Speaking of John Siracusa, he has an interesting post up on his Fat Bits blog concerning the Apple strategy tax — whether Apple’s increasingly divergent interests, from iTunes to iOS to App Store to iAds, will inevitably lead to compromise, contention, and/or conflict.
Apple’s recent App Store changes, however logical and empirically justifiable they may seem, all point strongly to a company that has started to believe that what’s good for Apple is good for America. And indeed, this may be the only way to reconcile the inherent conflict of interest. The alternative is philosophically and practically untenable. Apple can try to be a good platform owner and ensure that popular apps like Kindle and Netflix thrive on iOS, and it can also try to advance its own competing services, but both efforts cannot succeed to their fullest potential.
So the new 30% subscription policy can increase revenue but drive out companies like Amazon and Netflix, hurting the platform. Having AdMob on iOS it improves the platform but hurts Apple’s own iAds. If they try to dominate everything it stifles competition and Apple risks stagnating and becoming non-competitive (as Microsoft did with Internet Explorer 6.) If they keep their own software and services modest they aren’t producing the best possible products they can and suffer in a similar fashion.
If Apple were only making the platform it wouldn’t be a problem. If they were only doing content it wouldn’t be a problem. If they were only handling content delivery it wouldn’t be a problem. But by trying to do all three successfully, it divides Apple against itself.
What’s the answer? Perhaps Apple shouldn’t have entered into so many businesses, especially the ones increasingly outside their core competence like online ads and subscriptions. But they have entered them, so what now? Can they balance all interests fairly and profitably? Could anyone?