Good Argument for Apple Opening Up

  • June 3, 2010
  • Scott

Jason Snell of Macworld writes:

I don’t think the company needs to stop controlling what apps get in the App Store. All Apple needs to do is add a new feature, buried several menu items down in the Settings app, that mirrors the one found on Android devices: an option that lets you install Apps from “unknown sources.” If a user tried to turn this option on, they’d get a scary warning about how these sources couldn’t be trusted, and that they may lead to instability, crashes, loss of data, you name it. Scary stuff.

Most users will never find that setting. Many who do will be loath to turn it on. But by putting it there, Apple immediately shuts up every single claim that the iPhone isn’t open. (Just as iPhone OS 4’s multitasking feature is debatably not “true multitasking,” no doubt many tech insiders would immediately howl that allowing unapproved apps isn’t truly “open,” but I don’t think regular consumers would notice.)

This is why I am surprised that Apple hasn’t taken this step earlier: By keeping the App Store closed, and by using a rigorous approval process, most iPhone OS users would never, ever consider installing an unapproved third-party app. Even in a world where unapproved apps can get loaded on an iPhone, developers will desperately want to be in the App Store.

(And who knows? Perhaps Apple would even feel free to tighten the screws on App Store approvals even further in such a scenario, to make the contents of the store even more groomed and filtered.)

What a fascinating idea.  I think another approach Apple could take is to have another storefront that only restricts based on API usage and malware type issues – basically, non-editorial stuff. So, the content may be objectionable, it may do awful things for your phone experience, but it isn’t a virus and it doesn’t violate basic TOS.  Its a thought.  Jason’s is easier to implement though, and keeps those apps at arms length.

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  • Maybe an even better argument for NOT opening up… hm.

    (or at least, from the perspective of, will opening up actually silence any critics- he argues persuasively that it might be good, but it won't silence critics)