Is a platform really a platform, if you deny harmless apps?

On of the interesting developments over the weekend, was of Fraser Speirs, developer of a Podcasting  application, for the iPhone application directory, a listing of downloadable applications to go directly on the iPhone and iPod Touch. 

Fraser writes that the Podcasting application he created, “would allow one to update podcasts directly on the device over wifi. I sync my iPhone to my Mac Pro – should I have to go home to put a new episode on my iPhone? I’d buy that app in a heartbeat.” Apple essentailly denied the application because it competes with Apple’s podcasting platform and as expected, Fraser is pissed off that it was denied. In addition to the countless hours spent on this application, the opportunity cost of developing something else, and any costs he incurred of creating it, my major takeaway is that Apple has taken a hard stance on what will be listed in the Apps Directory. This isn’t preventing apps like the $1,000 featureless application or an application that comprises user security or showcases people getting stabbed.

This is something that may have been innovative that may have created significant value add to the users. Isn’t that the whole reason the App store exists? Isn’t the app directory free R&D for Apple

In my mind, having an open platform accomplishes a couple of significant goals:

  • Free R&D so developers can engage and cater towards the long tail, people that Apple may not dedicate resources to because they aren’t a large demographic
  • Create an ecosystem of innovation for people outside of Apple’s headquarters; people that can see opportunities outside of the establishment
  • A farm system to acquire talent and value added applications (See Friendfeed’s acquisition of Benjamin Golub, creator of a popular Friendfeed API application and founder of RSSmeme)
  • Get the early adopter crowd supporting your mission
  • For Apple, it’s just another reason to have people buy more iPhones/iTouches (and eventually MacBooks), which is their major source of revenue.
As Arrington mentioned today, there isn’t going to be a mass exodus from the Apple iPhone platform. The iPhone platform is one of the most viral platforms that any of us has ever known, on pace for over a billion applications downloaded in the near future. With Apple and the rest of the bigco’s opening up and conquering more and more territories (and spaces), it will be interesting to see what verticals they will jump in to, and preventing any competition from getting any traction. If Apple launches a killer bookmarking tool, will they kill the Evernote application? Or will they get grandfathered in? I’m being highly sarcastic here, but wouldn’t it have been a better PR move to acquire the podcasting platform for a couple million bucks (if it was even that good where Apple had to worry), something that’s a rounding error on Apple’s quarterly statements?  That way, everyone gets excited and thinks that their app may be the next to be acquired, and they focus on creating value for the platform, and improving on Apple’s current model. It’s easy to say from my vantage point, but I hope Apple doesn’t take the early Myspace route and block applications left and right, something Myspace was notorious for, until they were forced to change. 
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