Is Apple's App Store Closing Mobile Web? - InformationWeek

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6/22/2009
10:27 PM
Ed Hansberry
Ed Hansberry
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Is Apple's App Store Closing Mobile Web?

Apple retains quite a bit of control over what is posted to the App Store and some are arguing that instead of the iPhone being a device that is open and allowing users to be limited only by their imagination, it is doing quite the opposite. Is the iPhone hegemony is closer to a walled garden than you might think?

Apple retains quite a bit of control over what is posted to the App Store and some are arguing that instead of the iPhone being a device that is open and allowing users to be limited only by their imagination, it is doing quite the opposite. Is the iPhone hegemony is closer to a walled garden than you might think?The Guardian has posted a blog that argues just that. They focus on the Slingplayer issue where Apple has limited, at AT&T's behest no doubt, what the app will and will not do. Specifically, it simply won't work over the cellular connection. You need a WiFi connection to view TV shows.

Supposedly this is to keep bandwidth concerns down for the wireless network. As the blog points out though, it doesn't explain why Apple allows a Major League Baseball streaming app. Do streams of baseball games use less bandwidth than an episode of Sons of Anarchy?

Apple is very restrictive on what apps you can and cannot install. It falls into two categories. Those in the App Store you can install. Those not, you can't, well, not without jailbreaking it anyway.

This is not how it works on other platforms. Windows Mobile, for example, is for the most part like a desktop machine. You can install whatever you want. Microsoft has allowed carriers to restrict what is on the device by locking it. With a phone locked by a carrier you can usually still install a signed app and many developers try to sign their apps. There is no restriction though on what type of app can be signed, so it is pretty much whatever your imagination allows.

In the long run, I don't think Apple can sustain this type of control. The more they try, the more people will jailbreak their phone - that's right, the phone they purchased - and install what they want. People have this concept that the internet is open and theirs to use for a fee. Mobile phones are simply an extension of that. You are limited by the hardware to be sure, but not by someone's rules as to what you can and cannot do with the phone. The carriers object of course. They do it in the name of network stability. Install an unapproved app and you may crash the network. I've never heard of that happening though in the years devices such as Windows Mobile and PalmOS reigned supreme and had open installation models, and despite the mindshare the iPhone has, there are still far more Windows Mobile phones out there today.

I do get the problem of bandwidth, but as I've said before, the fix is to beef up the network, not restrict the user.

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