Apple’s Next Greedy Move: Exclusivity

This is so obvious, I’m surprised I didn’t think of it until today.

There is Steve Jobs, sitting with his iPad. He is pondering all the things that makes it special. He is very proud of his creation (as he should be, setting aside his 30% vig).

What he is most proud of is that he has created an experience.

Because that’s what all the iOS devices are at their core: experiences.

He has transcended the surly bonds of mechanics and imbued machines with emotion.

But as he thinks about all this, he remembers that there are competitors coming. From Android tablets, from that goddammed webOS tablet (why didn’t he see HP would buy them?).

All of those goddammed competitors will be good enough for many people. They can do blogging on them, they can look up maps, they can do Twitter, and all those others things.

Many of the things they’ll be doing wouldn’t even exist if he, Steve Jobs, hadn’t given the world the iPhone first.

The iPhone was the seed that unleashed everyone’s creativity. Goddam it, he’s owed — no, entitled to — more than 30% for showing them all The Way.

Why should all of those other inferior tablets cash in?

Why should they have the same apps?

Wait a minute.

Why should they have the same apps?

Why can’t Apple’s iOS devices be the only one to have to those apps?

And that’s when it all comes together in Steve Jobs’ greedy mind: Exclusivity.

The Developer Agreement is changed.

Remember how iPhone apps were rejected due to “duplicating the functionality” of the iPhone?

Insert new Agreement clause: For any app that you submit to run on iOS, you may not duplicate its functionality on any other operating system platform.

Go ahead and scream and/or laugh in disbelief.

This is what’s coming.

It’s the last card that Apple can play to keep its edge against competitors.

Apple will have an overwhelming device population lead over all other competitors and the Apple PR machine will be sure to crank out glowing Got Rich Quick stories about developers. (Did you think all of the Apple iPhone leaks during Mobile World Conference this week were a coincidence?)

Developers will believe that being exclusively on iOS will be money in the bank.

Never mind that they’ll have to compete against 350,000 then 400,000, then 500,000 other apps.

Why, they’ll have eighty, ninety, maybe over a hundred million potential iOS customers!

Why, if we as developers can just get one per cent of people to pay … (see Guy Kawasaki’s 10 Lies Entrepreneurs Tell, number 10!)

But wait! There’s more!

Aside from granting Apple exclusivity, Apple will want an option clause.

Ask any writer what an option clause is and you’ll get screamed at about things like indentured servitude. It will not be a happy experience for you. I personally know how an option clause can strangle you to death. And I will scream at you for free.

The option clause: In exchange for developing exclusively for iOS, you agree to provide Apple with the right of first refusal of your next application.

In other words, spend months making the next app only for Apple and then hope to God it’s not capriciously rejected.

Wait. You know, that sounds just like today!

And when Apple does reject your app — after delay, delay, delay (that’s how option clauses work!) — you will most likely be too damned late to port it over to Android or webOS because those platforms have developers just as hungry as you — and will move to market just as fast as you.

I’m telling you right now, this is your future.

Apple will want experience exclusivity — and the only way to get that is through app exclusivity.

So all of you developers had better start thinking about where your loyalties are.

Are they to an open and free market — or do you just go after what you’re (mis-)led to believe is “easy money” and wind up cutting your own throat and everyone else’s throats?

Exclusivity is the next thing.

It’s how Hollywood operates.

It’s how publishing operates.

It’s how every industry that relies on talent operates.

And soon it will be the way Apple operates.

Prepare for that dark day.


Filed under Apple: The Company

27 responses to “Apple’s Next Greedy Move: Exclusivity

  1. Don Linn

    I absolutely believe that Apple wants to be the new gatekeeper, forcing developers and other content creators onto their device and working to make it difficult for them to build or sell elsewhere. Exactly what tactics they’ll use to execute remains to be seen but certainly some of the things you postulate here would be on my mind if I were Apple (and would be very much on my mind if I were a developer and/or author/musician/game-maker.

  2. James

    I thought Apple was dead to you?

  3. James

    Now you are just making up FUD.

    • mikecane

      Like the 30% vig was FUD. Right.

      • Guy

        30%? Shrug. Sorry, Apple created this market, iTunes was the lynchpin that the iPod had to beat back all other music players. ANY other company could have (and still can) done the same, but instead all we heard was, “Wah wah! Apple HAS to open up iTunes so other players can sync to it! Wah wah, Apple HAS to stop using DRM (most bloggers conveniently forgetting that the DRM for content was set by the distributers and not Apple)!”

        Where is your proof that Apple will go the exclusivity route? Oh wait…you don’t have any. Apple CAN’T do this without stepping on some very big toes as far as apps and some other content goes. Plus the barn door is already open with many apps already going across different platforms.

        James is right. You’re making crap up and throwing in your argument that the 30% vig wasn’t (which isn’t what he was saying and I think you knew that too) FUD is nonsense.

        Maybe next time you should start posting in the Weekly World News right next to the articles on Bigfoot.

      • mikecane

        >>>Where is your proof that Apple will go the exclusivity route?

        Where was my proof *four years ago* when I wrote that Apple would do eBooks?
        Where was my proof *four years ago* when I wrote that Apple would bring iWork to iOS?

        Both things happened. This will happen too.

    • Michael Hudson

      Nah man, this is real. And after exclusivity, Steve Jobs will sex you in the face.

      Why settle for 30%? Nah, I want to sex people in the face.

  4. scott

    I don’t know if Apple can get away with that but I can see them forcing developers to only use iAds over other advertising services and then constantly re-defining what an ad is until they control all speech on iOS.

  5. Loosewire

    Does no one remember the 80’s? Apple tried the exclusive/proprietary route then, while IBM/PC-compatibles went the open-design route. In the 90’s, Apple went into bankruptcy because people preferred mass availability to exclusivity. If Apple truly is thinking something like this, and this isn’t some made up attempt at a crystal ball, then they deserve whatever comes their way.

  6. Madman459

    This is a joke, right? Right?

    If not, it should be.

  7. Interesting hypothetical.

    I just don’t see how it would play out for the app-centric big boys like – Foursquare, Evernote, Bloomberg, Twitter, and even Facebook if they ever make an official app.

    Could tip the scale and start making people look at using browser based HTML5 apps. Good stuff here.

  8. The only thing you may have overlooked is the seductive power of “easy money” and the ease with which people are ready to believe in it. Few escape.

    • mikecane

      Why I asked developers to consider where their loyalties are. I’ve seen the disaster “easy money” has caused to the overall global economy.

  9. Darwin

    I seriously doubt Jobs or anyone else thinks much about WebOS as a competitor nor should they.
    But you get an A+ for hyperbole.
    It seems you are extremely naive and unaware of how oh so many other companies de the same thing.
    This too shall pass. You hysterical predictions and rationalizations not withstanding.

    • mikecane

      >>>I seriously doubt Jobs or anyone else thinks much about WebOS as a competitor nor should they.

      People said the same thing about the iPhone, then the iPad. And Android 1.0.

  10. Ah. I’ve missed this mikecane. Nice one, dude. :)

  11. Dear God no. I hope this isn’t the case. What’s scary is that I can totally see it happening.

  12. What a great write-up — I’m glad @justinvincent shared it out on Twitter: Reading this made my day. Just the right black humor…. Thanks!

  13. George

    Yeah, so, if one dev makes an apple exclusive app, what makes you (or apple) think that some other dev won’t rip its functionality and port it to other OSes?

    So devs will be more reluctant to code something that shuts doors to other markets. Or make them release the droid version first and then maybe apple will accept them out of popularity, exclusiveness be damned. Or simply not bother with apple.

    In any case, the way I see it, it’s a lose/lose scenario.

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  16. Tom

    One might quibble with individual claims, but the bottom line is that no one, not even the Omnipotent Jobs, is forcing any developer to do anything against his or her will. If a developer wants to take advantage of the benefits of Apple’s platform, they have to play by Apple’s rules. If they don’t like the terms, they’re free to take their app and go play in someone else’s sandbox. It’s business, plain and simple. Making it somehow about Jobs’ personality says more about the writer than about Jobs.

    And if developers flee because it’s bad business *for them* Jobs will have to decide what his next move will be, based on the best interests of Apple. It really isn’t any more complicated than that.

  17. Daniel

    I hope they do. There are so many money hungry developers that would quickly pull their apps from android and windows 7 phone, that it would leave a large and promising void that I would be more than happy to fill.

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