När Steve Jobs inte visste nått om appar

För att göra reklam för min och Patrick Vonderaus nya bok om iPhone har jag gästbloggat på Columbia University Press blog. Ingressen till texten, “What Steve Jobs Did Not Know About Apps” anger ungefär vad det hela handlar om: “Apple’s iPhone and App Store has, thus, proven that walled gardens are not necessarily a bad thing, at least not for a successful digital marketplace to emerge.” Blogginlägget inleds så här:

In January this year as Apple’s iPhone celebrated its five year birthday, its App Store surpassed half a million available apps with some 25 billion pieces of code downloaded (according to Mobile Statistics). Arguably, the iPhone iOS is—by just about any measure—the most innovative in the history of computing. It’s the combination of innumerable software apps and high performing slick machines that have made Apple into the world’s most valuable company. And since an iPhone5 is rumored to be on its way, the story will continue. Too much has already been said and written about the visionary talent of the late Steve Jobs. Still, it is worth mentioning that even he was occasionally wrong. Apple has often been described as a “closed” company striving for total control. But it remains a true irony that externally produced apps, which helped to define the revolutionary iPhone, were not on Apple’s radar in 2007. Initially, the iPhone had nothing to do with apps at all. Take a look at Apple’s initial iPhone television commercials for example on YouTube—not a word is mentioned about “apps”. When launched this device was marketed as a smart phone to surf, mail, and call. Nothing else. Apple, in fact, argued they had reinvented the phone, hence the name of the device—which was also missing the point since calling soon became a rather peripheral activity. Essentially, Apple perceived and marketed the iPhone as a web enabled and upgraded iPod.

Enligt somliga uppgifter sysselsätter bara den amerikanska app-ekonomin numera en halv miljon människor. Trots sin vidsynthet kunde Steve Jobs alls inte förutse denna mediala utveckling. I avslutningen på blogginlägget menar jag därför att två slutsatser kan dras av detta exempel:

Essentially two things can be learned. First, Jobs’s mistake points to the real challenges of anticipating the direction of digital media. Media history is never linear—but the digital domain seems even harder to predict. Second, externally produced apps did make Apple products more attractive, but the company never let go of control. The success of the iPhone and its subsequent App Store has not occurred in spite of control—but rather because Apple is in command. At a time when many argue for openness, open source, open access, keeping the web open etcetera, Apple has proven that consumers in fact like the opposite. Even if one personally disagrees, this remains worth thinking about. Closed systems, in short, seem better suited to commerce—notably with the exception of Google where “open” is the commercial concept. Apple’s iPhone and App Store has, thus, proven that walled gardens are not necessarily a bad thing, at least not for a successful digital marketplace to emerge.