Apple’s Arrogance Comes Home To Roost

Apple is now as arrogant as Microsoft used to be, says Tom Jowitt. With its attitude to Flash, it looks like it’s become equally stupid

Now Apple is apparently under investigation by the US Federal Trade Commission. That’s surely got to finally demolish any claim the company has to being cool, hip or trendy.

When did Apple get cocky?

Lots of people have begun to feel that Apple has an arrogant attitude, which is a shame, as it is at odds with its stellar history. Apple’s behaviour of late is starting to resemble Microsoft, with Steve Jobs looking like Bill Gates.

Microsoft, at its height, was capable of some astonishing displays of arrogance. Bill Gates, for example, famously dismissed the Internet back in 1993, saying Microsoft was not interested in it. It took Gates and Microsoft a few years to realise their mistake, and then they made themselves pretty unpopular as they rode roughshod over companies such as Netscape in order to secure a dominant position for Internet Explorer.

Apple doesn’t often get caught out in that sort of corporate stupidity, and is riding high at the moment. The iPad launch is a runaway success so far, with the company shifting its one millionth iPad, less than a month after the device’s debut – making it a faster seller than the original iPhone.

Apple’s products are often so much better than its rivals’ but the goodwill this generates only goes so far.

Take for example the infamous revealing of the Apple iPhone 4G prototype, caused by simple human error. This resulted in Apple demanding the return of the device. Fair enough, as the prototype is still Apple’s propriety and no doubt contained commercially sensitive data.

But then in what must be regarded as a classic case of overkill, the prototype was reported as stolen (it wasn’t, it was lost, but hey), and the police then raided the home of the journalist concerned in the search for the person who found the device. This move raises some serious legal question marks over the protection of journalist sources.

Apple Open, Everyone Else Closed?

Another sign was provided last week when Steve Jobs, who is notoriously hostile towards Flash, launched a fresh attack on Adobe’s Flash technology. It is rare for a squabble to become so public, and some of the language used suggests a strange amount of personal hostility from the Apple camp.

Jobs’ position is that Flash is not fit for the iPhone, iPad and iPod platforms. Some would argue he may have a point, as Flash does have known security issues. But then again it is used by most of the world, and by not supporting it, Jobs is effectively deciding that Apple users will have to instead opt to browse on websites that don’t use it.

Jobs also, somewhat incredibly, claimed that he believed Adobe Systems is closed and Apple is open.

The words, ‘pot calling kettle black’ spring to mind here. Apple is about one of the most proprietary companies around at the moment. Jobs complained that Flash is proprietary, but then what about Quicktime? And lets take a quick look at how open the iPad is.

Well, it has a proprietary processor that Apple made and designed. It has no USB ports or card slots, so getting personal data onto the device is difficult at best, forcing most users to go down the iTunes route. It also means that peripheral devices, such a webcam, can also not be used. Apple also opted for an obscure micro-SIM for the iPad, which is different from any other device, effectively creating another lock-in for users.

So Is Apple The New Microsoft?

I had the opportunity to play with an iPad for about 20 minutes last week. It is truly a beautiful device, although somewhat heavier than I was expecting. It has a stunning battery life, is instantly available for work at the press of a button, and has a remarkable screen. But it can’t do multitasking (for now), and the lack of a webcam, and decent inputting options (the touchscreen keyboard does not cut it), means that I will wait (like many), until version 2 is released.

So is Apple the new Microsoft? Well no, actually it is not. Apple makes some great stuff and executes well, and Microsoft’s products all too often have a lot of faults, and the company doesn’t seem to understand what consumers want.

Apple does understand consumers, in ways that other companies seem unable to. It knows how to deliver just enough improvement in any given upgrade to retain people’s interest and loyalty, and segment the market so its products overlap (iPhone, iPod, iPod) but people still buy them all.

This gives Apple a lot of freedom. It would do well to remember not to misuse it.