but of course, singled out Apple as his only example. His comments included:

“The concern is that in order to make software and distribute it for free, you have to get permission from Apple so that chokepoint is very dangerous and something I’m concerned about. When you own a device and you want to give someone that software, you should not have to get permission from someone else and I think that is a very important thing.”

and

“People talk about net neutrality as an issue but the real action is in thinking about whether apps are a threat to the openness of the system.”

Spoken like a person who has an agenda and doesn’t mind skewing reality to fit it. What is truly dangerous is when people who have a certain level of credibility in a related field throw around skewed and inflammatory comments, relying on assumptive language to get people to buy into their personal beliefs. This is nothing more than Jimmy Wales trying to link the hot topics of App Stores and mobile OSs to his crusade on net neutrality.

Where do you even start with this? First of all, Apple, a private company, creating an App Store for its products and services was a response to free market demand. They were absolutely within their legal and corporate rights to do this. Yes, they are restrictive and often inconsistent with their app policies, and they have earned plenty of criticism for this. Is this really dangerous, or just sloppy or tightfisted and over-controling management? Shouldn’t we let the free market, rather than the government, sort this out?

For any of you former Palm or Windows Mobile users out there, do any of you want to go back to the days before the App Store, whoever’s store that is. Remember how much fun that was? How about Web Apps on the original iPhone? There is a reason people wanted to jailbreak, remember? Anybody interested in going back there? Didn’t think so.

Second, no one is forcing Apple’s product or App Store on anyone. Apple isn’t taking over control of the Internet, or anything else. They, like their competitors, are earning customers’ business in the free market. Apple may be a market leader, but it isn’t as if there aren’t other viable platform choices with App Stores which are less regulated. It would be one thing if Apple had an entrenched monopoly, the way that Microsoft did in the PC OS space in the 1990s. They don’t. Google’s Android has become a true rival, and it offers a contrasting alternative to the way that Apple does things.

I understand that Mr Wales comments are leveled at the issue of having to get Apple’s permission to distribute free software. The App Store’s heavily regulated experience is different than anything we as consumers were used to before. In the past, free software was just free and was always available with no restrictions.

I also understand that Apple has made a lot of mistakes while blazing the App Store trail. Their guidelines have been vague and their implementation of the rules has been inconsistent and often reactionary. However, they have gotten a little better about relaxing their approach and communicating with developers. Besides, if conditions within the Apple ecosystem were as bad as many make them out to be, developers would be headed to other platforms en-masse. Is that the case? The statistics seem to state that, despite their controversial approach, Apple has created the best money-making environment and developers continue to respond to that.

In the end, despite what I, or Jimmy Wales, or anyone else says, consumers will have the choice and will make up their own minds. The fact is, there is something to be said for the curated experience of the Apple ecosystem. It provides a safe and easy to use collection of applications and services, and for those who are less technically inclined, this approach has a lot of appeal.

For those of us, like myself, who are a little more technologically inclined and want a little more freedom, it is available through the jailbreak. I like 95% of what I get from Apple, and I can get the rest with that little break in the wall of Apple’s tended garden. For the those that can’t settle for those tradeoffs, there are other platforms to run to.

In closing, I am wondering what is actually more dangerous. Is it the guy running off at the mouth to the media about the dangers of innovation bottlenecks and restrictions on free apps that Apple’s App Store creates, or is it the potential stifling of the free market that would be required for any kind of regulation to be placed over such a private corporation and their perfectly legitimate and legal business practices? You decide.

I would love to hear your opinion on this issue. Is Jimmy Wales right? Is he an idiot? Is he sticking his nose where it really doesn’t belong? Will he be another in a LONG line of people who have made incorrect or shortsighted comments about Apple? Let me know what you think in the comments.

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