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Web 2.0: Apple's Fetish For Silence

At the <a href="http://www.web2expo.com">Web 2.0 Expo</a>, Apple is everywhere without actually being present. Last month, Web 2.0 co-founders John Battelle and Tim O'Reilly published <a href="http://battellemedia.com/archives/2010/04/_an_open_letter_to_apple_regarding_the_companys_approach_to_conversation_with_its_peers_and_its_community#comments">an open letter</a> to Apple asking the company to participate in the conference. To no one's surprise, Apple did not respond.

Thomas Claburn

May 4, 2010

2 Min Read

At the Web 2.0 Expo, Apple is everywhere without actually being present. Last month, Web 2.0 co-founders John Battelle and Tim O'Reilly published an open letter to Apple asking the company to participate in the conference. To no one's surprise, Apple did not respond.Yet Apple dominates the show. The tech industry is all about mobile nowadays and there's no way to talk about mobile without talking about Apple.

The conference sessions on Tuesday include: HTML5 vs. Flash: Webpocalypse Now?, A Beautful Mind: Anatomy and Architecture of the iPhone App, Crucial Mobile Analytics for Marketers, The Developer's Highway to Making Money Out of Application Stores, Give Me a Mobile Strategy or You're Fired!, iPad: Mobile Computing Redefined, Best Practices in SmartPhone Business Apps, and The Mobile Stack's Cloud Layer.

And that's just through the mid-afternoon.

Among the keynote speakers, Kevin Lynch, CTO of Adobe will take the stage on Wednesday under the thunderclouds of Apple's war against Flash and reports of a possible antitrust inquiry against Apple. Even IBM is putting forth a speaking who will address the mobile market: Jeff Pierce, IBM's manager of mobile computing research.

Apple doesn't stoop mingling with the masses. That might ruin its carefully cultivated mystique. But as Battelle observed in a comment on his post, while Apple has long based its communication strategy around secrecy, "what's changed is how deep and ubiquitous it is now, and how removed the company has become from the public square compared to its past (when it was always removed, but not so deeply)."

Apple refuses to acknowledge that the norm is now greater openness with the public. The social and mobile trends in computing, and the diminished privacy that these trends entail, necessitate a greater degree of engagement.

The irony is obvious: Apple, a leader in communication technology, is loath to communicate.

Now Apple is entitled to conduct itself as it sees fit, within reason. But CEO Steve Jobs has been complaining that third-party development tools -- like but not necessarily limited to Flash - limit the ability of developers to take advantage of new technology as Apple upgrades its SDKs, APIs and operating systems.

Jobs has a point in blaming Adobe for its failure to promptly take advantage of Mac OS and iPhone OS innovations. Adobe's business practices and choices led it to where it is today.

But Apple's secrecy is partially responsible too. If Apple wants companies to implement its innovations in a timely manner, it needs to share them in advance, before they're released to the public.

Apple needs to communicate more effectively, with developers at least, if not the general public.

Our editors take Apple's new platform through its paces, in the office and on the road. Here are their (differing) assessments of what works well and what doesn't. Download the report here (registration required).

About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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