Why is Apple hindering the emergence of the “next internet”? (four)

No company has done more to promote the development of the Internet in the past 15 years than Apple, but the author of this article believes that Apple’s policy cannot produce the most prosperous overall ecosystem, and it has not contributed to the “next Internet” (Meta Universe). ) lay a solid foundation. On the contrary, Apple is suppressing the future of the Internet. It does this through fees, controls, and technology. Not only does this negate what makes the open web powerful, but it also prevents competition and prioritizes Apple’s own profits. The problems that Apple brings are getting bigger every day, just like the company’s unprecedented strength. The future of the global economy is digital and virtual. Broad prosperity depends on platforms that vie to create value for developers and users, and spawn the same new platforms. Apple has not met the needs of the moment. Original title: Apple, Its Control Over the iPhone, The Internet, And The Metaverse, author Matthew Ball.

related articles:

Why is Apple hindering the emergence of the “next internet”? (One)
Why is Apple hindering the emergence of the “next internet”? (two)
Why is Apple hindering the emergence of the “next internet”? (3) Why is Apple hindering the emergence of the “next Internet”? (four)

There is no platform on my platform

This is the crux of the problem: Roblox’s situation is a feature, not a bug. Apple’s default position is that all products created on the iOS platform and distributed by iOS should instead be a single “app” that can be purchased on its App Store. Therefore, Apple will always be a platform for consumers to access applications, as well as a platform for developers to build, distribute and profit. For example, consider a “professional” game developer like EA, rather than independent Roblox enthusiasts. EA will never make a game on Roblox, they can only get 25% of the amount of consumer spending, but they can make an iOS game and get 70% of the cost. Similarly, Apple’s cloud gaming policy prevents every major technology company’s competitors: Google (via Stadia), Amazon (via Luna), Facebook (via Gaming) and Microsoft (via xCloud) operating on iOS.

Back to Jobs’ 2010 “Views on Flash” memo:

“We have learned from painful experience that allowing a third-party software layer to intervene between the platform and the developer will eventually lead to unqualified applications and hinder the enhancement and progress of the platform. If developers rely more and more on the first Three-party development, libraries and tools, then only when third parties choose to adopt new features, they can take advantage of the enhanced features of the platform. We cannot let the third party decide whether and when to provide our enhanced features to our developers. If The third party provides cross-platform development tools, and the situation will get worse. The third party may not adopt the enhancements of a platform unless these enhancements are available on all platforms it supports. Therefore, developers only Can use the lowest common features. Similarly, we cannot accept the result that developers are prevented from using our innovations and enhancements because they are not available on competitors’ platforms.

Flash is a cross-platform development tool. It is not Adobe’s goal to help developers write the best iPhone, iPod, and iPad applications. Their goal is to help developers write cross-platform applications. And Adobe has been painfully slow in adopting enhancements to the Apple platform.

Our motivation is simple. We hope to provide developers with the most advanced and innovative platform. We hope that they will stand directly on the shoulders of this platform and create the best applications in the world. We hope to continuously improve this platform so that developers can create more magical, powerful, interesting and useful applications. Everyone is a winner. We sell more devices because we have the best applications. Developers are exposed to more and more audiences and customer groups. Users will also choose from the best and most extensive applications on the platform. And feel happy. “

Jobs is very clear: Developers should not use cross-platform development tools, but should use iOS tools. They should make the best iOS apps, not the best apps. And this will be better for users and therefore better for developers. This logic applies not only to Flash, Unreal or Unity, but also to Roblox Studio, Fortnite creative mode and Minecraft. When there are universal network standards, Jobs said to use the standards created and operated by Apple. “Apple even created open standards for the web. For example, Apple started with a small open source project and created WebKit, a complete open source HTML5 rendering engine that is the core of the Safari web browser used in all our products. WebKit It has been widely adopted. By opening up WebKit technology, Apple has set the standard for mobile web browsers.”

This position is a circuitous monopoly logic. It’s best for developers to develop only for Apple. The only way is for Apple’s operating system to run all related devices. Its standards provide power for all experiences. The company has successfully developed devices or services for every possible category.

This is not true, and it will not be true. The mobile game ecosystem on iOS has become huge because developers use Unity, even though iOS drives most of their revenue. This is because Unity, as a cross-platform engine, allows developers to easily cover their games to the entire global market, not just iOS users. With more users, there will be more revenue and better games, which will benefit both App Store revenue and iOS users. And because Unity and Unreal focus on making the best cross-platform game engine, and thanks to extensive customer innovation, the entire game industry can benefit from lower prices and better features. In addition, cross-platform games like Fortnite, Roblox, and Call of Duty are so powerful because they connect players on every device, not just devices made by Apple.

The success of cross-platform tools and experiences may indicate that Apple’s control is not an issue. But this assessment ignores Apple’s attempt to ban Unreal Engine, which successfully hindered network-based rendering engines and cloud games. No one knows whether Roblox is allowed to be used on iOS, whether it’s just an accident, and how Apple’s commission limits the platform category. Applications such as Roblox and Snapchat (for this reason, Snapchat does not provide its own “in-app purchase store”, although this model is very popular and profitable in Asia).

In fact, if Roblox developers want to substantially increase their game revenue share, the only way is: (1) Apple builds its own Roblox-like platform; (2) All eligible users have and only want to use their own iOS Devices play Appleblox; (3) Apple operates Appleblox in a break-even manner (the App Store’s original intention is this, but it does not do so), or does not pay the Apple App Store (this is the case for Apple’s own services).

Apple’s efforts to avoid platform intermediaries are extensive and increasing. In 2020, the company revised its App Store policy, and (with a few exceptions) any iOS application that uses a third-party identity system (such as logging in with your Facebook or Gmail account) also needs to support the Apple account system. Apple announced, “If you want your app on iOS, and your app supports our competitor’s account network, you must also deploy our account solution.” Every other account provider must earn (or buy) this business. In this way, it will be able to pinpoint its horizontal platform competitors.

In general, Apple’s anti-platform policies and concepts not only hinder the competition of today’s Internet, but also hinder the development of the new Internet. Apple does not want to have a digital world built on interoperable standards, device/terminal independence, without Cupertino (where Apple is headquartered), and to innovate on this basis. There, virtual items or currencies can be freely exchanged between the application and the virtual world. With the market of labor, creation and consumption, Apple lost the intermediate link or controlled the endless process of decomposition and re-decomposition. On the contrary, Apple believes that the next iteration of the network should be just a “virtual app store”, your avatar is just a virtual version of your Apple ID, your bank is a virtual version of Apple Pay, and your experience is based on Apple’s vision , And Apple’s realization, when and how.

This is not surprising. The biggest opportunity for the “next” Internet is market growth and happier consumers, but it will also replace today’s market leaders (just like Apple’s iOS replaced Microsoft’s Windows). Apple can’t stop it, but that doesn’t mean there is no harm. Each additional use case and capability means that consumers will spend more money in the digital/virtual world, and the company will invest more, make better products, and achieve greater success.

Peace, prosperity and good governance

The worst part of the “Apple problem” is that everyone knows that Apple’s policies are the bottleneck of new business creations, new business models, and new products, and the mainstream response is just waiting for Apple to make changes. For example, everyone knows that Apple is unnecessarily delaying the development of the cloud gaming industry and needs to change its rules. So 9 years after the first service appeared, Apple allowed cloud gaming applications to appear about two months after announcing that these services had security risks. However, everyone still thinks that these policies are not satisfactory, so the industry is back to waiting. Similarly, everyone knows that Apple can’t always charge stores to rival services such as Spotify. The question is when they can change it.

After Apple revised its cloud gaming policy, The Verge wrote: “However, it is a little bit meaningless to argue about whether Apple’s guidelines include one thing, because Apple has the ultimate authority. The company can interpret the rules as it wishes. , Do it when you want to do it, and change the guidelines at will.” This is not the right basis for the future.

Chapter 6: Solving the Apple Problem

The accumulated policy contradictions and increasing legal pressure are likely to prompt Apple to make important concessions in the coming quarters and years. And every important opening will bring new products, companies, and maybe even a new mainstream platform.

At the same time, we should also realize that the core design principles that underpin the iOS/App Store platform have been around for nearly 20 years. It developed from a digital music store and then a simple app store. Although the digital world has undergone tremendous changes during this period of time, including the addition of billions of Internet users, millions of new digital dedicated services, and dozens of new technologies and concepts, Apple’s principles have never been carried out. Comprehensive reform. Correspondingly, the company’s concessions are likely to be too complicated, cumbersome and insufficient. And given the importance and influence of the iOS economy, we should not just rely on slow pressure or voluntary concessions.

Apple has the right to operate its own stores, provide its own standards, and develop services dedicated to its own hardware. The problem is that Apple forcibly bundles hardware, operating systems, distribution systems, payment solutions, and services together. Therefore, there is a direct remedy that forces Apple to compete in application distribution and payment. Specifically, regulators should require Apple:

Allow iOS users to download applications from any source (just like on Windows and Mac computers), including downloading directly from software manufacturers.

Allow iOS users to use third-party app stores on iOS devices.

Allow developers to use payment solutions other than the Apple App Store, which can be used at any time, even when released through the Apple App Store

This partial unbundling will even benefit users who continue to download apps only from Apple and pay through Apple’s billing system as much as possible. This is because the App Store needs to directly compete for the business of each app user and app developer, instead of winning this business through its iOS devices and then controlling it through iOS policies.

This does not mean that Apple cannot charge consumers higher prices or charge developers higher than average fees. But just like any retailer, the Apple App Store needs to attract consumers through their branding, planning, ease of use, reliability, and security, and to attract suppliers through the ability to increase sales after deducting store fees (ie Developer).

Apple will still have near-hegemony advantages, such as its pre-installed apps on iOS devices, 13 years of first-mover advantage, world-class products, and most importantly, unparalleled user loyalty. In addition, the company is likely to copy the software installation policy it deployed on the Mac, telling users that it did not sign for applications downloaded from outside the Mac App Store. This will help it maintain market share and discourage a considerable number of users from considering other options.

But if given the opportunity, many developers will start to distribute and monetize their apps directly, or through third-party stores. This approach will provide consumers with a lower net price, while maintaining the developer’s net income per unit, and may lead to greater sales. Or, it will enable developers to increase gross profit at current prices. This in turn will put pressure on Apple to reduce and regulate store fees in order to retain users and developers.

More broadly, being able to opt out of Apple’s App Store means that Apple’s control over industry technology and standards will be slightly reduced, and it hopes to encourage the company to prove which of its restrictions are truly “safe”. Services such as Spotify, Prime Video and Game Pass will also be comparable to the gross profit margins of Apple Music, Apple TV+ and Apple Arcade. This does not seem to be a bad thing.

Apple forced relaxation, so its unprecedented success and application control, which may make people feel unfair. However, the problems caused by Apple’s control are getting bigger every day, just like the company’s unprecedented strength. The future of the global economy is digital and virtual. Broad prosperity depends on platforms that vie to create value for developers and users, and spawn the same new platforms. Apple has not met the needs of the moment. Its justification for the required control measures is not convincing. They can neither prove that their policies are primarily beneficial to customers, nor can they prove that these benefits outweigh their disadvantages or anti-competitive side effects.

Author: Matthew Ball
Translator: Ti Kewei
Source: 36kr Translation Bureau


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